The “Villanelle” dress by Molly Goddard

Fuck-you fuchsia

Getting the hots for don’t-mess-with-me hot pink


This article is taken from the July 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Think pink. I know what your reaction will be: here we go, the kind of muted Hubba Bubba that was millennial pink. Well, you’d be wrong. We’re talking vibe shift, baby. Subtle sappiness is, like, so over, not unlike millennials themselves. In its place comes angst, attitude, hot-pink feminist fury. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, fuck-you fuchsia.

Subtle sappiness is, like, so over. In its place comes angst, attitude, hot-pink feminist fury

You’ll remember millennial pink: a sort of over-poached salmon, or anaemic Barbie. Flesh colour, should one be a gammon with the trots. Millennial Véronique Hyland coined the term in the summer of 2016, as the “predominant shade bubbling up on everything that was marketed to me”, from Glossier cosmetics to Percy Pigs.

This was not the obnoxiously Andrex tone that objects aimed at women were flogged in during the Noughties. Instead, as Hyland noted: “The titration of actual pinkness varies a little, but it’s still a fairly narrow spectrum — from salmon mousse to gravlax. It’s a non-color that doesn’t commit, whose semi-ugliness is proof of its sophistication.”

We had the rose gold iPhone in 2015, Pantone named rose quartz its colour of 2016, then pale dogwood as one of its breaking shades for spring 2017. For the modish millennial, her favoured brunch spot might be millennial pink (Farrow & Ball’s Nancy’s Blushes), her smoothie, her laptop case, her Fjällräven Kånken backpack, her Ray-Bans, her Cloud Paint blush, nail art, pjs and vibrator. While fashion folk from Gucci and Marc Jacobs to Céline and Balenciaga played ball.

As the Grauniad opined: “‘Millennial pink’, or ‘Tumblr pink’, as it is also known, represents a kind of ironic prettiness, or post-prettiness. It’s a way to be pretty while retaining your intellectual detachment. It’s a wish that prettiness could be de-problematised,” which was as good a definition as any.

So successful was this flesh creep that the shade was appropriated by various unsavoury groups to sell the dodgier ideologies to a millennial and/or female audience, what Canadian academic Marc-André Argentino labelled “pastel QAnon”. One minute you’re crushing on the glaze of your Crosstown cronut, the next you’re storming the Senate with a posse not so neo in its Nazi. Anyway, it’s done. Show’s over, move it along, nothing to see here.

If one wanted sartorial referents for the transition from one sprouting of rosiness to another, it would be Molly Goddard’s 2016 spent bubblegum cloud dress as it appeared on Villanelle in the BBC’s Killing Eve in spring 2018, and the resplendently vivid incarnation Goddard showcased on the September catwalks that celebrated her tenth collection in 2019.

In short, fuck-you fuchsia spells defiance, subversion, the message: “Don’t fuck with me, or my body, bitches.”

This means that, by the time Pierpaolo Piccioli was unveiling his hot pink autumn/winter 2022 Valentino numbers in March — his “Pink PP” being added to Pantone’s official scale — a few of us were a bit: “Yeah, okay, whevs, Pierpaolo.”

Still, not only was his pink-out extremely beautiful, it meant something, fashion-wise. Valentino was traditionally all about red, the shift to rampant raspberry becoming A Thing, symbol of Piccioli’s new broom. A couple of weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, PP also declared this fabulously lurid blue-pink: “the colour of love, community, energy and freedom”.

Jacquemus and Balenciaga have also been going large. Searches for hot pink are up 100 per cent on Google. Meanwhile, the shade has become associated with feminist fury: from anti-Trump pussy hats, via the rolling riot of revolutionary rose that has been Kim’s liberation from Kanye, to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s hot-pink-clad protest in front of the Supreme Court when a leaked draft opinion looking to overturn Roe v. Wade was published.

The colour is used on Planned Parenthood banners and by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the abortion clinic known as “the Pink House”. It is Nancy Pelosi’s power shade, and that of the #Ambitionsuitsyou campaign. In short, fuck-you fuchsia spells defiance, subversion, the message: “Don’t fuck with me, or my body, bitches.”

“Alriiight, Betts,” I hear you cry. “But what are we actually going to wear?” If you’re feeling flush and sculptural, then there is Valentino itself: the faille maxi skirt from its pre-fall line reduced to £840 on net-a-porter is bliss. Goddard is the cool-girl option, witness the Viv tiered, pleated, gathered taffeta frock, now £770 on net-a-p.

For those who’d like change from a couple of hundred quid, there’s eco stalwart Aspiga’s Victoria (£180,, a pink poplin number, with a fitted bodice, puffed sleeves, and double-ruffled cuffs that make it strikingly similar to achingly fashionable Vampire’s Wife designs at a fraction of the cost. Vibe successfully shifted.

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