Pantone Colours 2021 from a Brand Image Perspective

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Since 2000, Pantone, the worlds leading colour matching system, has been choosing a singular hue as their Colour of the Year based on considerations of all aspects of society - from fashion, marketing, social media and even politics. This creates a trending pattern which is adopted by brand designers, manufacturers and other creative industries worldwide. I thought this was a myth until I did some research a few years back and saw just how powerful and influential this yearly announcement actually is upon our retail landscape.

Obviously, as a stylist, this serves as a good indicator to the predominant hues I may be seeing foraying our virtual shop floors. However, as a fully trained colour consultant and enthusiast, I simply had to make a more in-depth analysis on this years choice. Not just for the reason that they have chosen two colours this year, but how this choice is reflecting the times we are in and speaking to the future ahead.

This year we have a dynamic duo :




While Pantone do not suggest that businesses change their brand colours to match, I am slightly elated that while branding my new podcast last year I chose a similar colour duo of grey and yellow. So this year, when it launches, I will be strangely - ON TREND!

I have put together some Pantone inspired StyleBoards for your perusal but I thought I would delve a bit deeper into these colours because, not only will you be seeing them from store to store this season, I know a lot of people will look at these during their late night online browsing sessions and think

“No way! - I can’t wear that”

So I am here today to say YES YOU CAN! Let me explain why….

Let’s start with ILLUMINATING.

I love the name of this shade - “Illuminating”. Like the bright yellow glow of a tungsten bulb illuminating us from the darkness.

However, this shade isn’t really vibrant - it makes a more tentative statement of optimism and perhaps, rightly so, after the year we have all been through. However, with the vaccine now being administered across the country, perhaps this colour choice actually speaks to better, safer times where we can hug our loved ones and embrace the world in a more personal and tactile way. A gentle glow of encouragement that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Now, If anyone knows me they know I LOVE YELLOW!! It makes me feel bright and alive.

I appreciate though, that as it’s a predominantly warm colour - a lot of women stay well clear. This is such a shame as the colour spectrum of yellow has its cooler shades too, and while you still may not want to wear it so close to your face it is an amazing accent colour and works so well cool tones complexions. Why shouldn’t you partake in all the positivity and energy this colour has to offer too.

“But yellow washes me out” I hear you cry. So yes, normally a colour shade which draws away from your natural skin tone is going to be too cool but in this case it could also be too light.

It will appear wishy washy and do nothing for you. However, if you have the temperature of the colour right, then its more likely that you need to turn the sound up a bit and WOW! - You will have the perfect tone and message. Trust me, the fashion brands will not be sticking that closely to the exact Pantone shade so you are likely to find an array of bright, soft cool and warm yellows adorning our virtual shop windows this year. ( cue happy Alex dance!) Go on be brave…you may live to enjoy it!

Practically speaking, a great way to check this, is to hold it to your face…close your eyes for 10 seconds and then open them again. What do you see first? You or the colour? (you may want to repeat this) Often, you see just you - this is good (mostly) but if you see the colour first, then this means the shade is too overpowering. It will be wearing you rather than the other way around. The sweet spot is when you can’t tell - meaning, you can probably see both and that, my gorgeous friend, is probably because the chroma or brightness in that shade that is singing a harmonious tune with its wearer - YOU!

I appreciate that you still may not be feeling this adventurous, so try wearing it as an accent under a grey or ivory blazer or even in a hair accessory or belt. It will still pop and create some energy especially if you team it with a great smile! When meeting in person is back to being a thing, a great pair of yellow stiletto’s or block heels is a sure winner!

One last thing, Illuminating looks better alongside grey, cream, and white. Black will create a stark contrast, so make sure you are showcasing a lot of the yellow in a long coat or monochromatic top and bottom so you aren’t consumed by the heaviness this darker neutral will create. ( see the StyleBoards at the bottom)

So let’s move on to


This is an interesting choice and harmoniously speaking it’s a perfect compliment. It’s a neutral - the perfect blend of white and black - it sits on the fence as an uneventful shade, drawing little attention to itself yet still supportive in a calming way. The perfect partner and ensemble shade to showcase which ever colour or colours it's paired with.

In its entirety, however, it will say nothing of your brand - quite literally, so be mindful how you use it in your digital branding as well as how you wear it. It will work well as a quiet hue but if you intend on making a statement, then this neutral will need to be complimented well to give you the style amplification you desire.

Pair it with a sumptuous fuchsia, medium violet or sea green for a more joyous sound and message.

I just finished working with a client this week on her brand colours and social media layouts. Her main brand colour was a bright teal which we paired with a dark and light grey against white. She’s an interior designer who brings a sense of space, calm and organisation to her clients lives. These colours blended the trust and serenity of blue and green with the dependability and security of the grey supportive neutrals. We created a beautiful layout - I have to say, but more importantly one that speaks of her brand and the values she holds within it.

Pantone’s choice it’s the perfect antidote to all the political and insecurity and emotional overwhelm. Paired with Illuminating I think this perfectly speaks to the times we are in while also projecting rays of hope for a future world building itself strong once again.

Stylistically speaking, grey is a cool colour, however just like yellow there are warmer shades on it’s spectrum too. These grey’s will have a touch of yellow added to give warmth. Place the garment on the back of your wrist to see how it sits with your skin tone.. A cool grey will sit off a warmer skin tone. The goal is always harmony and seeing the colours working well together. If you are in a shop you can also compare two grey garments against each other- you’ll be surprised how the shades differ and what a subtle change in colour warmth can do for you - or not. Look at my example below -which one do you think is the warmer shade?

This year, while I am not bound by any colour trend, I think it's still good to know which shades work for me so I can make an informed choice when I make updates to my seasonal wardrobe. We will find a variety of shades in the shops folks, so there will be a fair bit of choice in some of your favourites shapes and styles.

My hope in writing this is that you no longer shy away from these colours if you do like them but have never thought you could wear them.

Perhaps a relative made a comment back in your youth that haunts your colour choices today? Or you felt you looked awful in the bridesmaid dress you wore to your best friends wedding? A simple colour analysis will also kick those colour gremlins to the kerb and I just happen to do those too ( cue shameless plug). As i’ve been doing this for over 10 years I can effectively do virtual consults, so with a couple of simple natural photos and a 30 min consult, I can provide for you a simple colour palette of your best colours, colours to avoid and a handy pocket guide on how to implement them into you wardrobe, make-up and hair. Trust me this will save you time and money but will also give you the colour confidence you need to make those investment purchases that you know you are going to wear season after season. I have my eye on a Mother of Pear coat in the most sumptuous shade of orange and I can do that because I know that shade is going to look the BOMB on me.

And I will conclude, my beautiful friends, with this -

Everyone can wear every colour - it just depends on the shade?
Have a great day!


ps If you have any questions relating to this blog I’d love to hear them xx

Here are some StyleBoard Inspirations for you - each one with shoppable links - just in case!

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