What On Earth Is 'Gen Z Yellow' & How Are We Meant To Wear It?

Artwork: Meg O'Donnell
Just when you thought the trend for defining an age group by a colour was dying a death, along comes 'Gen Z yellow', this season’s answer to millennial pink and the shade spotted on our favourite sartorial stars on the streets of fashion month. As its name indicates, love for the Easter-appropriate colour didn’t spring from the influencers and editors attending AW18 but rather from Gen Z (the group born between the mid ’90s and early ‘00s, according to Forbes).
Photo: Via Youtube
Writer Haley Nahman coined the term last year when she spotted some changes to her usually bubblegum pink-hued Instagram feed. Suddenly, among the carnation notepads, rose vases and cherry blossom Glossier products, there appeared a sunnier, less saccharine shade: yellow. We’d argue that the trend started (as so many do) with Beyoncé. The ruffled marigold Roberto Cavalli dress she wore, complete with swinging baseball bat, in the video for Lemonade’s “Hold Up” spawned a thousand wedding-guest imitations, but perhaps only now are we seeing the full impact of Bey’s wardrobe choice.
In the same way millennial pink was first used to reclaim femininity during a new wave of feminism being explored by a switched-on, smart generation of young women, yellow represents the optimistic outlook of the game-changing teens of Gen Z. "Yellow is the colour that best represents hope, optimism and joy. It's the universal symbol of sunshine and warmth," Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, tells Refinery29. "All of these characteristics make it a symbolic representation of what Gen Z are looking for – a renewed hope for the future and the energy to engage in a purposeful way."

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Gen Z yellow has arrived with less posturing than millennial pink; it’s not (yet) painted on the walls of every new café in London but has slowly infiltrated music videos, Instagram accounts, and interiors trends. Kylie Jenner’s sunglasses collaboration with Australian brand Quay featured some tinted yellow specs, London-based artist Joy Miessi created an account last year to collate snaps of banana and egg yolk-toned spaces she’s spotted around the city, and one scroll through photographer Petra Collins’ feed demonstrates how every shade in the yellow spectrum is worming its way into our creative subconscious.
So how would one describe Gen Z yellow? We're fans of Pantone's Meadowlark but the beauty of the trend is that no one shade appears to dominate. Sorbet lemons, zingy turmerics and rich butters are all in play this season, which could explain its appeal. Yellow has been offered up by designers season after season but has never actually made it (as a full-blown trend, at least) into stores, thanks to its limited wearability frightening buyers and consumers alike. Since appearing here, there and everywhere over the past six months, however, a multitude of shades have in fact proven totally flattering, and the perfect antidote to that ubiquitous pink.
A glimpse at the collections of SS18 will provide all the inspiration you need this season. Rodarte sent frothy sherbet dresses down a catwalk strewn with flowers, Stella McCartney's asymmetric loose-fitting mustard boiler suit (paired with practical strappy sandals) answered our spring workwear prayers, while Kenzo explored more acid-hued yellows in feathered dresses layered over pinstriped tights.
Photo: Getty Images
With ice-cream shades dominating our wardrobe's colour palette this season, there's plenty to remix Gen Z yellow with, making it less intimidating if you're worried about looking more Big Bird than Beyoncé. Yellow is beautiful against lilac or a soft aqua, as shown on Emili Sindlev at Paris Fashion Week, while a printed dress, preferably floral (yes, we know: groundbreaking) and combining yellow and poppy red, gives your staple spring dress a contemporary twist. Bringing several shades within the colour together – a honey-hued belt bag over a bumblebee coat, for example – keeps things interesting and, as with most colours, it pops when paired with black or white.
Photo: Getty Images
Sure, naming a colour after an entire generation is fairly nauseating, and can make us bored of the shade quicker than a simple 'trend' tone, but there's no doubt we could all do with more optimism in our lives. Gen Z yellow might be just the injection of cheer we need.