If you recognise Kitty’s name, it’s likely you’ve heard of her iconic Chroma skirt and Quad dresses, which has become the celebrities favourite worn by Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue and others.
I got to meet her in person last year as we were both judges for the Colour in Design Awards, and we immediately bonded over our mutual colour obsession. I knew I had to invite her to share all about her love of colour.
What does colour mean to you?
Colour for me is a language that expresses what words fail to. A form of communication and self expression. I believe you can use colour to shift yourself from one mood into another. It is similar to music in that way. It can be a tool to soothe or improve your emotional state.
What is your earliest colour memory?
The most vivid memory I have is playing in the garden in one of my Mum’s friends in Brisbane, Australia. The space was so much bigger than our small London backyard plot, and these great palms and ferns seemed to completely tower over me. Colette had put the water sprinklers on (partly to entertain us as well as water the garden) and I remember running through this lush jungle foliage and reaching up to try and catch the refracted light and beautiful spectrums of colour that magically appeared and disappeared. I suppose in many ways, I’ve been chasing colour, and the experience and joy of it ever since.
Do you have a favourite colour or a colour that you find yourself constantly drawn to? And why?
Chartreuse. I always associate it with new, unfurling foliage, it gives me a feeling of spring, new life and possibility. It’s snuck its way into my new Chroma Pleated skirt – the Mineral colourway.
Do you have a colour you least like? And why?
Not really. Colours always exist in combination. Colour is so volatile, so relative. You can never truly experience a colour on its own, as the light and colour of the world around it always are affecting change on it.
You may dislike a colour in the morning, but come evening it shifts completely into something else with dusk illumination. Hate the colour of a piece of dark wood furniture? Paint the wall behind it in an unexpected and harmonious shade and you may well change your mind.
It was Josef Albers ‘Interaction of Colour’ that really helped hit this idea home for me.
Just as colour shifts in the physical landscape, so it can within our own individual tastes. I have sometimes avoided certain colours in my life and work, and then once I’ve found a way to use them, they’ve become firm favourites.
What do you love most about working with colour?
The way it can lift and shift my mood and perspective. Working with colour gives me joy and I think has made me a more optimistic person.
What do you think your life would be like without colour?
I see colour as a language. So for me, living without it would temper my means of communication, narrow my vision and ability to experience and make sense of the world. I think my surroundings would appear flatter, less rich, devoid of nuance and feeling.
What’s your favourite colour story?
Not a story as such, but the saying: “All colours agree in the dark.”
It is so funny really to think that this optical phenomenon that I have built my life and work around can vanish with the flick of a light switch, or the setting of the sun.
Were you ever afraid or wary of colour? And what did you do to overcome this?
I don’t think so. David Batchelor coined the term Chromophobia, and I think it does sum up the western world’s distaste for the more exuberant and expressive colours of the spectrum.
I think children are drawn to colour – often the brightest hues – and embrace them without fear. I think I’ve never grown out of that. Plus I think I’ve been drawn to colourful characters in my life that have used colour without the restrictions of so-called taste or rules.
Do you have a favourite colour place that you visit (or have visited)?
During my masters degree at the Royal College of Art I was awarded a travel scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Dyers and Colourists. I went to Marrakech to draw the light and colour there.
Every evening at sunset I went to the top of one of the buildings in the central square – the Jma El Fna – and sketched in Sennelier pastels, the changing colours of the sky as the sun dipped below the horizon. All to the soundtrack of the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer echoing out of the Minarets.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had, where the sound and colour were completely enmeshed.
If you could pick any colour and give it a name, what would that be?
A colour to capture the silvery illumination of moonlight. But I just don’t think there are words to describe it!
On the subject of colour naming – a recent print of mine – Chromology – features 2000 colour shades which my friends and I named. It really made me think about how naming colour is often centered around memories and associations. It’s a very nostalgic task.
For anyone afraid of colour what would your number 1 piece of advice be?
To follow your instincts and not worry about others opinions or perceived notions around taste.
Which colourful person do you most admire and would love me to interview for the On the Colour Couch series?
The colour visionary Zandra Rhodes.
I just love how Kitty describes her earliest colour memory of trying and catch the refracted light from the water as the sun shone through it and she’s been chasing colour, and the experience and joy of it ever since. The obsession of colour is real! If you would like to discover more about Kitty’s colourful world, head over to her Instagram @kitty_joseph.
Wishing you a colourful day,
Colour in Design Awards founder On The Colour Couch interview Marianne Shillingford.