05 June 2012

Armani and Modigliani as colourists

I seldom wear bright colours. There have been the occasional cerulean pants and canary yellow shirt, even a rainbow striped scarf during my short-lived boho phase, but rich primary colours don’t make me feel as mentally comfortable as subdued, ambiguous hues do. Bright colours scream. I prefer my clothes to whisper.

Two creatives whose colour sense appeal to me are Giorgio Armani and Amedeo Modigliani. The fashion designer and the artist both draw from a self-limited range of colours – Armani has been faithful to greys, blues, creams, browns and blacks for decades, often in shimmery fabrics, while Modigliani used a wider palette including red, ochre and yellow but applied in his distinctive ‘muddy’ style that quietened their loudness. Apart from sympathising with their tastes in colour, I also admire their discipline in choosing to limit themselves to a narrow range of chromatic possibility.

Here are two looks from Armani’s Spring 2005 menswear collection that capture everything that moves me about his clothes: the gentle colours, soft tailoring and relaxed, comfortable fit. I’m not in the appropriate tax bracket to shop at Armani, but the more affordable clothes I do buy are selected with that quintessential Armani style in mind.

These are from Fall 2006.

From the latest Fall 2012 collection.

Below are several portraits by Modigliani that capture a similar sensibility. The messy mixes and rich layering of paint creating subtle, unnamable shades are reassuring in the way they celebrate the beauty of imperfection and oddness, as expressed in the Japanese aesthetic idea of wabi-sabi. Modigliani’s peasant boys, gypsy ladies and bourgeois men may look strange, yet they are not alien. And it’s his evocative colours that make it so.


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