The Power of Color: Therapy of Loud Fashion

Matthew Baines

How I find comfort in color

I've always been drawn to color. As an introvert it always appealed to me, as an alternative outward personality. I could rely on color - and pattern - to distract from little ol' boring me. Blue was perhaps my favorite, which can be perceived as cool and stand-offish. Then again that was probably my subconscious brain letting people know to keep away. Through my own foray into color therapy and pattern therapy I have come a long way from being the non-talkative kid who never told anybody about anything.

Color therapy feel seen

During the 1980s I was also crazy about pattern - and Memphis style was the perfect solution to this. Not just as fashion, but also my bedroom wallpaper was decked out in brightly colored triangles and circles against the predictably blue background. My Anglepoise lamp was a deep orange color and my bedding was... also blue, in a delightful a scalloped pattern. I believe it was the color that was fighting to get out there in front of me. My brain was teasing out my personality, even more so in my fashion sense.

When it came to my 80s fashion, I was one of those who opted for the fluorescent socks, with blue pumps, shortened trousers and jackets with running flecks of brightness. Shirts usually matched the socks, so either turquoise blue, yellow, salmon. It made me happy to express myself in this way. Others sought refuge in goth or metal. I was the happy-go-lucky gay boy in my own little fenced-off world, expressing myself and learning how to navigate those around me.

Fast forward a few years, to university, and there I was again, developing my aesthetic. Known for wearing bright orange trousers on campus with gold brocade embellished corduroy jackets. Again it made me happy. It distracted people away from knowing the real me. Color - and fashion - was my armour. 

Color as a tool of expression

For me color has been a tool with which to navigate the world. Also, I have come to realise that I can use it to explore the depths of my own mind. The vast expanses of personality can indeed be explored using color and pattern.

Remember as a kid, drawing line patterns - letting your pen go for a walk - and then coloring in the cross sections? I could spend hours doing that. And these days I find myself again, at my computer, drawing patterns and coloring them in, for hours. It is a joy to draw and color. It takes me on journeys, into which I might never have ventured. Past memories, bad times and good times. I rake over them whilst doodling. I then inject them with my color palette de jour.

Contrasting colors to challenge

More recently I have been working with pastels. Following the Harajuku and Yume Kawaii aesthetic from Japan with all its permutations has been a joy. I particularly love Pastel Goth and the "creepy cute" vibe. My mind has always been rather sarcastic, defensive, contrary. I usually run in the opposite direction to everyone else. The duality of Pastel Goth intrigues me. The softness of the cute pastel colors is harshly contradicted by the blacks, grays and deep purples of the Goth side. It is a wondrous contradiction that is a bit like the effect of sweet and salted  popcorn. It teases the mind and, in my case at least, allows me to stand aside and enjoy this fusion of opposites.

Pastel Goth Creepy Cute aesthetic

You might ask why a fusion of opposites might be so engaging to me. In my mind, I have no single character. That always depends on mood. I am certain that color - and indeed color therapy - helps to draw out a specific, more positive, less withdrawn mood, that might have otherwise only lurked in the background. Contradictory colors also help to soothe my mind. Seeing colors on the opposite sides of the spectrum is reassuring and consistent. The same goes with light and dark, sweet and salty, hot and cold. One next to the other, or one after the other, just feels good.

My love of pastels

The fusion of pastel and all it represents (innocence, cuteness, inclusivity, sweetness) against the darkness of black, gray and purple (negativity, otherworldliness, alternative, social outcast and depression) helps create the perfect balance in my mind. Sometimes, if I am feeling depressed, it might be tempting to wallow in it for a while, head under the blanket, close the door, don't answer texts, seek solitude. In fact, at that point, I might have an aversion to cheery colors. There is nothing worse, for me, than forced fun or forced positivity when you are not feeling up to it. With Pastel Goth, Yami Kawaii, Gurokawa and Menhera Kei, and the colors associated with these aesthetics, I can also bask in the irony, putting a wry smile on my face and sending me back into the right positive direction.

A cute pastel bunny with devil's eyes can indeed be an appealing way to drag oneself from the rock bottom to a shelf above. When used within the repetition of pattern, this becomes quite reassuring. Blood, guts and gore, superimposed onto a pattern of pastel penguins can be oddly reassuring. Geometric shapes lend a hand with this too. Infinite patterns of geometric shapes - harking back to those 1980s wallpaper shapes I so enjoyed - can really help provide some level of security.

Color in fashion and graphic design

It is natural for me, therefore, to want to express myself onto fabric and into fashion. Whilst I do sell some graphic t-shirts, most of my passion goes into all-over print clothing, particularly athleisurewear such as leggings, meggings and hoodies. Using Memphis-inspired geometry with either bold and bright colors or pastels, depending on my mood, I have really been able to express myself more openly than ever before.

Harajuku mens leggings meggings

Whilst my personality comes from being an introvert I am able to exploit that by using color, and contrasting colors and moods. It is my armour, but is also my cloak of expression, that tells the world about me without me having to do it all the time. It is color therapy and pattern therapy for me on a personal level, but also, with my brand, allows me to share that aesthetic with everybody else.

graphic design memphis style Pastel Goth Yami Kawaii

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