By Jess Cartner-Morley
Appearing in windows and bookshelves, the rainbow became the defining motif of the year. Now, they are everywhere from trainers to Christmas decorations – and are big business. What’s behind this new optimism economy?
The rainbows started appearing all over Italy within a few days of schools closing for the first lockdown, back in March. Crayon drawings were taped to the inside of windows; poster-painted banners hung from balconies. When the pandemic came to Britain the rainbows came too, with the Italian message of positivity andrà tutto bene (everything will be all right) morphing into thanks to the NHS. Then, during the months of lockdown, the rainbows moved inside our homes, with a craze for arranging books by colour in pursuit of an aesthetically pleasing Zoom backdrop.
The rainbow is to 2020 what “keep calm and carry on” was to 1939. And, just as “keep calm and carry on” began as a public information campaign but became a tea towel industry, what began as a gesture of hope is now big business. John Lewis reports that an £8 rainbow bauble is an early festive bestseller. (After a decade of tasteful soft-white fairy lights, I predict a comeback this year for multicoloured Christmas tree lights – rebranded, no doubt, as “rainbow lights”.) Shiver ’n’ Shake Rainbow Kate, a gaudy-haired £40 doll with a thermometer for reading her temperature when she shakes with “fever”, is tipped as one of the toys of the season. Meanwhile, tracksuit aficionados are sitting out the second lockdown in Olivia Rubin’s £150 pastel-toned rainbow stripe tracksuits.