Why Are Primary Colors Trending In Fashion Right Now?

Eliza Huber

Scrolling through my collections page on Instagram, one thing stands out among the rows and rows of mid-century modern furniture I can’t afford, dreamy outdoor dinner spreads, and every photo ever posted by Simon Porte Jacquemus: Primary and secondary colors are taking over in fashion.

During fall ‘20 New York Fashion Week, designers like Christopher John Rogers, Proenza Schouler, and Sies Marjan all brought reimagined shades of blue, red, and yellow to their runways. Fellow NY-based label Hellessy incorporated kelly green, a secondary color, into its jewel-toned fall collection, while bicoastal indie brand Eckhaus Latta featured tangerine orange. The streets outside of shows were equally as back-to-basics in their color palettes, with attendees packing on layers of fire engine red, margarine yellow, and Pantone’s color of the year, Classic Blue, thanks to luxury brands like Loewe, Marni, The Row, and Bottega Veneta

In the months since Marc Jacobs — who also happened to utilize the colors in his fall collection — closed out New York Fashion Week, a lot has changed. The pandemic that followed the city’s fashion week has affected nearly every aspect of the industry; Giants like J.Crew and Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy, while independent labels like Sies Marjan were forced to shut down. Yet, one thing in fashion has prevailed: the rising popularity of primary and secondary colors. 

If anything, varying shades of red, blue, and yellow — as well as the secondary colors they become when mixed together — have garnered even more acclaim since the start of COVID-19, with streetwear brands like Aimé Leon Dore and Noah offering up track shorts, baseball caps, colorblocked button-downs, and other at-home sartorial favorites, all in the standard colors of the rainbow. ALD’s latest collaboration with New Balance is an ode to red, blue, yellow, and green. 

The color trend goes hand-in-hand with the resurgence of ‘90s sportswear, which notably featured pieces like nylon anoraks, logo-embossed crewnecks, and bike shorts à la Princess Diana. In fact, Copenhagen-based brand Martin Asbjørn recently introduced a retro-inspired sportswear collection of monochrome sweatsuits in red, blue, purple, and green that are perfect for the kind of laidback fashion we’ve grown accustomed to in quarantine.

Demna Gvasalia brought a range of red, blue, green, and orange pieces to his resort ‘21 collection for Balenciaga that took place earlier this month — though Gvasalia has championed the hues for quite some time now. His spring ‘20 collection was also ripe with reds, blues, and greens, culminating in two larger-than-life ball gowns, one in bright red and the other in electric blue. Yes, both were meme’d in equal volume. 

The campaign that followed, which was released in February of this year, was a political one, with imagery shot by photographer Laurence Chaperon and slogans that read, “Love Is For Everyone,” “We Vote For Tomorrow,” and “Think Big.” The background of the campaign was a shade of blue, while a BLCG logo in the upper righthand corner of every shot was painted red. At that point, the 2020 presidential election was coming, but not yet truly upon us. Now, however, as we see these two primary colors taking over fashion, the election is closer than ever. Coincidence? Who knows?

What some might not know is that all of the primary and secondary colors play a role in politics, too. Green represents the grassroots party in the U.S., a party that centers around environmentalism, among other things. Meanwhile, purple symbolizes the monarchy and yellow is a symbol for the libertarian party. With that in mind, it’s interesting that all of the shades are resurfacing right now. 

During the current state of political and social instability, consumers are also looking for safety and serenity, something that primary and secondary shades are known to provide. Classic Blue, in fact, was chosen as the color of the year for its calming effect, according to Pantone’s website, which states that the “enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.” Furthermore, “Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge,” the website says. 

Pantone’s fall ‘20 NYFW color palette also included Ultramarine Green, which “exudes self-assurance and poise;” Amberglow, a traditional shade of orange, which “promotes self-confidence and creative self-expression”; and Green Sheen, a bold yellow, that represents rebellion, something we’re seeing a lot of as young people around the world fight for racial and LGBTQIA+ equality both on the streets and behind digital screens. 

During times such as these, it’s easy to look at a trend as just a trend. Yet, when you look at ones like flame print or the return to ‘60s-era psychedelic patterns, it’s hard not to question whether there is a deeper meaning to them. Regardless, despite everything we’ve endured so far in 2020, there is a sense that a new dawn is coming, and when it arrives, we’ll be sure to welcome it in a fresh pair of ALD x NB 827s.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

More From

  • These Tiny Desks Are WFH Space Saviors

    Having a designated home office requires space — which is exactly what our living setups don't have. But, before we nix the idea completely and continue to work from our beds, let's consider a craftier solution: the small-space desk — a furniture piece so clever and compact it will transform your WFH fantasies to realities. (Cue "Work From Home" by Fifth Harmony.)  There are desks designed to wedge into empty corners, multipurpose desks that fold up when not in use, floating wall-mounted desks, desks made for standing, desks made for converting into dual-purpose dining tables...You get the picture. We hunted down a range of stylish and functional at-home workspaces built to fit inside an array of cramped nooks and crannies. Don’t let square footage restrict you from creating a home office, scroll on and discover the small-space-style desks that will secure you a setup fit for a boss. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?PSA: Kelly Clarkson Just Launched A Home LineHow To Organize Your Pantry1 Useful Items That Will Help Your Food Stay Fresh

  • Found: The Most Comfortable (& Stylish) Sandals To Hoof Around In

    Despite the fact that we’re traveling much less this summer, it's still managed to feel like we’re walking more than ever. And, all of this bipedalism means that we are in dire need of some serious workhorse sandals to follow suit. No more strapping on those questionably supportive gladiators or flimsy flip-flops and Ubering our ways around town. Now that we're using our own two feet to hoof it to a host of local destinations, our footwear will need to support us (literally) every step of the way. We learned long ago that just because a shoe falls under the umbrella of “comfort” doesn’t mean it can’t be fashionable, too. With utility and style overlapping now more than ever, there are a plethora of choices this season that will enhance your walkabout without subtracting a single style point. Whether it's an unexpectedly cool cork slide, a recycled-rubber sandal adorned with dancing bears, or a leopard-print clog cousin, we’ve got you covered with summer-ready sandals that are both chic and sublimely comfy ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Comfort Footwear Shoes That Are Actually CuteAll The Sales On Summer Sandals Happening NowBye Birkenstocks: Meet The New "Ugly" Sandal

  • Demi Lovato Just Revealed The Name Of Her New Song — With A Manicure

    Just a few short weeks after Demi Lovato announced her engagement to Max Ehrich, the star has more big news: She’s about to drop new music. According to Lovato’s most recent Instagram Story, the “Anyone” singer is working on a brand-new song — the title of which she announced via manicure, showing off a squared deep French shape studded with multi-colored butterfly nail art.“Guys, I’m writing a new song called butterfly rn,” Lovato captioned a closeup shot of her butterfly nail art shared to her Instagram Story. Following the low-key announcement, fans were quick to track down more details, only to discover that this isn’t the first time Lovato has used the winged insects to inspire song lyrics.“The first song @ddlovato wrote as a child was about butterflies,” one fan account posted. Lovato herself cosigned the report, reposting the fan account and adding, “And today I’m writing a new one about just one.” If you can’t recall a past Demi Lovato single about butterflies, that’s because it was written when the singer was just seven years old, and was never actually produced. In a 2013 TV interview on Katie Couric, Lovato revealed that the first song she ever wrote as a child was about a crush and that quintessential butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling — she even sang a few cords for the audience.As of now, all we know about the new track is that its subject is a single butterfly — and that Lovato is wearing symbolic nail art to match. We’re keeping a lookout for more breadcrumb clues ahead of the release. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?The Mismatched Manicure Trend Just Got An UpgradeMeghan Markle's Bridal Mani-Pedi Broke TraditionCharli & Dixie D'Amelio Launch Nail Polish Collab

  • Vanessa Guillén Was One Of Many Soldiers To Be Brutalized & Killed At Fort Hood

    Vanessa Guillén, a Fort Hood soldier who originally went missing in April and whose body was finally found in July, still hasn’t gotten justice. Despite detailed reports, including a confession from her alleged killer, Spc. Aaron Robinson, Guillén’s family has lost faith in the system that was supposed to protest their daughter. “From the start, we lost trust with them (the Army) from the very beginning,” said Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s mother. “The story they gave us is completely… I don’t even know what the right word for it is, but no one believes that story.” But as it turns out, Vanessa Guillén was only the latest fatality to come out of Fort Hood. Fort Hood has one of the highest rates of murder, sexual assault and harassment in the Army, according to Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who visited the base this week and said that the army base is known for having a violent past. United States Army post in Killeen, Texas has a troubling history of shooting rampages between 2009-2014. But as early as this past year, violence has continued across the base, with at least 7 soldiers who were stationed at Fort Hood having been found dead since March of 2020 alone. This includes Robinson, who took his own life after confessing to killing Guillén. Even in this past week, Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas, a 24-year-old soldier based at Fort Hood, was found after drowning near the Texas base. An investigation is still being conducted.In March, 20-year-old Shelby Tyler Jones’ died after suffering a gunshot wound in south Killeen near Fort Hood. Brandon Scott Rosecrans, a 27-year-old who joined the Army in 2018, was also found with a gunshot wound near Fort Hood in May, his car found burned nearby. Then, in June, another soldier, Gregory Scott Morales, was found dead in a field in Killeen, Texas, nearly 10 months after vanishing. Fort Hood released a statement that foul play is suspected. Morales was only 24 years old. Of the eight deaths this year, five so far have been publicly linked to foul play, according to the Army Times. When McCarthy visited this week, he said it’s clear that the Army should be taking better care of its soldiers. “We are getting an outside look to help us to get to those root causes and understand them so we can make those changes. We are going to put every resource and all of the energy we can in this entire institution behind fixing these problems,” McCarthy stated during a press conference. McCarthy also referenced Guillén’s death as a catalyst for the Army to focus on sexual harassment and assault in the military. Prior to her death, a survey given to 225 Fort Hood soldiers in June found that one-third of the women who responded had been sexually harassed. According to Guillén’s family, she had also shared allegations of sexual harassment with them prior to being murdered, but never reported out of fear. Fort Hood is now under a review, according to McCarthy, where officials will examine historical data of discrimination, harassment, and assault, and investigate the climate and culture that’s allowed for violence to take place. McCarthy himself has also already had conversations with soldiers based in Fort Hood to understand their experiences and the culture of the post, and conducted listening sessions to determine what the Army needs to change. With this kind of history, it’s unclear why this is just coming out now, and why serious action wasn’t taken as a preventable measure. Many cases of missing and killed soldiers had begun popping up long before Guillén, but they weren’t publicized or investigated in quite the same way. Still, McCarthy is determined to correct these injustices, despite a lack of faith in the current system — specifically the system governing Fort Hood.“Ultimately the results, findings, recommendations will fuel an implementation team chaired by the Undersecretary of the Army and the Vice Chief of Staff for the Army,” McCarthy said. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?150 FBI Agents To Investigate Crystal Rogers CasePolice Continue To Be Accused Of Sexual ViolenceAaron Glee Confesses To Killing Toyin Salau