Fashion: I've had it up to here with grey

Have no fear: neon pink, turquoise and lapis lazuli blue are here. But are you ready for acid yellow?
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There are certain received wisdoms: stripes on the horizontal should only ever be worn by the enviably thin; American Tan tights and puffball skirts are a crime of fashion of unprecedented proportions, and pink is likely to do nothing whatsoever for the average grey/white British complexion - in fact, it may be positively harmful.

You know something's afoot, however, when Helmut Lang - let's just call him Mr Minimal Monochrome - turns to colour. You know something's, well, plain insane when that colour is pink - not palest rose, you understand, more like neon.

Things gather momentum when Tom Ford - a man who, until recently, has taken pride in the fact that he wears black and only black, morning, noon and night and whatever the weather - features equally vibrant pinks, alongside turquoise and blue, on the normally resolutely sombre Gucci catwalk. Put it this way: until now, for Ford, white has been a radical option. In terms of colour, this time round, his is the Almodovar of collections: hot and Mediterranean from start to finish.

But then, as Ford himself puts it, when asked to explain this rather radical about-turn: "I always try to think of myself as the customer. So, what does she want? She certainly doesn't want grey. Her closet's full of it. She's read about it 20 million times. She's sick of it. She's lived through grey. She's gone through minimalism and conceptual fashion. So, what does she want now? She wants... pink dresses." Of course!

If the spring/summer collections are anything to go by - and the autumn/winter shows, kicking off this week in New York, seem only to add grist to the mill - the world, in fashion terms at least, is set to become a far more colourful place. Lang and Ford aren't the only designers to have come over all bright and breezy: everyone from Calvin Klein and Donna Karan to Christian Dior and Clements Ribeiro has introduced a hefty dose of colour into their collections. Lang's and Ford's offerings are the most significant, however. Between them, they are almost singlehandedly responsible for informing the Great British High Street: where forthcoming trends are concerned, these are the world's two most influential designers.

So, it seems that, this time round, the customer really might want pink dresses. And blue ones. Even yellow ones, although this potentially most virulent of hues, it almost goes without saying, should be handled with even more care than the first. We can only be thankful that lime green isn't back on the fashion agenda. Remember lime green?

Of course, each and every summer, fashion editors push colour as if their very existence depended on it - it makes great pictures, after all - then turn up at the next round of shows wearing black head to toe. This season, however, there's barely any black in the stores to be seen. Grey, meanwhile, is just so last season (and the season before that, and the one before that) it doesn't bear thinking about. For spring/summer, colour - from palest aqua to brightest turquoise; from dusty lilac to purpled pink; from delicate primrose to acid yellow and from lapis lazuli to ice blue - takes centre stage.

For those still committed to more neutral shades, bright isn't necessarily best: a very pale skin should avoid the strongest shades. Neither should they worry about mixing their colours: the truly brave (truly fashionable) among us should think nothing of combining orange with purple, say, or yellow with blue. Have courage in your convictions and don't even care.

And finally, there's always white to resort to which, more than any rainbow shade, is the new black. Fashion purists might do well to stick with this. They can always accessorise with colour rather than go the whole hog. There's many a tomato red lipstick or neon pink handbag out there to choose from after all.

Lime shell top, pounds 148; red linen trousers, pounds 185; by Sportmax; at MaxMara, 32 Sloane Street, London SW1; and Matches, 35a South Park Road, London SW19 (enquiries 0171-287 3434)

Double-layer, neon-pink dress, pounds 50, by Warehouse; branches at 19-21 Argyll Street, London W1; 30 King Street, Manchester; 14 Lands Lane, Leeds (enquiries 0171-278 3491)

Lemon top, pounds 14.99, from Hennes (enquiries 0171-255 2031); aqua top, pounds 27.99, by Morgan (0171-383 2888); lemon asymmetric skirt, to order, by Etro (0171-495 5767)

Orange linen drawstring dress, pounds 85, by French Connection; 249 Regent Street, London W1; 16 Market Hill, Cambridge; 45 Princes Square, Glasgow; and stores nationwide (enquiries 0171-399 7200); purple cashmere cardigan, pounds 148, by Jigsaw; 126-127 New Bond Street, London W1; 10 Pelham Street, Nottingham; 42 Grafton Street, Dublin; and stores nationwide (enquiries 0171-491 4484)

Photographer: Tom Corbett

Stylist: Holly Wood

Make-up and hair: Beverley Brooke using Shu Uemura

Model: Claire Cain at Select