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Color Bind: Rainbows vs. Monochrome

Black begins and ends as a problem of definition; it may even be the problem of definition itself, which is to say the problem of beginning and ending
Black and white image of a woman with braids, wearing a long coat and a fedora that covers her eyes
© Nataal

To be or not to be is like, not a question.

Blue or red? Olive, sage, or emerald green? Which of the fifty shades of gray?

Now, that’s what we call questions! Designers face color dilemmas developing their collections. What colors are trending? What is the Pantone color of the year? Does it even matter?

Favorite color is a subjective and emotional decision. It helps to understand the “Why?” behind it.

Monochrome Me Forever “Black begins and ends as a problem of definition; it may even be the problem of the definition itself, which is to say the problem of beginning and ending, of being and nothingness.”

Social scientists Jared Sexton and Elizabeth Lee noted this in their study of the color black for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2017. For Art Comes First, the decision to work in monochromatic black and white came naturally. First of all, they have always been inspired by vintage greyscale photographs. They have also been aware of the power of the color black in art. For example, in 1915 a Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich painted a black square. That Black Square became one of the most influential images in history, ultimately selling for $60 million at Sotheby’s. (You can read up on its significance below).

Then, of course, there is the social context of racialized fashion and lifestyle experiences codified in the idea of blackness as a color and a phenomenon. “Aesthetics and politics are wrapped up here in an understanding of black and white and blackness and whiteness as polarities within the broad field of contrasts, whether mono- or multi-chromatic,” conclude Sexton and Lee. Plus, it is extremely practical.

Rei Kawakubo: The Black Discipleship

Whether associated with clergy and mourning, or royalty and clandestine shenanigans, color black has a long and textured history in fashion. Then came a Little Black Dress and made it fashionable. Some designers elevated black to an art form. Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons works so much in black that the brand’s followers were once dubbed the crows. “It transformed black into a color of fashion, intellectualism, and rebellion,” wrote critic Alexander Fury in an extensive profile of the designer for the New York Times Magazine. “Black isn’t a color. It’s an entire palette.” Learn more about Rei Kawakubo, one of ACF inspirations, in the Renegades of Fashion film series:

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

What are your/brand colors and why? You can learn more about the meanings of colors at

The next article will explore the color palette in the context of the ACF “Rockers” collection.

READ “Five ways to look at Malevich’s Black Square.” A Tate Modern perspective. “Seven Key Themes in Rei Kawakubo’s Career.” Alexander Fury. New York Times Magazine. April 28, 2017 WATCH (OPTIONAL?!) “Hold Everything Black” Lecture by Elizabeth Lee at Access Gallery in Vancouver, Canada.


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Art Comes First: Exploring the Intersection of Style and Identity

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