“Heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people” – Dita von Teese
I spent most of my early teens lusting after the perfect red lipstick. I bought tube after tube, mainly from the Kate Moss x Rimmel collab that I seemed to think would make me as cool as the legend herself. As I got older trends changed and so did my taste, going from red to dark nudes instead. That was until this summer, when I was re-inspired by a Kat Von D liquid lipstick I picked up from Sephora.
Memories of embarrassing red smudges on teeth and lipstick stained glasses came flooding back, yet I couldn’t resist picking it up. It wasn’t until one week of university and a colour themed lecture later that I realised why I was drawn to the shade. Red is classic. Timeless. Always evoking new emotions in people.
During the PowerPoint our lecturer talked in-depth about how red is used to convey different messages, whether this is through politics, art culture or advertisement. I loved the idea that red has so many different connotations depending on the context, so after the lecture I thought of my own examples. One that immediately sprung to mind was the use of red in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. A book that I learnt to love at A-levels uses red to create a political statement. All women in the book are categorised by the colours they wear, with the colour of the handmaids being red, highlighting the female reproductive system which is all that is valued of these women anyway.
In advertising red is used to create a multitude of voices. Red can be used to inspire power in the viewer. It can create a tone of confidence, attitude, fierceness. Black and red can be combined to show a colour tone contrast, with the strength of black combined with the strength of red empowering the consumer further. It suggests danger. Rebellion. Fearlessness. Whereas red and grey shows the colour strength contrast, creating a softer tone – the strength of the red standing out against the weak background, a metaphor for how the buyer will stand out against others once she buys the garment.
My relationship with red has evolved. I don’t view it as just a colour now, instead I see an opportunity. An opportunity to send a message out to whoever sees it, whether political or metaphorical. Atwood uses it as a strong statement against a patriarchal society, whilst advertising teams use it to inspire something within their target markets. Red makes everyone feel something. Personally, it reminds me of a poorly executed makeup trend when I was 13, something that’ll forever be documented in embarrassing selfies. Maybe that’s why I picked up a red lipstick again this summer, because red has its own special definition to me, and perhaps that’s why it’s such a popular colour in the fashion industry – because everyone has their own reason it speaks to them.
“There is a shade of red for every woman” – Audrey Hepburn
Until next time,
Images sourced from google images