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The history of black colour
A long dialogue with fashion

Black is the fashion colour par excellence, and as such boasts a long and fascinating history. Together with red and white, this ancient hue was the first used by man for cave paintings. In ancient times the colours of clothes had a much more decisive symbolic meaning than in the modern era, but they could also suggest ambivalent meanings that depended on culture and geography. Black has always been considered the colour of death and the devil, but also of dignity and composure. However, in the Renaissance black was not associated with mourning, and featured dark shades tending to grey, green or dark blue.

In the seventeenth century, Isaac Newton showed that white light is composed of a spectrum of seven colours. The discovery somehow excluded white – and above all black – from the chromatic system, assigning it the role of non-colour, a view that is contested nowadays. From the last century to the present day black has maintained the ambivalence that characterized it in the past as a symbol of mystery, melancholy, but also elegance and perfection.

The link between this colour and the big screen is inevitable. In the 1946 film Gilda, Rita Hayworth exercised her magnetic sex appeal completely sheathed in black. Givenchy on the other hand contributed to making black famous thanks to the epic scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where the choice of black is motivated by the search for an unequivocally elegant evening dress. The figure of Johnny in The Wild One, played by Marlon Brando, rides a motorcycle in jeans and black leather jacket, making him the symbol of American rebellion.

A sign of luxury, sobriety, demeanour and refinement makes black a successfully ubiquitous choice in fashion collections. From the late eighties the memorable Dolce & Gabbana collections have imposed the look of the traditionally black-clad Sicilian woman inspired by Monica Vitti in The girl with the gun.

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