This monsoon, when an overcast sky threatens to blot out your day, a pop of colour is just what is needed to brighten things up. Perhaps that’s why bright neons and fluorescents are all the rage on Mumbai’s streets these days. Internationally, we spotted Rodarte, Nanette Lepore and Jason Wu send neon pieces down the runway for their Spring 2012 shows, while the city’s fashion forward stores are stocking these vivid shocks of colour by the bales.
In Greek, the word neon translates to “new one”. Circa 1898, neon was discovered and became an element on the Periodic Table. In 1930, huge neon signs appeared in Las Vegas to attract an audience. When Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, Andy Warhol painted her face in colours of blue, pink, green and gold. Surely, you can draw a picture of the famous painting in your mind.
It was the 1980s when neon became more than an element, a billboard or a painting. It appeared on clothing and became a wardrobe staple. A decade later, it reappeared as make-up, glitter and hair colour. Today, neon is the trend, a reinvention of ’80s fashion with a new attitude that is demure but fun. While the ’80s meant outrageous and wild fashion, neon in 2012 equals happy and free. It represents a multi-faceted, colourful lifestyle and a bright attitude.
Neon is in
Sujal Shah, the 39 year-old CEO & co-founder of premium lifestyle apparel and accessories brand, Freecultr, reports, “Green, blue and bright orange are big right now. We get orders for coloured pants for men every single day.” Namrata Kothari and Meghna Mittal, the 27 year-old co-founders of a website that keeps you clued in on what’s happening in the city with a shop component that features brands from across India and ships worldwide, InOnIt(.in) agree.
“We send out newsletters to our subscribed customers. Recently, we sent one out featuring only neon products, as they’re so on trend and in demand. This season, neons are really moving fast, especially bags in faux leather, plastic and vinyl. Most of the designers we showcase have produced designs in neon colours.”
Why the sudden love for a shade hitherto considered flashy? Shah feels it’s because people want to stand out. “People are experimenting and opting for neon items, as it helps them get noticed. They’re fun conversation pieces that go with people’s changing moods.” That could be why for Bhavneet Chandok, corporate communications manager at Accessorize, neon has been the big hit this season.
“Our spring/summer line of neon products is completely sold out, and we’ve actually created a new neon line for the monsoon. Acrylic footwear in neon becomes extremely popular in the monsoon. At the store in Phoenix Market City, Kurla, you will find accessories mainly in orange, blue, yellow and pink,” says the 28 year-old.
Shah adds, “Apart from neon apparel, we’ve done gumboots this season with neon accents. They should find a way to your closet. In fact, I wear a lot of coloured pieces myself. For instance, red loafers are a staple in my wardrobe.” In other words, sneak the trend into your formal wear or flaunt it with your casual wear.
Flashy is fun
Best part? The trend isn’t just restricted to runways, celebrities and designer stores. Men look great in coloured pants as it adds an edge to their personality. Women have taken to the trend too and we’ve seen them sporting coloured pants, bright bags and jazzy accessories with great panache.
“I love bright colours, and neon takes bright one notch up. Neon accessories, on the other hand, add a whole other dimension to any outfit and make it look on-trend,” shares 21 year-old Aayushi Bangur.
The Economics student has been working neon into her look this season by teaming a neon orange tank with a purple maxi skirt and studded sandals. “I’ve bought a lot of neon pieces, be it clothing or jewellery from local markets like Colaba Causeway or Fashion Street and high street brands like Zara, H & M and Aldo.”
Another fan of bright colours, fashion blogger Anushka Hajela, cheerily adds, “Neons perk up my skin tone and add zing to the most boring outfits.” The 23 year-old shares where she goes looking for her favourite shades. “While I’ve chanced upon a few pieces at Fashion Street, Chemistry has some gorgeous, clear neon waterproof bags this season. Ballet flats and umbrellas, too, are easy, chic and affordable ways to rock the acid-bright look.”
Although Bangur puts herself in a better mood with bright pieces, she suggests, “If you’re someone who is not confident enough to wear either neon clothing or accessories, start with a neon nail polish or neon lips.” Hajela warns, “Make sure neon clothing is in a thick fabric to avoid transparency in case of a sudden shower.”
Clearly, being bright was never as in as it is now. But it isn’t easy to wear a shade that’s so in your face. Chandok has a piece of advice for fashionistas wanting to sport neon. “I would recommend a satchel bag in bright yellow that can be teamed with a structured formal dress or a white tee with cropped pants. Long necklaces with shocking pink pendants in different shapes are also very trendy and go with anything,” she says.
While it’s great to embrace colour, how do you actually work the trend? Fashion designers and stylists part with some expert tips. “Even if you’re dealing with a strict wardrobe in a formal office space, there is room for you to work the neon trend. Instead of a dowdy raincoat, opt for a neon-coloured or transparent trench coat. Choose plastic umbrellas and acrylic sandals,” says Nachiket Barve, the 31 year-old apparel and accessory designer and CEO at Nachiket Barve Design.
Jayati Bose, 30 year-old freelance fashion stylist, explains, “You could wear neons in a combination of two colours or a combination of the same shade. You could even go all out and pair a bright yellow crop top with a tangerine skirt and complete the look with pink flip flops, accessorising with pink button earrings.”
The references are definitely to ’80s fashion. “Think Madonna or Jane Fonda in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Remember the neon tights? Fashion is cyclical and neon is back in a big way. Let one neon piece make a statement while pairing it with pastels,” says Sabbah Sharma, 30 year-old fashion designer.
Nitasha Gaurav, fashion stylist, opines, “Combine neon with neutral colours like white, beige, brown and blue. You could also wear one neon colour with a non-neonic shade of the same colour. For instance, you could wear neon red with brick red or baby pink with neon pink.” The trick to wearing neon is doing it right. While absorbing the trend from an earlier fashion era, it is important to correct it and suit it to present day standards.
“A few years ago, neon was considered flashy and uncool because people overdid it. They wore too many contrasting colours together. Nowadays, I see it being done with style. And it is definitely on-trend for the monsoon. Those who don’t want to do outfits are still opting for neon bangles and footwear,” observes Jelin George, 27 year-old fashion designer.
As Sharma rightly points out, “What you see in magazine editorials and photo shoots doesn’t always work in real life. Neon is a little tricky. Boys, please don’t wear neon pink shirts. Instead, wear a neon coloured skinny tie, belt, waistcoat or loafers.” Fashion isn’t restricted to clothes. The neon trend can be donned in interesting ways. Bose recommends colouring your hair in “quirky colours like pink or blue”. She adds, “Or you could bring out your neon-coloured shoelaces and twist them around your braids. Basically, have fun!” Barve warns though, “Don’t don the neon scrunchie, that’s passé.”
How to wear neon: top tips from our expert panel
Nachiket Barve, apparel and accessory designer
> Opt for a neon-coloured or transparent trench coat. Choose plastic umbrellas and acrylic sandals Jayati Bose, freelance fashion stylist
> Wear neons in a combination of two colours or a combination of the same shade. You could even go all out and pair a bright yellow crop top with a tangerine skirt and complete the look with pink flip flops, accessorising with pink button earrings.
> Twist neon-coloured shoelaces around your braids Sabbah Sharma, fashion designer
> Let one neon piece make a statement while pairing it with pastels
> Boys, wear a neon coloured skinny tie, belt, waistcoat or loafers Nitasha Gaurav, fashion stylist
> Combine neon with neutral colours like white, beige, brown and blue. Wear one neon colour with a non-neonic shade of the same colour — for example neon red with brick red or baby pink with neon pink
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