The 1980s became a decade of global economic boom, and the excess and exaggeration of the era expressed itself in largesse and strong style statements.
Strong growth in the Japanese economy put major companies Sony and Toyota on the global platform. The trend for Japanese fashion blossomed with the work of popular designers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. Their stark fashion colour palettes strengthened the use of black and grey in design and more serious, strong colour palettes overall. In turn Japanese design influenced western graphic, furniture and architectural designers.
The huge success of ‘Uber’ TV soap Dallas and controversial advertising created for Calvin Klein jeans in the 1980s featuring a 15 year old Brooke Shields, popularised the marketing of jeans which encouraged designers to explore the ‘urban cowboy’ style.
The fascination with the changing colours of the desert landscape of New Mexico inspired artist Georgia O’Keeffe, whose touring exhibition became phenomenally succesful across America. The casual mix of Old West, Native American and Spanish cultures caught on as a decorating look for interiors. The bleached out colour palette centred on earthy mauves, rich browns, sand and sage greens.
After the early recession period of the 1990s and as a result of the increase in media channels, the world emerged as a ‘global village’ and gave birth to the internet, meaning events, commerce and culture became internationalised. We became more aware of turbulent happenings around the world too. The need to escape technology and disruption in the world led creatives to look for inspiration from other cultures.
The urge to retreat from the urbanised world influenced a more soothing and tranquil design style aiming to express the values of Zen Buddhism. The number of spas and spa services doubled around the world typified by a soft, ethereal, natural colour palette.
Mass media changed the face of luxury goods marketing. What we saw the rich and famous wearing – we wanted. Huge luxury corporations such as Louis Vuitton and Burberry saw an opportunity to grow by delivering ‘luxury for less’ accessibly priced, branded products for everyone. The term ‘bling’ was coined and style became a commodity.
Colour has meaning for us at an emotional level and is evocative of a mood or ”period’ with which we will associate it. Over these last few decades we can see how we have used colour to reflect and express the social, economic and cultural themes of the time.