When I first started working in fashion, I couldn’t spell the word fuchsia for the life of me. Even with spell check. Even with a dictionary. That is, until one lucky day when a gruff senior editor at WWD explained that all you had to do was remember “old Dr. Fuchs, for whom the color was named.”
Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566) was a German medical doctor and one of the founding fathers of botany. After his death, a whole range of South American tropical shrubs were named ‘fuchsia’ in his honor. And in 1892, English-speakers adopted the word as a color.
In the fashion world during the mid-20th century, ‘cerise’ was often used to describe that very particular magenta hue—cerise, or even ‘Hollywood cerise,’ the name of an especially flamboyant colored pencil found in a set put out by the company Venus Paradise. In those days, magenta went as ‘hot pink,’ too, and later, in the 1960s, it was briefly called ‘kinky pink.’
Of course, Parisian dadaist designer Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was the true pink pioneer, the one who delivered the color to its highest highs. Her famous signature color, ‘shocking pink,’ which experts say is slightly more saturated than fuchsia, came to the fore after 1937, when Schiaparelli introduced her perfume Shocking, all done up in packaging of the color. This design, in turn, was inspired by the 17.27 ct pink Cartier diamond Tête de Belier, owned by favorite client Daisy Fellowes, or so the story goes. I could go on and on about the genius of Schiaparelli, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that, true to her nature, in 1973 Schiaparelli was buried in an antique Chinese silk robe in shocking pink.