The fuchsia’s bright (and so is the yellow, purple and green)
There is a certain irony to our continuing - indeed, blossoming - love affair with colour. Anyone who has been a sentient adult since the turn of the millennium will recall that, for the previous 20 years, every woman claiming even the most minimal fashion credentials refused to be seen wearing any colour that wasn't black.
Exceptions were reluctantly made for navy, grey or chocolate when those colours strode the runway as the season's alleged substitute for black.
But for two decades at least, black was the default colour for any woman worthy of the name fashionista: it was the sartorial security blanket we instantly reached for whenever we needed to look - I hesitate to use the word, but it is the only appropriate one in the context - smart. Well, "smart" went the way of Edwardian bustles, thanks largely to Marc Jacobs, whose grunge ethic infiltrated the DNA of style so profoundly, that "smart" now sounds less like a compliment and more like a put-down, and gradually we all let go our security blanket and learned to love colour.
This season, it pops up as mid-tones, pastels, primaries, technicolour, fluoro brights and bold prints.
It was all over the catwalks for Spring 2010, which means that, in the unfathomable way the fashion industry works, this season it is all over the shops. By June, we will doubtless be bored, and white and nude will make a refreshing, pared-down change, but for now, for anyone who wants to give an instant va-voom to her late-winter wardrobe, colour is the way to achieve it.
And unlike many of the other big Spring 2011 fashion trends, by using colour you can look perfectly fashion forward without freezing to death. It's easy-peasy, and doesn't have to cost a lot to work the colour-block trend with a bright cardi or sweater teamed with a neutral skirt or trousers. The brights already on the rails take in an entire paintbox: red, fuchsia, green, coral, purple, turquoise, yellow and orange, while the more muted tones of bottle green, sage, amethyst, blue, mustard and terracotta will look equally on trend and less alarming.
The most versatile neutral for colour-teaming, incidentally, is camel. It looks especially stylish with red, pink and orange, with none of the unwanted over-sharp contrast of mixing those shades with black. And it's particularly good news if you invested in winter's big trend, as this earns it a reprieve into spring.
To work the colour-block trend, you need two colours as well as a neutral. But introducing a second colour is also simple and, if you do it with a scarf, tights or a belt also inexpensive. Falke has a great spring range of opaques that includes violet, sage, burnt orange and a sizzling pinky red called Red Pepper. Lily & Lionel's spring scarves include Ballet in very on-trend coral and Italian Job in a wild, zingy mix of oranges.
A handbag is another way to introduce a second pop of colour, but that can be pricier - especially if you fall for the Mulberry Bayswater in hot pink or electric blue. Though, happily, thanks to the ubiquity of the technicolour trend, there are lots of more affordable bright bags.
Colour has hit footwear, too: Office has some of the best brights, M&S has a pair of 70s-inspired red platforms, Barratts has a sublime purple suede court and LK Bennett has a sizzling red suede court.