This season’s red is a great colour to get you noticed

Deirdre McQuillan: It doesn’t have to be head to toe, red shoes or bags or just a slash of red lipstick can create a real impact

The colour of blood, the colour of love, the colour of power, red makes the strongest impact in fashion for autumn and winter 2023.

Red was on fire on the catwalks of New York, London, Paris and Milan, eerily predicting the terrifying conflagrations that have spread over southern Europe and elsewhere this summer due to climate change. In its many shades of scarlet, vermilion, rust, fuchsia or magenta, it has been shown to have the greatest power of attraction, and increase the heart rate.

A hospitality journal study in 2012 advised waitresses to wear red as their tips from male patrons would increase by up to 26 per cent.

Dare you wear it head to toe like the celebrated gowns of Valentino, the one designer who fully understands its magnetism and magic? A book about Valentino’s 50-year association with red cited 550 shades spanning his reign and that of his successor Pierpaolo Piccioli. “It conveys a lot of energy, a lot of oomph and it elevates a woman,” the designer once said.


Designers in New York from Tory Burch, Prabal Gurung and Theory have used the colour lavishly; it appeared in collections from Ganni and Baum und Pferdgarten in Denmark and in Paris at Valentino, in Milan at Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, and in London at Loewe and Emilia Wickstead.

When shown against a palette of black and white, red displays its awesome ability to distract; female politicians tailored in red in the west stand out in a sea of grey or blue suits. Red carpet red is a fail-safe photo opportunity for celebs, like the red velvet Gucci suit worn by Gwyneth Paltrow at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1996 and again in 2021, and any number of rappers sporting red fake fur or leather at other music or fashion events.

There are other ways of making an impact with red if you’re wearing black or white – with accessories like red shoes or bags or just a slash of red lipstick. Colour consultation Maria Macklin says red isn’t a colour that is worn by anyone who is shy. “It is a sexy and assertive colour and certainly not demure. It demands attention and can represent power. It can have a profound influence on our mood, perceptions and actions.”

She also believes there is a shade that suits everyone. Primary red suits all tones, with others differing in hue, saturation and clarity from warm reds like geranium and brick red to cooler tones like carmine and raspberry.

“Warm reds flatter warm skin undertones and cool reds flatter cool skin undertones.” She advises clients to switch out the LBD (little black dress) to a LRD (little red dress) on the days when they need to elevate their mood or visibility.

“For working women and men, a dash of red in a tie, scarf, belt or bag is a useful colour to wear to interview to help you stand out for the right reasons. How much you wear will depend on whether you prefer to be in the limelight or a little less noticed. It’s a great colour to stop you from being ignored.”

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan

Deirdre McQuillan is Irish Times Fashion Editor, a freelance feature writer and an author