The World of Colors

The Japanese colors of Autumn

We all dress according to meteo. But Japanese also use nature and seasons as a source for insipiration for fabrics and clothing. Also, because it’s a way to feel in harmony with the environment.

This post is about the colors of autumn. Another will follow about patterns, animals, textures. It is also a way to discover the subtility, the poetry, the diversity and the symbolism of Japanese traditional colors.

A few history to start ….

The period called “Heian” (794 / 1185) in Japan has been very stable. It is known as a kind of golden age for culture, arts, and imperial court. During this time, for Europe, it’s the middle age.

That’s during this periode that several clothing precepts were defined, and got anchored in Japan. And since the Japanese culture is very much linked with seasons, it is the same for clothing. Those precepts (Jūnihitoe, kasane no irome) concern the fabrics, the number of layers, the color palettes and combinations, the patterns. They even already integrate the specific complexion of the skin (re. the Tale of Genji – XIème).

[basel_title title=”THE COLORS OF AUTUMN”]

The summer is the season for vivid, vibrant, and bold colors. And the autumn is rather about softer, muted, more complex and subtle colors. A good illustration is the flowers of maple or grapevines, which, every day, invent new tones of yellow, orange, red or brown. And will then fall down, and get mixed with the colors of the soil.

In the same way, if the light of summer is strong and direct, the one of autumn is lower angled. What reduces the radiance of certain colors, and increases the one of others.

This evolution is progressive. Up to the start of winter. It naturally varies, depending on countries and regions. But the idea is to see how the nature around us can be inspiring.

By the way, what is a complex color?

This is red, for anybody. It’s straightforward, bright, vibrant.

But this? Is is a kind of green? or yellow? or beige? It’s darker and greener than khaki, lighter and more yellow than olive.

Indeed, it dos not matter, but we will agree to say the one on the left is a summer color, and the one on the right is an autumn color.

[basel_title title=”Colors rather for September”]

Septembre is the month when we move to autumn. The idea is then to progressively give higher priority to colors that are more muted and neutral, less bright than the ones of summer, but also richer and more complex. And the changes of the nature during this month are an infinite source of inspiration.


the color of Lespedeza flower (leguminous plant)


From a kind of Patrinia. A yellow with a hint of green.


The darkest indigo, with a touch of red.


Deep blue, and the Japanese blue (from indigo) is a bit green. Here, with a touch of black.


Light grey. Litt., diluted ink.


Scarlet / Crimson

Ebi-iro / Budō-iro:

Mature grape


Diluted tea

[basel_title title=”Colors rather for October”]

October is the month of autumn, the one with its real colors; here, we talk about calm red (ie not bright, but rather like terracotta, brick, rust, ….), yellow (ochre), slightly light and colored blacks, browns (mahogany, siena, maroon, …).

It’s the also the month when the trees will progressively lose their leaves. And when outfits, in the meantime, switch from multicolore to monochrome and camaieu, or to a limited number of colors and tones.


Litt., light violet


Azuki is a bean. Evokes a slightly purple red, after dark.


The color of tea (its pigment).


Ink black. A black with a touch of white


Silver (métal). A nice grey with a metallic luster



[basel_title title=”Colors rather for November”]

In November, the light is even lower. The colors remain soft, muted and get darker. With falling leaves, the colors of the soil, moss or mushrooms are becoming more visible and important.


Litt. Yellow of the soil / ochre


From beige word


Coleor of dead / dry leaf


The color of Matcha green tea


The color of cinnabar (mineral)


Cochineal red (insect), used as coloring / pigment.


Decomposing leaves


Silver grey, with a touche of willow. Nezumi is also a rat and also evokes tea.


The color or orange peel


Litt. red black, ie black with a touch of red

Of course, these colors are indicative. Firstly, because man can use their variations of tone, lighter and darker. And also because it is also a matter of interpretation.

But how do we create harmonies with that?

In Japan, this is an expertise. There are courses, books, and even Apps. But beyond, there is a common and simple benchmark: nature.

So, as an example, we can compose as the flowers are showing us. Here are a few examples, naturally with autumn flowers.

Bellflower: Kikyou

A tone of indigo with a dark blue / green

White Chrysanthemum: Shiragiku

White and onion green

Dead leaves: Kuchiba

Dark red and deep yellow

Are those colors … exotic?

Indeed, when looking at those 2 images from a Japanese giant of clothing industry, whether in France or elsewhere, well, …

If we look at this iconic brand of French luxury, The are rather in the same logic.

When chosing colors which are rather unusual but matching us, we express our personality and difference, with a certain legitimacy.

Here are 2 of my fall items:

Look at the nature is a way to see and accept new colors, to discover ways of combining them. Thinking about top, dress, shirt, and accessories.

And there also other elements of the season can inspire us. Let’s see them

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