After a Summer of Pink, Beige Is a Healing Balm
Beige, in all its Frankie Shop and Source Unknown iterations, has become gen Z's beloved shade.
by : Caia Hagel- Nov 14th, 2023
Coming down from a summer of pink could feel like a hangover, but the mood this fall and winter is actually gentle, soft and sensual. Enter the healing balm that is haute beige, a loyal earth tone that has many understated talents and is known by various names, including nude, tan, camel, taupe, latte, sand and— a romantic favourite—fawn.
The indistinct quality of this colour might at first glance make it appear bland, especially against the backdrop of the hyper-speedy technicolour culture we wake up to every day. So why has it made such a powerful statement recently? Beige was the colour of the Balenciaga resort 2024 towel toga, the most shared look of that archive-rich comeback collection. All eyes were on Pharrell Williams’ anticipated fall/winter 2023/2024 debut at Louis Vuitton menswear, and his opening look was a beige suit with pixelated camo flourishes. Alaïa gave a sexy nod to nude with its skin-tight translucent beige latex minidresses, which were the highlight of the show, and head-to-toe beige opened at Fendi, where fur, clutches, hosiery and mules were the foundation for the launch of the brand’s first high-jewellery collection. This felt familiar, as beige has long been a house favourite at Fendi—so much so that it has a signature in-house Pantone shade, Alba.
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When the rebel royals came out of hiding to announce the Responsible Technology Youth Power Fund, a new initiative from their Archewell Foundation charity, Meghan Markle wore a latte-beige skirt and high-neck sleeveless top from California brand Bleusalt while Prince Harry sported his signature slim beige chino pants.
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Far from the austere minimalism of the beige Axel Vervoordt- designed interiors that the Kim-and-Kanye era served, today’s haute beige is classy but also cuddly. The beige flag TikTok trend, which recently doubled in Canadian views, might be a cultural sidekick to the desire to wear this colour. Beige flag posting is a tender way to point out the things we don’t love about our lovers, but these icky traits (piggy toes, leaving the toilet seat up, not eating the crusts on bread, snoring) are also endearing, so they aren’t deal breakers. In short, beige on TikTok represents the cozy values of old-fashioned love.
“Beige” is the French word for “light brown” and originally referred to the natural hue of any textile that hadn’t been treated with dye or bleach. It was popular during the Second World War, when colour was too expensive to add to raw garments and the senses of practicality, duty and modesty were strong. It appeared again at Yves Saint Laurent in 1967, when the designer created his first beige safari jacket as an ode to intrepid explorers who’d braved regions of Asia, India and Africa to enrich Western knowledge of culture and beauty. It’s also the colour of a long-time fall-wardrobe essential: the famous Burberry trench coat, which was a favourite of the late Queen Elizabeth. This could be why beige has always been a go-to for Kate Middleton, whose Jimmy Choo, LK Bennett, Prada and Gianvito Rossi nude heels always make her seem warm and relatable. Beige is a current wardrobe favourite of Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kendall Jenner, Sydney Sweeney, Emily Ratajkowski and Addison Rae too—very different women who all seem regal but also sort of real.
“Far from the austere minimalism of the beige Axel Vervoordt-designed interiors that the Kim-and-Kanye era served, today’s haute beige is classy but also cuddly.”
Unlike their older millennial cousins, gen-Zers are pragmatic and much more comfortable with losing their individuality in the oneness of globalism, which is why beige, in all its Frankie Shop and Source Unknown iterations, is now their beloved shade. Journalist Sarah Manavis, who investigated this generational shift for The Guardian, writes, “The monochromatic, beige aesthetics of [gen Z] influen- cers…have earned them millions of young fans…but they are popular precisely because they embody a way of life…that involves punishingly healthy routines featuring the occasional glass of white wine, renovating and decorating neutral-toned homes, committing to long-term monogamous relationships, buying expensive fluffy animals and opting for nights in over nights out.” Psychologically, beige is peaceful and inspires calm, so it’s no wonder it was the colour given to the first teddy bears—created after a bear-hunting trip when Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a sickly bear that had been tied to a tree by his men—which captured the values of strength, safety and comfort in a small, snuggable object. Gucci’s fall/ winter 2023/2024 collectible creamy-beige crystal-studded teddy-bear bag is an ode to that enduring symbol.
So why is this soft non-colour the existential mood of the moment? Is it because Philophiles are craving the iconic old Céline head-to-toe neutrals in anticipation of Phoebe Philo’s return to fashion? Are we in the grip of a third wave of normcore nostalgia? In the age of AI, oversharing, fake news and climate panic, is wearing beige akin to #nofilter posts and a return to simplicity? If the popularity of Stella McCartney’s fall/winter 2023/2024 beige Falabella bag—re-editioned in plant-based, plastic-free Mirum, which can be recycled or returned to mother earth as nutrients—is any indication, the wholesome haute-beige dream is a big feeling. This season, as well as being a statement of confident, quiet luxury, beige might be the gentle antidote to overstimulation and overconsumption that we didn’t know we needed.
It may also be a secret third thing: the embracing of a softer kind of self-care without skimping on style. However you wear this soothing second skin—whether to blend in or stand out—the subtle hues of beige will sashay you in classy fashion to the end of this year.
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