top of page

Colours in Fashion: iii. Red

  • Hot, dynamic and bold, red is the colour of blood, heat and inflammation. It is associated with risk, anger, impulsivity, sexuality and war.

  • Red is one of the three primary colours. Cool or warm, soft or bright, red opposes green on the colour wheel; the meeting point of the other two primary shades - blue and yellow.

  • Originating from the ancient Indian Vedic texts, the chakras are used today in Vedic practices, such as yoga. Red symbolizes the root chakra ‘Muladhara.’ Located at the base of the spine, the red chakra visually represents our primal energies: the energy to survive and meet basic drives, such as hunger and safety.

Woman wearing Red Dress

  • By the fifteenth Century, the textile industry was flourishing in Europe and congregated around cities such as Venice, that traded with Asia. 'Venetian Scarlet' was a luxurious red, dyed locally. The recipe was a State kept secret. Kings and European rulers put in orders for fabrics and dyes from Venice and Florence.

  • Cochineal from Mexico first came to Europe in the sixteenth Century. The insect produced an intense, vibrant red that supplanted previous dyes and was used as a pigment by seventeenth Century Flemish painters such as Rubens and Van Dyck.

  • In the mid-seventeenth Century, Oliver Cromwell designed the distinctive red infantry coats of the British army, using cochineal dye, and were worn until the end of the 19th Century.

  • In the 1870s, new synthetic red dyes supplanted cochineal. However, by the end of the century, the Art and Crafts movement rejected industrialisation and promoted colours in harmony with nature, reviving the use of natural dyes such as madder and cochineal.

  • The Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga (born 1895), inspired by Spanish painters, Valazquez (seventeenth Century) and Goya (eighteenth Century), as well as the traditional Spanish costumes of flamenco dancers and bullfighters, created clothes in 'Cardinal red', evoking traditional Spanish style, before the time of General Franco.

  • The Italian designer Valentino Garavani (born 1932) made red a signature colour of his fashion house, Valentino, and became admired for his red evening gowns. 'Valentino red', a bright scarlet, has been designated as an official colour by Pantone.

  • Dynamic and aggressive, red is also associated with sportswear, particularly teams such as the Chicago Bulls basketball team (c. 1966).


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page