A Color Lesson from Meryl Streep
I saw "The Devil Wears Prada" the day it opened. Meryl Streep ruled over the movie the way her character ruled over the fashion magazine's headquarters. One scene really hit home with me as a designer. Maybe you've heard the plot by now - Andy, a recent college graduate who wants to be a serious journalist, lands a job as the assistant to the bitchy editor-in-chief (played by Meryl Streep) of the nation's premier fashion magazine. She doesn't care about fashion, yet she has to attend the meetings when her boss selects the clothes that'll be featured in the magazine. As another assistant held two blue belts for the boss to inspect…I saw it coming.
Andy couldn't stifle her giggles. To her, and everyone in the audience, the two blue belts seemed identical. But not to me. I had spent the previous morning trying to decide on the right shade of blue to use on my website. I could relate to trying to decide between blue with 60% Magenta and one with 35% Magenta; to me they had different personalities. In other words, I could relate to the neurotic editor-in-chief. Maybe I need therapy.
But then Meryl Streep snapped at the assistant and explained to her, and everyone in the audience, why her choice mattered. The shade of blue she chooses will be popularized in the magazine, it'll be carried in designer boutiques, then department stores, then discount stores. It'll end up being worn by just about everyone, even by those who never read fashion magazines. For better or worse, it'll help sell mountains of merchandise and provide jobs for thousands. It'll end up as an integral part of our surroundings, of our cultural landscape, and ultimately of our consciousness.
Thank God that part was played by Meryl Streep. Coming from another actress's mouth, these words might've sounded like a joke. But she delivered them with dignity and intelligence. Hopefully, she made some people realize that indeed everything around them was designed by someone who obsessed over the right amount of magenta in the red of the movie theatre seats and the yellow of the popcorn bags.