Pantone Colours 2021 from a Brand Image Perspective

Updated: Feb 5

Since 2000, Pantone, the worlds leading colour matching system, has been choosing a singular hue as their Colour of the Year based on considerations of all aspects of society - from fashion, marketing, social media and even politics. This creates a trending pattern which is adopted by brand designers, manufacturers and other creative industries worldwide. I thought this was a myth until I did some research a few years back and saw just how powerful and influential this yearly announcement actually is upon our retail landscape.

Obviously, as a stylist, this serves as a good indicator to the predominant hues I may be seeing foraying our virtual shop floors. However, as a fully trained colour consultant and enthusiast, I simply had to make a more in-depth analysis on this years choice. Not just for the reason that they have chosen two colours this year, but how this choice is reflecting the times we are in and speaking to the future ahead.

This year we have a dynamic duo :




While Pantone do not suggest that businesses change their brand colours to match, I am slightly elated that while branding my new podcast last year I chose a similar colour duo of grey and yellow. So this year, when it launches, I will be strangely - ON TREND!

I have put together some Pantone inspired StyleBoards for your perusal but I thought I would delve a bit deeper into these colours because, not only will you be seeing them from store to store this season, I know a lot of people will look at these during their late night online browsing sessions and think

“No way! - I can’t wear that”

So I am here today to say YES YOU CAN! Let me explain why….

Let’s start with ILLUMINATING.

I love the name of this shade - “Illuminating”. Like the bright yellow glow of a tungsten bulb illuminating us from the darkness.

However, this shade isn’t really vibrant - it makes a more tentative statement of optimism and perhaps, rightly so, after the year we have all been through. However, with the vaccine now being administered across the country, perhaps this colour choice actually speaks to better, safer times where we can hug our loved ones and embrace the world in a more personal and tactile way. A gentle glow of encouragement that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

Now, If anyone knows me they know I LOVE YELLOW!! It makes me feel bright and alive.

I appreciate though, that as it’s a predominantly warm colour - a lot of women stay well clear. This is such a shame as the colour spectrum of yellow has its cooler shades too, and while you still may not want to wear it so close to your face it is an amazing accent colour and works so well cool tones complexions. Why shouldn’t you partake in all the positivity and energy this colour has to offer too.

“But yellow washes me out” I hear you cry. So yes, normally a colour shade which draws away from your natural skin tone is going to be too cool but in this case it could also be too light.

It will appear wishy washy and do nothing for you. However, if you have the temperature of the colour right, then its more likely that you need to turn the sound up a bit and WOW! - You will have the perfect tone and message. Trust me, the fashion brands will not be sticking that closely to the exact Pantone shade so you are likely to find an array of bright, soft cool and warm yellows adorning our virtual shop windows this year. ( cue happy Alex dance!) Go on be brave…you may live to enjoy it!

Practically speaking, a great way to check this, is to hold it to your face…close your eyes for 10 seconds and then open them again. What do you see first? You or the colour? (you may want to repeat this) Often, you see just you - this is good (mostly) but if you see the colour first, then this means the shade is too overpowering. It will be wearing you rather than the other way around. The sweet spot is when you can’t tell - meaning, you can probably see both and that, my gorgeous friend, is probably because the chroma or brightness in that shade that is singing a harmonious tune with its wearer - YOU!

I appreciate that you still may not be feeling this adventurous, so try wearing it as an accent under a grey or ivory blazer or even in a hair accessory or belt. It will still pop and create some energy especially if you team it with a great smile! When meeting in person is back to being a thing, a great pair of yellow stiletto’s or block heels is a sure winner!

One last thing, Illuminating looks better alongside grey, cream, and white. Black will create a stark contrast, so make sure you are showcasing a lot of the yellow in a long coat or monochromatic top and bottom so you aren’t consumed by the heaviness this darker neutral will create. ( see the StyleBoards at the bottom)

So let’s move on to


This is an interesting choice and harmoniously speaking it’s a perfect compliment. It’s a neutral - the perfect blend of white and black - it sits on the fence as an uneventful shade, drawing little attention to itself yet still supportive in a calming way. The perfect partner and ensemble shade to showcase which ever colour or colours it's paired with.

In its entirety, however, it will say nothing of your brand - quite literally, so be mindful how you use it in your digital branding as well as how you wear it. It will work well as a quiet hue but if you intend on making a statement, then this neutral will need to be complimented well to give you the style amplification you desire.