If vacation had an official color, it would certainly be coral. Glamorous but unserious, it looks fantastic set against the turquoise blue of the sea. (Maybe the coral in the ocean kept this in mind as they evolved into their color spectrum?) Whenever I’m at the salon and see a woman having her nails painted a shade of coral, I’m overtaken with a slight wave of wanderlust. Wherever she’s headed, I imagine there will plenty of sunshine, palm trees with hammocks beneath them, and drinks with crystal-like ice cubes. Perhaps this is because coral absorbs negative energy, quiets the emotions, and brings peace within the self. It’s restorative, regenerative and just playful enough.
Corals are marine invertebrates that live in dense colonies of identical individual “polyps.”  The group forms the base of any reef within tropical oceans, producing an elaborate skeleton for the surrounding marine life.  A coral “head” is a group of genetically identical polyps- each is a tiny, spineless animal with a set of tentacles surrounding a central mouth opening.  As generations pass, the colony forms a large skeleton that is characteristic of the species.  Heads grow by asexual reproduction of polyps, but corals can also breed by spawning, or releasing gametes during a full moon.
Reefs may cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, but they support twenty-five percent of all marine creatures.  They provide shelter and food for countless species of algae, sponges, fish, turtles, jellyfish and others. Travel to Belize, Sulawesi in Indonesia, or the Queensland’s famed Great Barrier Reef for a taste of the environment coral supports and thrives in.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that coral – especially in its bold, gloss red variety – has been harvested for decorative purposes since antiquity. Coral jewelry was worn in ancient Egypt and prehistoric Europe. In the Victorian age, coral was used as handles on letter openers and colored wax for envelopes. Ancient Romans strung coral around children’s necks to protect them from danger. In Italy, it is worn as protection from the Evil eye, and as a cure for infertility. Today, many believe coral  strengthens the circulatory system and stimulates tissue regeneration. The compounds from corals are used for cancer and pain relief. Coral skeletons are also used for bone grafting in humans.
For a slightly less invasive coral infusion, retinal combinations of pink and orange are perfect for women who aren’t exactly into pink and find orange a bit, um, scary… For summer 2013, Frida Giannini sent citrus, hot pink, and coral ruffled column dresses down the Gucci runway, calling to mind a reef in it’s prime, or as the designer mentioned in reference to the season’s matching plastic necklaces, the (rather tongue and cheek) glamour of “a fake Liz Taylor.” Dries Van Noten’s use of coral – punchy infusions amidst somber flannel neutrals and Cobain reminiscent florals – for summer 2013 adds a surprising, resort touch to an otherwise grunge collection. You can be dark, effortless, and still enjoy a not-so-subtle hint of the Bajan shore.  Stella McCartney mixed coral with teal and horizontal striped ivory for pre-fall 2013—the silhouettes were oversized, giving the bright ocean palette a forceful, menswear adapted backbone. At Fendi's 2014 Resort collection, coral was synonymous with luxury—in opulent panels and sequined details. Sofia Coppola recently wore a much quieter hit of the resort standby—a bit of coral lipstick at The Bling Ring’s New York premiere.
At home, coral can create balance and organic feng shui. (Feng shui practitioners recommend warm, rich earth tones- including coral- for creating a cozy, welcoming atmosphere in the bedroom.) Coral & Tusk creates irreverent hand-embroidered textiles. A patterned pillow to bolster a favorite perch or a patterned tray for a pitcher of spiked coral colored lemonade bring a sanguine mood into our homes. A bit more cerebral, Fernando and Humberto Campana’s Corallo Armchair is designed with coral’s budding and branching process in mind; it’s a beautiful ode to the underwater inspiration—a way to take home some coral without scarring it in the process. (Who really needs to break off a hunk of reef as a keepsake for the mantle?  It is much more beautiful as a living being, part of a community on the ocean floor, than as a paperweight on a desk.) Patti Smith’s “The Coral Sea” is a dense dedication to Robert Mapplethrope – a ballad on regeneration, adaptation, survival. Another side to coral.
As we immerse ourselves in coral, it’s worth pointing out that a fifth of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed. Of those remaining, the most endangered are on the east coast of Africa and in South East Asia. There are a few ways to protect them:
Conserve water. (The less used, the less runoff and wastewater will pollute oceans).  Reduce pollution by walking, biking, or taking public transportation. The less fossil fuel in the air, the better.  Plant a tree to abate the rising sea temperature. Dive and snorkel responsibly – respect the sea and all things living in it.  Treat it like a museum. Unless we protect coral reefs, the only coral we see will be of the artificially dyed variety.  
~Susan Brickell

July 2013