Radiant or Radical? Pantone’s Colour for 2014 — Radiant Orchid.


Each year, the design community waits with bated breath for the Pantone Color Institute’s announcement of the colour of the year. But when the highly-anticipated news was released, the shade chosen for 2014 was greeted with decidedly mixed reactions. Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute, described the 2014 colour, dubbed Radiant Orchid, as: “An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm.”

But not all in the design world were charmed. Purple, it seems, is a colour that elicits strong reactions — ranging from adore to abhor. Some labeled the shade as too feminine. Others questioned its modernity. Certainly, after last year’s Emerald and 2012’s popular Tangerine Tango, Radiant Orchid was dubbed an “unexpected” choice by experts at design sites such as

Style and design commentators flooded the internet with opinions and criticisms of this unique hue.’s Alessandra Wood suggested to readers via her Huffington Post article: “Either use it sparingly in pieces anchored with classic forms, or go big and bold and don’t look back. There is no middle ground here.”

But for me, the colour (pretty as it might be in flowers or small items) simply just does not have the longevity to warrant large scale investment. I believe that Radiant Orchid is a colour that will quickly sink — it is one of those colours that one can tire of ever so quickly, and I worry that it will look less than radiant before the year is out.

As a fashion colour it is also challenging, because it needs a certain skin tone to wear well without looking sallow — you almost need an instant tan to carry it off. And it seems louder than the colours of previous years — I believe it’ll only be popular for 2014, then it’s destined for landfill. So, investing in accent pieces just because the Pantone Color Institute have decreed shade 18-3224 to be “THE colour” for 2014 seems a little wasteful.

Certainly, the warm violet shade is difficult to describe as contemporary. (I cannot imagine seeing a 2014 car painted in the purplish pink shade, for example.) And sure, a quick look at various Radiant Orchid Pinterest pages proves that it can be an attractive colour in some settings. I can’t help but predict that the warm, undeniably feminine hue will be the shade of choice for many 2014 brides, for example.

But, even now, it remains an undeniably puzzling selection. I wonder about the trend predictions that occur prior to the colour being chosen each year. Had I been on the selection committee at Pantone, my colour for 2014 would have been a soft aqua – think of a much paler Tiffany blue. It just seems far more sophisticated, and would have complemented the big metallics trend we’re seeing lately.

At least I can think of one (albeit fictional) character who would have been thrilled for this Pantone choice — Marie Schrader in the hit TV series Breaking Bad. Her home and wardrobe were awash with purple shades, which was certainly noticed by many and became a topic of discussion in living rooms, critics’ circles and blogs across the globe!

The reactions to Radiant Orchid do pose an interesting question for professional designers and DIY decorators alike: What do you do if you really dislike the so-called “colour of the year”? It is possible, or practical, to avoid it completely and wait for next year’s hue? In the case of Pantone’s Radiant Orchid, some furniture and homewares retailers were quick to jump on the bandwagon — think of Jonathan Adler’s “Shop Radiant Orchid” page, which featured his renowned embroidered pillows, ceramic vases and even some larger furniture items like the Addison Chair in a radiant orchid-esque shade dubbed Venice Amethyst. 

For me, Radiant Orchid was a miss and not a hit for the Pantone Color Institute. And it’s also a great reminder that rules were meant to be broken. So for me, it means it’s one of those years when you really don’t have to follow the colour pack. Instead — why not choose your own colourful adventure and create your own personal shade of the year?

One Comment

  • Wendy McMonigle on Feb 12, 2014

    Beautifully said and I could not agree more. I too will break the rules this year and pass on radiant orchid as part of my collection.

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