Gretchen Rubin

Agree? “I Can’t Be the Only One Who Wants to Wear Color in Wintertime.”

Agree? “I Can’t Be the Only One Who Wants to Wear Color in Wintertime.”

Interview: Melissa Nicholson.

The other day I posted about my color adventure in London: getting my colors analyzed. I'm doing everything I can think of to feed my obsession with color. I'm trying to follow that interest anywhere it leads, as a way to get myself to do the novel and challenging things that I know boost happiness.

In the process, I had a such an interesting conversation with Melissa Nicholson that I asked her to do an interview. She's the founder of Kettlewell, a clothing company that makes clothes based on color analysis, and that reflects her own conviction that color can be a major driver of happiness, energy, and self-presentation.

She had many fascinating observations and insights into the subject of color -- and also happiness, habits, and self-knowledge. For one thing, she has "perfect pitch" for color -- she can look at a color, and later in the day, exactly recall its hue. I can't imagine having that kind of memory for color.

(She's British, as you will see from her spelling of color.)

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?

Melissa: Getting everyone together and dining with friends and family. It could be a Sunday roast at home or dinner out at a new restaurant. Nothing makes me happier.

Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Melissa: When I was younger I was quite sensitive and easily hurt. Nowadays I don’t worry so much about what people think. I try to find the strengths in people, accept them for who they are, and work with them rather than have expectations that just can’t be met. I find you get a better response from people that way.

Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?

Melissa: I tend to replay situations in my head – conversations I’ve had with people, things that have been said. I can be quite overenthusiastic and worry that, on reflection, I’ve shared too much.

Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

Melissa: I start each day with 15 minutes of Pilates. It started after a bout of pneumonia to help with my breathing, and it has now become a part of my daily routine, making me more focused and ready to face the day. I also make sure I drink a large glass of water as soon as I wake up. It’s one of the easiest, quickest things you can do for your health.

Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

Melissa: When I was ill I discovered I had an intolerance to wheat, so I resolved to cut it out of my diet. Consequently, I have less bloating and far fewer colds and weight fluctuations.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

Melissa: I’m an Obliger. I like collaboration; I feed off other people. I’m very much a team player.

Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

Melissa: One cold December day, 15 years ago, I was out clothes shopping in London, trying to find something to wear to a Christmas party, and all I could find was black. Having recently had my colours analysed, I suddenly thought, “I can’t be the only one who wants to wear colour in the wintertime,” and went back and told my husband John that I had an idea for a new business. A year later we had moved the family out of London and set up Kettlewell Colours in the West Country.

Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?

Melissa: Coco Chanel once said: “The best colour in the world is the colour that looks good on you.” I stand by that motto. It underpins everything we do at Kettlewell: we provide the colour choice to enable people to discover their true colours.

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