Chinese fashion lovers rename trendy color and learn how to wear it. Photo: Li Hao/GT
As smoggy days once again fall upon those of us living in China, would a new jacket in the color "smog blue" cheer you up?
According to the Pantone Color Institute's Fall 2016 fashion color report, the color standard for the fashion industry that gives people a peek at what will sell soon, this season's color palette is led by the blue family.
Blue is said to inspire tranquility and optimism. Airy blue's "lofty nature evokes feelings of lightness and freedom," the report said, adding that the color would serve as a good source for "designers seeking weightlessness in a world heavy with conflict."
But the Chinese word for airy blue connotes the opposite. The resemblance between airy blue and local skies shrouded in smog has given rise to a new name among China's fashionistas - "smog blue."
The term is widely used by Chinese fashion bloggers, retailers and consumers. Some say that the color suits office ladies best, as it is neither boring nor flirty. Some argue that it adds a hint of retro, while others claim it makes people look wise and modern. The color, which nods to Serenity, one of the two Pantone hues chosen as the Color of the Year in 2016, has gained popularity among fashionable Chinese because it is considered classy and less girlie.
Fang Fei, a 28-year-old woman in Beijing who works in international trade, thinks the name is very intriguing. "The fashion industry is always so pretentious, making new words to attract attention all the time," she said. "But I have to admit that this is a bit creative."
A search for keywords "smog blue" on taobao.com, China's largest online retailer, reveals tens of thousands of items, mostly clothing and accessories, ranging from 99-yuan ($14.5) sweaters to luxury bags that are priced at half a million yuan.
Among the brands with products that are tagged "smog blue" are Hermès, Loewe, Chanel, Chloé and Michael Kors. Pictures of fashion icons, including American socialite Olivia Palermo and Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan, are used to convince potential buyers that "smog blue" is the most high-fashion color this season.
At Michele Huang's Taobao shop, which specializes in women's clothing priced at a few hundred yuan, one of the bestsellers is a partly wool overcoat in "smog blue."
"I call it 'smog blue' because the other [shops] have done the same, although 'smog blue' is not what the factories (clothing manufacturers) call it," she said. "Smog is what people care about the most now."
She further explained that the name might help boost business as shoppers who don't know about the color might come across the term when shopping for things like anti-smog masks. The search bar will probably automatically give them "smog blue" as a choice before they finish typing, and they might become intrigued, which brings more visits and possible deals to the shops, she said.
Despite all the different fashion items in airy blue sweeping the streets, Fang said she would not buy an outfit in that color. But she would consider trying it with accessories and thinks a hint of the color would make an outfit pop.
"The color would look better on people with a paler skin tone. It would make me, and other Asians with comparatively darker skin, look gloomy," she said.
"And, if I put on a coat in this color, won't I be invisible on a smoggy day in Beijing?" she said in jest.