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Brief Published: 19 Sep 2018

FIT Pushes for Pink’s Gender-Neutral Future


Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Colour at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), traces the history of this divisive colour, and argues for a nuanced view. Rather than symbolising girliness, FIT prompts visitors to regard pink as being as versatile as black.

Given evolving notions of gender and masculinity (see Redressing Femininity and Fashioning a New Masculinity), FIT has chosen an apt time to stage this exhibit. It traces how pink came to symbolise femininity in Western cultures, and analyses how non-Western communities and global style subcultures offer an alternative perspective on this representation.

The show is filled with garments that illuminate the mutability of gender stereotypes. Pieces such as an Indian man’s dusty-rose sherwani, a punk-inspired suit from Japan, and a magenta hooded Mexican poncho demonstrate how cultural context can render pink a masculine colour. While adopting it as a unisex hue might seem unconventional for contemporary Western attitudes, FIT lobbies for pink as a gender-neutral colour when considered in a wider cultural context.

The range of featured hues bolsters the idea that pink’s meaning is not fixed. A purple-tinged punk ensemble from British designer Zandra Rhodes triggers a completely different response to a peachy Dior dress from the 60s. This multifaceted approach to pink reflects contemporary preferences, with hues such as Pink Dahlia and Retro Pink highlighted in our  S/S 20 Colour Spectrum.

Although the fashion industry is starting to embrace gender fluidity, the exhibit’s sometimes surprising garments underline a continued need for brands to employ pink in less stereotypical ways. Millennial pink may have gone mainstream, but there’s still commercial opportunity for more hues to become standard.