Kara Gordon


A letter to the people going at
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Purple Doesn’t Rhyme With Anything

I met Tanya on the other side of my cubicle at my first Big Kid Job. She started the fellowship earlier than most of our class and she came off as cool, confident, and way more put-together than anyone else. A couple of the guys and I started running after work and she asked to join. And that’s how our friendship started.

She is not only my true fashion-soulmate and breakfast buddy, but she’s an incredible writer and editor. While her (dumb) non-compete agreement with her full-time employer somehow prevents me from putting her full name in this very non-competitive newsletter, please know that the delightful reflection below both embodies her wit, humor, and why I consider her one of my most treasured friends.


One can expect a few things around the middle of December every year: a sudden dip in temperatures that move hats and scarves from cute hipster accessory territory to necessary tools against frostbite; on onslaught of Christmas parties; and Pantone’s announcement of its color for the upcoming year.

Pantone uses a team of experts to feel out what the upcoming year will be like, exploring shades, creating a tale of triumph and failure that make our existential crisis and wide-awake-staring-at-the-ceiling-at-3-am existential crises look tame. The colors are meant to be strident, a sort of “theme” for the year in not only your Pinterest mood boards, but also a not-so-secret method towards your wallet and home, influencing designers of home goods and clothing to consider the shade its 365-day-long reign on the planet.

This year, the company has chosen Ultra Violet (not to be confused with “ultraviolet,” which is associated with the rays that can kill you by invisibly seeping through the Earth’s ozone layer and giving you skin cancer, ouch), a purple-y purple. It’s not eggplant, nor is it marsala (2015’s famously mystery meat colored disaster), and it’s definitely not lilac. It’s not quite Barney-level magenta, nor is it the dusty shade of Ursula’s aubergine skin in The Little Mermaid. It’s just...purple. Ironically, Pantone says it’s “inventive” and “imaginative,” but the only thing inventive and imaginative about the color is that it’s so blatantly, plainly purple the company decided to dress up its visage with the word ultra (which is meant to be a superlative, misapplied here in the purpliest purple there ever was) and violet (meant to evoke a bluish shade of purple, which...I guess).

It's. Just. Purple.

Ironically, 2014’s honoree was a similar—though more luscious and lavender—purple. At the time, the color was meant to be a symbol of an emerging American economy, one that was hesitantly tiptoeing towards the end of the recession but not quite comfortable with showering itself with the riches and rewards purple has historically been associated with as a royals-only hue. It was deemed just safe enough to play into fairy tale dreams, but risky and edgy enough to brighten up the drabness of counting pennies and being stoic. In 2014, we were a radiant orchid, flowering into our best selves politically, socially, artistically [ed note: this is the year we met, and this is true].

How the world has changed in 2017. This is how Pantone describes 2018’s color: “a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade,” one that “communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.” Purple is Prince. Purple is bipartisanship. Purple represents the fight against Alzheimer’s.

The first two are dead. The third should be. Womp womp womp.

As you can tell, I don’t take the Pantone color of the year very seriously, but I do consider it. I think abut it with snark and gleefully create a tale of its chosen-ness (maybe the Pantone people just shot a dart at a wallpaper sample, or maybe they stumbled into a vintage shop and among a pile of dusty clothes they saw a flash of color, or maybe they were just high out of their minds and saw purple visions). Though I’m a New Yorker, I like color. Black and grey serve their purpose, but I find inspiration and joy in a shock of color. I like my neutrals, but I also like the surprise and intrigue of color.

But must I have a company whose sole purpose every year is to dictate the color that will be “on trend” tell me so? Must this company inform me that this color that I’ve seen since I tackled my kindergarten set of 24 crayons and scribbled outside the lines (judge me) is not purple but the more chic, edgier, cooler “Ultra Violet”?

If I’ve learned anything in the year 2017 and its associated harassment stories, memes, political snafus, brink of nuclear war anxiety, and overrated Taylor Swift album, it’s that I’m an independent woman and I don’t need an establishment to tell me what is cool, what is trendy, or what will dictate my future. Colors are powerful and can dictate mood, communicate messages of emotion and power, create sanctuaries or instigate disagreements. But my interpretation of color is mine, and neither Pantone nor the world can change that.

Kara GordonComment