embracing purple


I have come to realise over the years that I am a terrible colour snob. It is one of my many failings, along with fickleness and an almost complete lack of thrift.

Even as a child I would do anything – anything - not to wear purple. And to this day I loathe it more than any other colour. Even yellow is preferable. 

Snobbisms are, of course, borne out of ignorance and small-mindedness - neither qualities I aspire to and yet there you have it. I still don’t know where my strong distaste for purple came from, when or how it began, it has just always been with me. When I run through a spectrum of colours in my mind I have an instant, conclusive reaction that ranges from ardour (shell pink, apricot, mustard) through indifference (many shades of red, cream, beige) to repugnance - the latter sure to be purple, which invariably causes me to wrinkle my nose like a dog licking a nettle.


The funny thing is, this isn’t an emotional reaction, which usually governs these things, with me at least; it is cold, cerebral almost – it’s what purple makes me think of, rather than deeply feel, because in truth I feel nothing for it, or because of it, than a surface-deep aesthetic revulsion. Almost every shade of true purple, besides some of the paler ones that could almost be another colour entirely – lilac that appears grey, mauve that appears blue – I avoid at all costs. To me it has religious, velvety Dan-Brown-murder-in-the-cloisters connotations or else seedy brothel interiors with velvet and satin soft furnishings - I don’t speak from experience, merely imagination. Purple is a colour of penitence, and mourning, and represents the mediocre, bad-taste, BHS garishness of the colour wheel. 


But recently purple has been foisted onto me via various projects and I’ve found myself working with it rather a lot. On each occasion Jess looks at me despairingly and exclaims You hate purple! But, you know what? We also like a challenge. And girls have got to eat. 

First there was a wedding; an Oxford wedding in May. The bride was a big purple fan, the colour scheme being purples, paler pinks and silvery foliage. I cast around, rather desperately, for an answer to this predicament, which was to find every shade of purple that I didn’t loathe and create a nuanced design around those. I chose the darkest purple (almost black) Aquilegia, plum geranium flowers, Persicaria bistorta (lilac), catnip (lavender), purple (but verging on a blueish pink) nigella, and so on. The only true purple were the filaments on the passiflora vine that spilled from the front of the bouquet, but they are such a complicated, bizarre flower, with creamy petals, that you barely noticed. All in all, it hit the brief, and, strangely, I didn’t hate it. In fact, the rather torturous process of choosing enough different varieties of flowers (usually I have the opposite problem) led to one of my favourite designs of wedding bouquets to date. We finished it with four strands of pale, pale silk streamers.


A couple of week later, I had an email from a friend who works in event production. He wanted to take us on to do the florals for the Christopher Kane Resort 2017 show in Mayfair. The brief? Pansies, to reference the floral prints that appear throughout the collection. The colours? Purple. And yellow, of course. I looked over the phone at Jess. Hilarity ensued.

We bought in over six hundred pansies, and they were beautiful. Cheeky, mischievious little flowers. We planted three walls of them, one on long glass shelves, others on staggered square ones and finally a curved, staggered installation on a mirrored wall. The flagship store is sparse and white; it made me want to move (again), become a minimalist and live with just a bonsai tree and spot-lighting for company. All day I was thinking of the Ab Fab episode where Patsy attends a runway show and attempts to sketch the models in an ever more frantic effort, until all her hair falls out of her infamous pineapple bun. Later, mission accomplished - and I now appreciate what a gargantuan effort fashion shows must be to produce - the fashion editors and bloggers arrived in very shiny black cars, designer heels and peeved expressions. The show, after hours of preparation, lasted around seven minutes.


A week on and, just when we thought we could get back to normality (murky, sludgy, misty colours, nothing too easy to explain, nothing too gaudy), we're asked to produce some arrangements for a shoot. A trend story. The trend? Purple. Of course. But frankly by now I am used to improvising on the matter. I select the flowers I can use, design the arrangements. Every shade of purple that isn’t actually, you know, purple - raisin, mulberry, a jammy sort of magenta-y colour, periwinkle. Misty sweetpeas, clematis, cosmos (with a little apricot and soft pink thrown in to dilute).

And then I stumble into hydrangea territory. Oh god. Hydrangea purples are as purple as you can get. But I find myself, for want of a better word, wavering. These aren’t low-brow colours, these are imperial, princely. Majestic. Amythyst and violet, magenta, mallow. Enthralling and complex somehow. Sensual, but not sleazy.

So, sod it. You read it here first: we're embracing purple, we're biting the bullet, going with it. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?