Stories Feature
Getting Your Colours Done

Are you a light spring or deep autumn?

By Kiekie Stanners

The 80’s/90’s beauty trend of ‘having your colours done’, by a trained consultant, where you could confidently suggest you were an ‘autumn' or a ‘warm' to any beauty consultant or personal stylist was the height of sophistication, alongside serving Viennetta for dessert or travelling to Surfers Paradise for the holidays.

In my younger years working on a department store beauty counter, I was fascinated by the number of women who confidently purchased with these strict guidelines in mind. We were presented a colour chart and the suggestion that they ‘couldn’t possibly wear a pink-toned lipstick’ for fear that it would turn their skin tone blue. In hindsight, of course, a self-assured woman wasn’t going to trust a young makeup artist pushing the latest pop-culture lipstick shade on her, but it still struck a chord with me that these personal styling rules were so rigidly stuck too.

Like most industries or trends of old, they have had a resurgence on TikTok thanks to GenZ. But like most of these skill sets that were once only to be practised by trained professionals, TikTok’ers have done their own research and are more than happy to share their own opinions with their followers.

These days there are filters available to figure out your personal colour analysis, matching your face up next to a ’summer’ colour wheel to show you the effect it has on your skin tone and features. My own mum still recalls the experience of having her colours done, by a trained ‘Colours’ professional in the 90’s and how important it was to her. She indeed abided by the guidance forever more. (A winter).

‘Colours’, which was ’the first personal colour and style consulting company’, emerged in the late ’70s in Canada. This was experience-based, where customers could attend an evening where they would be draped in a variety of coloured Peter Pan collars to see the visual impact it had on their features.

‘Colours’ arrived in New Zealand, with consultants trained in colour theory/makeup application/client consultation and hosting evenings kicked off, transforming a generation of women who perhaps had never experienced such a personalised interaction before. The original 'Color Me Beautiful’ book released in the late 80’s became a New York Times bestseller and was translated into 17 languages.

On a quick Google search, I can see that there are Personalised Colour Consultant sessions still available in Auckland, hosted by Susan Axford. Right down to suggesting the correct hair colour, the perfect metal and the colour of spectacle frames. It is indeed a consultancy experience that changes the way you look at colour and beauty in fresh eyes.

As a nation, we are indeed lovers of black (Easy! So Kiwi!). And it isn’t ingrained in our DNA to spend hours piecing together a colour-coordinated outfit. But that first time that you are matched up with the perfect tone - it is actually so empowering, it’ll have you swooning around draped in the shade.

As a baby makeup artist, I used to scoff at the idea of grown-up women, who surely had a strong sense of self and style, needing to be guided by another in terms of what colours to wear and what makeup to buy. Fresh from colour theory and customer service training, it would irk me that this woman didn’t trust MY eye and guidance for what makeup colours would suit her best (forgetting that at the same time, this makeup artist was most likely dolled up like Lady Gaga for a regular Saturday on the M.A.C counter and absolutely not presenting as someone who could be trusted with colour theory!).

But then it became a lot more apparent to me the longer I had worked in the industry - everyone actually really enjoys the benefits from the love mark that comes from another giving them a personalised experience. When someone else takes the time to offer advice that has been thought about, and delivered with attention and care it means something. The idea of being ’seen’ by a trained professional, who can take away the mystery of what suits you best from their external viewpoint, is something that can’t really be replicated digitally. It has been proven that the physical touch instantly floods the body with oxytocin, so you feel safe. I mean, no wonder hairdressers and makeup artists are mini counsellors for their clients!

I gave the TikTok trends a go, sticking my face in the colour wheel to suggest what looks best on me. TBH it didn’t really do anything for me other than highlight how patchy my skin looked. But I guess like all trending Gen-Z crafts on TikTok, they have all started out somewhere in the professional space and the young guys are discovering all these magical tricks for the first time.

Without sounding like an old millennial, I still rate IRL experiences for any kind of personal styling. The nice, happy and feel-good connection that comes from it is far more rewarding than an online instant (and fading) dopamine hit!

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