Marketer | Writer | Global Citizen

This Battle in Versailles Was All About Fashion

On November 28, 1973, American designers Halston, Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein won over the French fashion world with a show in France that made history.

The occasion was a joint French and American fashion show at the Queen's Theater in Versailles to raise funds for the Versailles Restoration Fund.


Halston was one of five designers chosen to represent America. The other four were Stephen Burrows, Anne Klein, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta.

The French contingent comprised Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emmanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan for Christian Dior.

As to be expected with all this talent in one room, there was major drama. According to 'Halston, An American Original', from which this account was sourced, the French rehearsed until 10 p.m. without providing the Americans food, water, ashtrays, even toilet paper in the dressing rooms.

When the Americans finally had the stage to themselves, the French electricians left (union hours, naturellement) and the heat was turned off. Any camaraderie the group had at the beginning dissolved into bickering. Fortunately they found the sense to stop arguing and start plotting their revenge. And the best way to do that was to have the better show.

It was decided that the American segment, which had a Halston-clad Liza Minnelli for its opening and closing acts, would feature clothes from all the designers at the beginning, followed by the individual collections. Minnelli would then close the segment.

The night of the show, every seat had been sold out at the theatre. The French designers went first with an elaborate 20th century version of what would have been a show at the court of Louis XVI.

It had a live orchestra, floats, French actress Capucine, dancer Rudolf Nureyev and a finale featuring 67-year-old Josephine Baker accompanied by strippers from the famous Crazy Horse Saloon. It was an hour and a half long lavish production that spared no detail.

In contrast, the American designers presented a zippy 35-minute segment. It opened with Minnelli singing Bonjour Paris, the models dancing down the runway in beige and off-white raincoats and umbrellas. There were no sets; just lighting, simple scenery, and the hot music of the day.

The individual collections were three minutes long. Minnelli closed the show singing Cabaret and Au Revoir Paris, clad in a black and silver Halston gown while the entire cast was seated at white tables onstage, all dressed in various shades of black. It was Broadway slick, better than any concert, and completely brought the house down.

Even before the Americans made their last bow, the usually sedate French audience was shouting and throwing their programs in the air. St. Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge were screaming their heads off in joy. Ungaro was unhappy. "We should have realized that the Americans would know how to put on a show," he groused later to Time magazine.

Perhaps the best compliment was paid by an anonymous French socialite in Newsweek, who said of the American designers: "They are like someone who gets invited into your home for dinner and then runs off with your wife and the silverware as well."

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Going For Woke: How Brand Activism is the New Path to Profit

‘These creatives are trying to make their toilet paper save the world.’
 
So opined fellow creative Rob Baiocco of BAM Connection, who was wryly commenting in a Guardian article about marketers’ new pursuit of social justice cred.
 
Is endowing the most banal of products with meaning as ludicrous as one would think? In October 2017, because the subject intrigued me as a marketer, I conducted my own research using SurveyMonkey.
 
The findings showed that, increasingly, consumers choose brands that are aligned with their values and shed those they perceive as a mismatch.

How To Pick Colors Like A Pro

When it comes to choosing colors, people are almost always confident about what looks good on them. After all, they’ve had years to experiment with every shade possible, and know for a fact what works and what doesn’t.

The same can’t be said for picking brand colors. Not only do you not have the luxury of time to experiment, it’s very easy to get things horribly wrong. So we tend to leave color decisions to the experts, ie the agency or the graphic designer.

That said, dabbling in the parts of the color picking process is educational and fascinating, especially if you’re a person who has always been intrigued by colors, color psychology and the like. But if colors bore you, then think of the 5 tools below as simplifiers of irksome tasks, like making your Powerpoint deck look more professional.

Adobe Color Wheel

Cost: Free

Adobe Color Wheel

Think of Adobe’s Color Wheel as the digital version of hand mixing paints on a palette. Move or stretch the arm on the circle to find a shade you like. Choose the color rule — analogous, monochromatic, complementary, etc — from the menu on the left. A palette will be produced showing the right shades.

If you click on the Explore tab, you’ll find palettes that other people have produced, which you can upvote or download. If you wish to save your palette (retrievable in the My Themes tab), you’ll have to sign up for an Adobe ID.

Adobe Color palettes

Got a photo with colors that make your heart beat faster? Then you’ll love this neat feature. Click on the camera icon underneath the Sign In link on the right — if you mouse over the camera it’ll say ‘Create from Image’. Upload a photo and the program will extract the colors into a palette based on a color mood you choose. The dropdown menu on the left has five different color moods and one custom which allows you to cherry pick the shades you want from the picture.

In this example, I’ve used a screen grab of a page from Elle Decor France, an interior design magazine that always makes me want to rearrange my furniture and distress my walls. Adobe extracted the greens and chocolates and created a muted palette.

Adobe Color Wheel palette from photograph

Coolors.co

Cost: Free

Coolors homepage

Adobe Color Wheel has so many useful features — it’s like the Swiss Army Knife of color planning — but sometimes you just want to mess around in one area without getting distracted by everything else going on.

Like what if you just wanted to play around with the palettes? This is where Coolors.co comes in.

The only thing Coolors does is spit out palettes. Fool-proof, pretty ones. All you have to do is click on the Generate link, which brings you to a row of five color bars. You can start with one hex code, then tap on your space bar for Coolors to come up with suggestions. You can also lock colors to remember the shades you want, or calibrate a shade up or down until you find one to your liking.

The palette below is the one I built for this website. I started with two shades that I really liked: Blush pink and a blackish purple like OPI’s Lincoln Park in the Dark nail polish. Once I put in the two hex codes, Coolors came up with the three other suggestions.

A sample palette from Coolors

It’s important to know that each shade must have a role to play and not just be merely decorative. In this informative blog post by Adobe, an ideal palette is broken down by one neutral color, two ‘pop’ colors and one call-to-action (CTA) color. You’ll find that having structure such as this in creating a palette will head off potential headaches in future, eg H1s or headlines that don’t stand out from body copy.

Hello Color

Cost: Free

Hello Color

Sometimes you don’t need an entire palette — all you need is a contrasting color that doesn’t look like dreck. You want to achieve what Pablo Picasso once mused aloud in wonder: ‘Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?’

Hello Color is as minimal as it gets. Just type in the hex code of your preferred color in the URL’s c parameter (see the visual below on where to find it) and it’ll spit out a fine matching color that you’d never have thought of, as well as other shades. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

How customize Hello Color

Brand Colors

Cost: Free

Brand Colors homepage

Now that you’ve had a go at creating palettes and seen some not-too-shabby results, you may be interested in replicating the palettes of specific brands. Perhaps you’ve seen the below infographic that spurred the idea, or read up on color theory and want to apply these insights to your own brand. Hey if red works for Virgin and Tesla …

Color Emotion Guide by The Logo Company

Brand Colors is a library of colors for 600+ brands, with an even spread across US and international names. All the hex codes are spelt out and you can download them for reference. The logos are sourced from official documentation such as identity/brand guidelines of press kits. If you are the steward of your company brand and think it ought to be featured, you can certainly suggest it to the site’s owner, Galen Gidman.

Brand Colors is not perfect — Boise State University is on the list while Apple isn’t — but it’s a great place to start researching other brands’ palettes and noting how they’re used.

Color Name

Cost: $.99

How Color Name works

Let’s say you’re out and about and saw a very fetching scene, the colors of which are so ravishing you’re inspired to create a palette.

You can take a photo with your iPhone and upload the photo to Adobe Color Wheel. Or you could download the Color Name app for 99 cents and start on your palette right there and then.

What’s neat about Color Name is that it identifies colors by name — what’s scarlet for you could be fuchsia for me — thus minimizing confusion. Just tap your finger on any part of the photograph and the app will provide the RGB specs and its official name for the color you picked. Tap on the color’s name at the top and it will bring you to a screen with RGB, CMYK, HSB and hex codes for the color plus three similar Pantone shades to consider.

All these apps demystify what we’ve always thought of as a skill belonging only to the artistically gifted. Choosing colors that look great is actually much more a science that it is an art.

‘Not only can color, which is under fixed laws, be taught like music, but it is easier to learn than drawing, whose elaborate principles cannot be taught,’ said French Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix, who lived in the 1800s. He may not have foreseen the wondrous 21st century tools that can do just that, but would’ve certainly appreciated the vistas they have opened for the non-artists among us.