Jouer avec les couleurs: créer des palettes surprenantes

Playing with colours: creating surprising palettes

There was a time when my wardrobe was filled with black, navy blue and jeans, but I've always loved colour. I don't know if it's the confidence I've gained with each passing year, at the same rhythm as the white hairs are appearing, but I'm allowing myself to play more and more with colourful clothes. In the winter, I tend to want to compensate for the lack of light by wearing textiles in vibrant hues. I started with accessories; a pair of fluorescent orange stockings, a bright pink and green silk square, coral red barrettes. Then I slowly let the colour in everywhere.

In the studio, when I look at our collections of the past ten years, I notice that colour is more present but above all more diversified, surprising. In the same collection, we have fun selecting colours from different palettes: a pastel rubs shoulders with a primary colour, an earth tone accompanies a fluorescent accent. The combinations are less conventional than when we were just starting atelier b and choosing the colours has become an inspiring team activity.

color wheel

Chromatic Circle (Homage-to-Goethe) by Alfred Jensen, 1957, Oil and ink on cardboard.

Using the Chromatic Circle

During our studies, in our first fashion design class, we learned about colour theory and had to paint a chromatic circle. Catherine and I loved that class (this was in 2002 or 2003!) but this theory was momentarily forgotten, buried in a binder. It was much later, thanks in part to teachers like Ying Gao and Maryla Sobek, that we were reminded of the chromatic circle, an essential tool for getting out of the often boring choices we tend to make when we avoid taking risks, consciously or not. The chromatic circle can guide us when we want to take a less usual path. The theory of colour is complex and I don't intend to go into it in depth here, but instead I want to share our two favourite recipes. If you want to go further, I invite you to check out this site (french) that explains the basics or to pick up a book at your library on the subject.

couleurs atelier b A nomenclature of colors for naturalists- and compendium of useful knowledge for ornithologists (1886)
Left: Lilac cardigan, lime turtleneck and green overalls.
Right: A nomenclature of colors for naturalists- and compendium of useful knowledge for ornithologists (1886).

On the chromatic circle, we find the primary, secondary and tertiary colours. However, we see neither the variation of saturation nor luminosity. These two additional variables allow the creation of unusual recipes. It is by daring to play with these differences that the combinations become interesting! It is important to choose colours from different palettes: pastels, fluorescent, bright, earth tones, etc. It is also important to note that when colours are difficult to name, it is often because they are very interesting!

First recipe: two analogous and one complementary

To start, you can choose two colours that are similar but not necessarily from the same palette. For example, in the photo on the left below, we see a turtleneck in a greyish (broken) baltic blue and overalls in a very saturated cobalt blue. To accompany these two analogous colours, we added a surprising complementary colour, a sweater in bubblegum pink. For the photo on the right, the blood orange dress is analogous to the pink bag. The cobalt blue of the jacket is the complementary colour that makes the palette pop. Take a look at the chromatic circle if you don't spontaneously find the complementary colour. Don't hesitate to test colour combinations that you think "don't work well together", it's often a promising start; chaos is often as interesting as harmony.

analogues et complémentaires

Left: Cobalt blue overalls, Baltic blue turtleneck and neon peach cottage sweater.
Right: cobalt blue jacket, blood orange cottage dress and pink quilted bag.

Second recipe: monochromatic palette

Often, we have the reflex to avoid colours that are too similar or too close to each other. We want to contrast our top and bottom for example, or we add accessories and shoes to break up the palette. Alternatively, how about creating a completely monochromatic palette? In our wardrobes, we often find a lot of neutral colours, like creams and beiges for example. Our favourite colours are also found in several copies in our drawers, in all sorts of different shades. So why not go all out and combine them?

palette monochrome atelier b

Khaki linen pants, natural linen overshirt, sand bralette.

Making our mornings easier

The morning routine may not be the best time to experiment with clothes and colours. In our house, mornings are organised in a hurry so that everyone can start their day on time. So I have taken the habit of choosing my pieces the day before, calmly, looking at the weather forecast and my agenda. The next day's schedule will influence... I also take advantage of the weekend at home to try new things and note how I feel.

Since I have more colourful pieces, I have also reorganised my closet and drawers with this component in mind. Rather than, for example, putting my dresses together and my turtlenecks together, I've organised my pole and drawer and grouped colours together. I usually start by choosing a colour that catches my eye and then fill in by trying to create an interesting palette with what is available. It can be helpful to make mental notes of choices that worked, in which you felt comfortable and confident. You also have to make sure you listen to yourself: some days you might want to be discreet and not be noticed, others you might just want to be comfortable and forget about your body. Sometimes we feel good in clothes that give us energy, that make us smile.

palette atelier b

Coral pink A-line dress, mushroom cardigan, caramel quilted jacket.

Palettes fade, colours remain

The colour combinations that catch our eye change over the years. The reason why atelier b clothes are composed of a single color is precisely to avoid that we get tired of it, that we have the impression that it is no longer current. I get tired much faster of a garment that mixes colors and fabrics than of a plain one, no matter what colour it is. You can always make a piece fresh again by changing the way you wear it. By combining it with new colours, changing the palette of which it is part, it can be easily updated. A plain garment will therefore have a longer life!

When we admire a landscape or a work of art, it is often the colour that catches our eye. Every morning, our clothes give us the opportunity to play with our environment to change the season or the story, whether it is vibrant, soft or bright.

couleurs atelier b

Left: Natural linen overshirt, amber top, emerald skirt.
Center: Pastel pink stand-up collar, latte linen jumpsuit, blue centaury coat.
Right: Leaf green stand-up collar, copper double-breasted dress, peach skirt.

palette terre atelier b


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