Obviously, color is important when it comes to branding and to building that brand into something as recognizable as Tiffany or Christian Louboutin. But what color is the right color? Would Christian Louboutin have become as successful if the soles of his shoes were neon green instead of vibrant red? Probably not. We as humans have very strong associations with different colors, so when you’re choosing the brand colors for your new clothing business, it’s best to start with the psychology behind the shade. Think about what your brand stands for. Is it hip and trendy? Boho and earthy? All about chic sophistication? Colors can help you portray that without any words at all!
Keep in mind that different audiences will react differently to the same hues. For example, brides in many Western cultures wear white, but in some Eastern traditions, it is associated with mourning and death. Know what message you want your brand to convey, but also who you want to receive those messages for the best effect.
Like many colors, red can have conflicting associations. For a lingerie brand, it’s romantic and alluring. A men’s wear brand might use red to indicate sportiness or intensity—clearly, it’s not the shade for rugged outdoor gear or high-end tailored suits. It can come across as aggressive, so consider using elements of red in your branding instead of a monochromatic scheme. Paired with other bright, bold colors, it can look juvenile—perfect for kids’ clothes, but not ideal for trendy young women’s items.
Warm and inviting in soft, pale tints, yellow can also come across standoffish (think caution tape). A common choice for gender-neutral baby items, it also carries connotations of “natural” and “wholesome.” If your brand is focused on sustainably or responsibly sourced materials, using soft yellow in your branding could help convey that message. Brighter shades are perfectly appropriate for hip, trendy, or one-of-a-kind items, and may also work well if you design for a teenage audience.
The most common favorite color, blue is also one of the most commonly used colors in marketing. Though often considered “manly,” it’s also the most common favorite color among women. Given its ubiquity, it can be risky to use in branding. No one wants customers to see just another blue tag, but at the same time, that ubiquity can play into your message. Brands using blue have been around for ages. It’s sometimes said to be associated with trust and dependability, though such specific associations are highly individual. If you design practical, sturdy children’s clothes, for example, blue branding could imply that your clothes are as dependable and long lasting as the color. For women’s wear, careful branding with blue can tell customers that your designs are classic and timeless.
Be wary of orange! Frequently listed as a least favorite color, it tends to be rather polarizing among customers. It does have some serious advantages, however. Since it’s considered a “risky” color to use in branding, few companies do. That means that orange branding will stand out from the crowd. If that’s what your brand is all about, seriously consider using orange as a primary color in your logo and marketing materials. If that’s not quite the message you want to send, but you still want an eye-catching pop of color in your logo, use orange paired with cool colors like blue, green, or purple.
Another color with a variety of connotations. Green can be earthy, great for rustic apparel or outdoor gear. It’s also the color of choice for “green” companies that focus on being eco-friendly and sustainable. Green can bring a touch of life to the chic and modern—think of the way a house plant draws the eye in a room with modern chrome-and-glass decor. It’s a color often associated with wealth, but not necessarily with luxury, the way silver and gold are, so if your high-end items rely on expensive materials rather than haute couture designs, green might not convey your brand identity as well.
This is a color with an interesting dichotomy. While many women name it as their favorite color, many men list it among their least favorite shades. Clearly, it may not be the color of choice for a men’s wear line. It’s frequently used in luxury products, such as cosmetics and perfumes, but it enjoyed a bit of a heyday across a variety of industries, so it’s common to find very non-luxury brands, like Craigslist and Yahoo, using purple in their branding. Because purple can tend either toward red or blue, pay attention to the shade you’re using to help give customers clues about what your brand is all about. Pale lavender can be relaxing (or matronly—use caution!) while deeper purples are more mysterious and luxurious.
Black and White
Since these two colors are very difficult to use alone, we’ll cover them together, though of course they each have very different connotations. White can offset any other color. Leaving plenty of white space, or using negative space to contrast with a colorful logo gives a sense of cleanliness and neatness. There’s room to grow, but it’s still neatly bounded, so wildly creative brands might want to tone down the white space to give the right impression. Similarly, black can be used to offset bright colors, but the effect is much more striking. Rather than presenting your colorful design with space to appreciate it, black backgrounds and borders force all the attention onto your logo. It’s perfect for in-your-face, notice-me aesthetics, something that can be found in brands ranging from Adidas to Gucci! Pairing black and white together blunts the effect of pairing either with color. It gives the impression of a blank slate, which, depending on your brand, may be just what you’re after.
In the end, it comes down to making sure the colors you choose suit the personality of your brand and your products. There’s no magical shade that will make your products fly off the shelves, but if your logo matches your brand identity and the message you want to convey, customers will likely remember you the next time they go shopping.