It’s safe to say that we are primed to expect a familiar autumnal palette: earthy oranges and deep forest greens the colour of piled gourds feel natural; Bordeaux-like burgundies call to mind simmering pots of mulled wine; and caramel browns remind us of turning leaves—or of the spice blend atop a much-contested seasonal latte.

That’s why, when designers sent splashes of vibrant hues down their fall catwalks, our senses were totally upended. A sublime magenta collided with tangerine lace on a slinky slip at Sies Marjan, while a wool cape at Valentino gleamed in dandelion yellow. At Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh, a not-quite-neon leather trench (paired with some tie-dye ankle boots for good measure) looked utterly hypnotic under the stage lights.

From left to right: Sies Marjan, Valentino, Off-White (Photo: Imaxtree)


“The fall runways were alive with what we’re calling ‘joy mode’ colour combinations,” says Melissa Moylan, vice-president and creative director of womenswear at Fashion Snoops, a New York City-based trend-forecasting company. “Bold bursts of colour are undeniably optimistic.” This mood-enhancing effect was so punchy that it took centre stage, overshadowing even the silhouettes. The beauty of these brights, says Moylan, is less about how they look and more about how they make you feel.

Consider this trend colour therapy for your wardrobe: The uplifting neon orange of the knits at Proenza Schouler arouses a sense of energy and pleasure; the cornflower blue washed on a voluminous empire-waist gown at Nina Ricci taps into some deep inner peace; and a standout trio of candy-coloured fur chubbies, complete with matching tights and knee-high boots, at Max Mara buoys the spirit with openness (royal blue), confidence (yellow) and self-acceptance (turquoise).

From left to right: Proenza Schouler, Nina Ricci, Stella McCartney. (Photo: Imaxtree)


You could chalk it up to an effort by designers to surprise and delight (after all, says Moylan, “it takes a lot to grab our attention today”), or, if you’re soaking up all the warm, positive vibes from Stella McCartney’s breezy butter-yellow dresses, you might see it as a gift of brightening ease in an otherwise overcast world. Either way, we’ll take it.

A version of this article appeared in the September 2019 issue of ELLE Canada. Subscribe now.