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The Colour Purple

One of things I love about my job is the opportunity to write the weekly blog. This often takes me on the most interesting learning journey. Take this week for example. I had been reviewing several fashion magazines checking out the colours that are coming through this season and I was just blown away by the most beautiful image that is heading up the Michael Kors A/W17 campaign. It features stunning shades of the colour purple with dramatic black accents.

Michael Kors AW17

And it got me thinking.  Who actually invented the colour purple?

 The History of the Colour Purple

My research led me to a fascinating article in The Guardian written by Annalisa Barbieri entitled “The Invention of Purple“. So, the colour purple was actually invented in 1856 by a young science student called William Henry Perkin. He was trying to find a way of making quinine (a cure for malaria) in his home laboratory. His mission was to produce a cheaper alternative to the natural product which was being sourced at great expense from South American tree bark.

William Henry Perkin

In one of his experiments, Perkin observed that adding hydrogen and oxygen to coal tar left a black residue. When this was made into a solution, it resulted in the first “aniline dyestuff”. Incredibly, in the same month that he turned 18, Perkin had discovered not only synthetic quinine, but also synthetic purple.

At first Perkin called this colour Tyrian Purple.  This was the name given to the original ancient naturally-sourced colour. However, to bring it more up-to-date, he subsequently re-named it mauve. His was a significant development because, until then, purple could only be made using natural dyes and so had been prohibitively expensive to make.

And because of its rarity, purple could only be worn by the wealthy and so was used to denote prestige and power. Purple was, in fact, so sought after that laws were introduced to protect its use.  People were killed for flouting the law and daring to wear purple.

Association with Royalty

King Henry VIII

Purple has traditionally been associated with royalty. Julius Caesar loved the colour purple. After visiting Cleopatra (who was also a purple aficionado), he returned home with a purple toga and passed a law that only he could wear it. Many years later, when Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, was tried for high treason against Henry VIII, part of the evidence against him was that he had been seen wearing purple, which only the king could wear.

The Colour Purple is for Everyone

Even today purple is still viewed as a statement colour, but don’t be afraid people!  Historically, it may have been worn by the few but now it’s for everyone. Really!


 Purple Classic Italian Pashmina




Purple looks great with black as shown in the Michael Kors campaign but it also looks amazing against any of the colours in a classic dark palette such as grey and navy. It also looks incredible mixed with sand, biscuit or cream.

Given the spectrum of purple out there right now, there has got to be a purple to suit every skin tone.   And it goes without saying that top-to-toe purple would be a step too far.  So a simple accessory that references this current trend is enough. That is where Scarf Room and our collection of purple scarves and pashminas comes in.

I’ve chosen a few of my favourites above but please check out our website “Purple Scarves” for our full purple collection and enjoy making your own statement.

Ciao bellissime.  A presto!

Photo credit : Michael Kors

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