T H E  S E C R E T  L I V E S  O F  C O L O U R


A mind-expanding tour of the world without leaving your paintbox (SIMON GARFIELD)

Companionable, informative… A light and lively guide to sights so easily taken for granted (THE ECONOMIST)

Well-researched and engaging (HOUSE & GARDEN)


From pink boys’ clothes to blue warpaint; why orange spells danger and other colourful tales (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Inspiring, compelling and beautifully designed . . . this will appeal to anyone (THE LADY)

‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ was BBC Radio 4′s Book of the Week and a Sunday Times number one best-seller. It a tells the stories of 75 unusual colours, from amber to absinthe, puce to pitch black, and from shocking pink to acid yellow.

Initially inspired by the fanciful descriptions I came across while researching a dissertation on eighteenth-century masquerade costumes at Oxford, my fascination with pigments, dyes and hues, both beloved and obscure, blossomed into an obsession with the history of colour. After three years as a columnist for Elle Decoration, I finally got the opportunity to write this book. Across fashion and politics, art and war, it tells a vivid story of our culture. 

For more insight into what you will find between the covers, you can listen to me talk to Monocle 24 about three colourful histories here.

‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ was published in the UK by John Murray and in America by Penguin. It has been translated into multiple languages including Spanish, German, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Dutch and Romanian.

For colourful stories, news and book signings, you can follow the book on Instagram.

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T H E  G O L D E N  T H R E A D

GOLDEN THREADThe history of the world through the eye of a needle… Fascinating… I recommend this book to anyone (THE SPECTATOR)

A charming, absorbing and quietly feminist history that takes us on a journey from the silk roads to sportswear, from ruffs to spacesuits…I devoured this book (SUNDAY TIMES)

A joyful commingling of text and textiles in 13 beautifully wrought stories. We visit a cave where dyed fibres more than 30,000 years old have been discovered; goggle at the starched intricacy of sixteenth-century lace ruffs; flinch over astronauts’ nappies and the sodden sleeping bags of early polar expeditions; and savour the idea of materials spun from spiders’ webs. (NATURE)

The Golden Thread will make you rethink your relationship with fabric (ELLE DECORATION)

Fabrics — manmade and natural — have advanced and shaped the world we live in and the cultures we have created. When we talk of lives hanging by a thread, being interwoven, or part of the social fabric, we are part of a tradition that stretches back many thousands of years. Threads, spun from naturally occuring fibres or modern plastics, have allowed us to achieve extraordinary things and survive in unlikely places. From the woollen sails of the Vikings, via the linen wrappings beloved in Ancient Egypt, to the factories responsible for Michael Phelps’ swimsuit, ‘The Golden Thread’ shows you how, and why, fabric has changed history.

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History is out now in the UK by John Murray. It is available now from Hive and Amazon UK and was selected as BBC Radio 4′s Book of the Week. It will be published in America by Liveright and is being translated into multiple languages, including Dutch, Chinese and German.


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Research for the next book or two is underway. Please watch this space.