How “Slime Green” Became The Trend That Wouldn’t Quit In 2018
There’s no question about it: The color of the 2019 spring collections is green, and not a dewy, garden green, either. On nearly every major designer’s spring runway, there emerged a clear color of the moment: slime. From the pastel version that’s just a subtle presence in Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2019 collection to touches of nearly neon, Nickelodeon Double Dare green throughout Balenciaga’s (including the lighting of the show). A color best described as “spring mold” had a brief moment in Acne Studios’ show, too. But Off-White featured a sort of winter avocado in full suit form, and Christian Siriano went all in, using yellowy lime in nearly every look on his spring 2019 runway. You get the picture.
How did this happen, you ask? Not easily. This particular green is known for being difficult — to wear, and even, once upon a time, to produce. In fact, green itself generally doesn’t show up in fashion history until the 1800s. According to Dr. Alexandra Loske, an associate tutor in Art History at the University of Sussex and curator at The Royal Pavilion in Brighton, “It's a very, very difficult color that doesn't feature largely in fashion because of the difficulty of making it. It's as simple as that.” Loske says it wasn’t until Scheele’s green (a poisonous, yellowish green pigment named after the chemist who discovered it in 1775, Carl W. Scheele) was created that green really hit fashion. It took off in the early 19th century when Loske says traditional clothing shops started opening up and “the beginning of shopping as we know it today” began. The only problem was that, you know, it killed people.
Slime has also, historically, been considered unwearable. In the ‘80s, “makeup expert” Pablo Manzoni told New York Times fashion critic Patricia Leigh Brown, “Chartreuse” — they called it chartreuse in the ‘80s — “is a miserable color. Nobody looks good in it. Because of the high condensation of green and yellow, it is lethal, I repeat, lethal. The teeth look yellow. This is just a deadly thing.”
At the very least, it always feels ever so slightly off, and thus just a little unsettling, which is why it’s been used and worn to make a statement. There’s a reason it has appeared in modern fashion history in times of social change, including shifting sexual mores for women: the ‘20s, the ‘60s, and yes, the working girl ‘80s. It’s hard to imagine a color that states more forcefully that you are not about the status quo.
So how did slime happen? Let’s trace it back.
The trend arguably hit its stride in fall 2018, predicted by its appearance in Tom Ford’s Fall 2018 runway show in February 2018. But by that time, the momentum was high. According to data it shares with The Zoe Report, eBay saw an increase in both searches and sales of clothing and accessories in this bright green shade in 2018, with the first major spike in sales happening in March 2018 at a 22 percent increase compared to the previous month. Which means we need to look earlier.
Clock Marie Dewet, one half of the mother-daughter duo behind the popular France-based clothing brand MaisonCleo, used the color for the first time in her winter collection in September 2017, incorporating it into the Edwidge wool skirt and its matching beret that she previewed on Instagram in September 2017 and started selling that October. The hue wasn’t trendy yet, but she wanted a dose of brightness, and slime got the job done. “I remember it was the only slime green wool fabric I saw when buying our fabrics. But I wanted to add this punchy color to our other pieces,” Dewet explains. “I have always personally liked this color because [it] works so well with my pale skin and hair color.” It also had a nostalgic appeal, she says: “I am a kid of the ‘90s, and this color, [along] with fluorescent pink and violet, was a big trend [then]. I think this color reminds us of our youth; that’s maybe why everyone loves it.”
Meanwhile, as she was creating that collection, slime, was dubbed “toxic green” by Vogue's Brooke Bobb, who observed it in the 2018 resort collections shown in May 2017. As Bobb noted, this was on the heels of the DIY slime boom on YouTube, in which people became obsessed with making slime at home. (Store-bought putty and Play-doh were decidedly off trend.) But the slime recipes actually called for lots of different colors (no one said the DIY slimers were purists), so as far as the current slime green craze goes, kitchen goop can’t be the sole origin.
When it comes to color, all roads point to Pantone, right? Sure enough, the color standardization and forecasting monolith’s color of the year for 2017 was, bingo, a yellow-green. As you can imagine, the color of the year is not a choice Pantone makes arbitrarily. “The Color of the Year selection process requires thoughtful consideration and trend analysis,” Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute, tells TZR in an email. “To arrive at the selection each year, our team at the Pantone Color Institute are out there actively searching for general lifestyle color trends and new color influences for our forecast products, and at the same time are also on the lookout for the color that they see as ascending, and seems to be building in importance across all areas of design.” In 2016, that analysis led to the benignly named “Greenery,” which isn’t the exact shade you’re seeing everywhere now. Slime green is brighter than Greenery but less cheerful. When asked, Pressman says slime could also be classified as “Piercing Green,” “Stinging Green,” “Green Sting,” or “Dizzying Green.”
But Pressman’s description of the involved process of choosing Greenery suggests that the popularity of yellow-greens had been building prior to “Greenery” being chosen.
So who brought slime into the mainstream, and why? The answer may lie in Christopher John Rogers, who is quickly making a name for himself (his designs made an appearance in Kendrick Lamar’s and SZA’s “All The Stars” music video, and Tracee Ellis Ross posted an Instagram of herself wearing a Christopher John Rogers dress in October 2018). Rogers used slime green in a few of his first pieces before he even graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2016. As for why he chose to use it? “A very specific yellowish green has always been something that I’ve been drawn to. With my first collection (which I developed while I was still in school), really defining who I was with color was paramount,” Rogers tells TZR. His inspiration is perhaps the most millennial ever: discarded plastic bags, tomatillo sauce, and dinosaurs. “There’s something familiar and earthy but also shockingly synthetic about the color,” he says.
Now add that on top of some early attention to the shade in Proenza Schouler’s Spring 2013 RTW collection and Prada’s Spring 2015 RTW collection, Maryam Nassir Zadeh's ongoing devotion to it since October 2014, plus Pantone’s reading of the pigmentary tea leaves, and a trajectory starts to form. Pressman says the affinity for green, especially more challenging yellow-greens reflects where we are as a culture. For one thing, we’re more open to unconventional forms of expression. “A color family once evocative of characters like Shrek and Kermit is looked upon quite differently today where we see many consumers taking almost a contrarian viewpoint, and colors once considered outliers have become more mainstream,” she says.
Greens also reflect an increasingly visual culture — the human eye sees green more than any color, Pressman notes — and concerns about sustainability. Slime green combines a love of the natural world and an awareness of the degree to which it’s tainted. Given all that, she says, “it makes sense that the prevalence of green in all of its tints and tones would rise throughout design” — and that people would choose this shade of green to signal a willingness to think for themselves and to make a difference. Although it wasn’t as risky as slime, even Greenery was billed in the Color of the Year press release as an expression of “ the consumer’s desire to express their unique identity [or] personal code, their desire to live life on their own terms, as well as their desire to connect to others and a larger purpose.”
So designers glommed onto it, and then came the influencers. Tastemakers like Reese Blutstien (233K Instagram followers) and Leandra Medine Cohen (778K Instagram followers) — both, incidentally, fans of Dewet and MaisonCleo — posted numerous photos of themselves in slime green looks.
And then it was everywhere. The Queen wore it to Meghan Markle’s wedding in May. Ebay sales of and searches for slime green pieces peaked in May, too. Kim Kardashian basically wore the shade exclusively in August and September (at least according to her Instagram), and even dyed her hair green (as did SZA and Dua Lipa). Blake Lively incorporated the hue into her widely-discussed suit streak. More influencers joined in — in suits! purses! head to toe slime! Dewet was still so into it that she used it in her Opening Ceremony collaboration in November 2018. It's now sold by every retailer from Zara to Net-A-Porter. And you’ll see it on everyone you know this spring.