The Colors of "The White Lotus"

Hateful is the dark-blue sky, Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea. Death is the end of life; ah, why Should life all labor be? "The Lotos-Eaters," Alfred Lord Tennyson
Crossing to Moloka'i by Herb Kawainui Kāne
Crossing to Moloka'i by Herb Kawainui Kāne

The White Lotus is a beautifully filmed series. Set in tropical Hawai'i, the colorful facade of the titular resort slowly descends into dark ruin. The show doesn't hold back on color and texture. Loud prints, conflicting textures, and repetitive patterns clash wonderfully. Characters are at war with their backdrops, as floral wrap dresses compete against botanical prints, and synthetic fabrics lean against heavy velvet and linens. This explosion of color and texture borders on catastrophe, but ultimately provides a visual feast.


Wallpaper designs from the title sequence by Plains of Yonder


The show uses bright tones that pop against the beige walls of each hotel suite: the Hibiscus, Tradewinds, Pineapple, and Palm Suites. Armond, the hotel manager, wears linen suits that cleverly reflect the main colors used in the show: coral pink, goldenrod yellow, turquoise, with highlights of green from the ever-present palm fronds.


A lot can be learned about the characters from their wardrobe choices. Tanya's print dresses clash against her environment at every step. Armond's linen suits "wrinkle and become disheveled" as intended by costume designer Alex Bouvaird. Olivia and Paula's vintage finds and tattered band t-shirts reveal a desire to be set apart from their polished entourage.


tanya in the hibiscus suite in the white lotus
armond at the white lotus
murray bartlett as armond in the white lotus
murray bartlett as armond in the white lotus

Paintings by Herb Kawainui Kāne, who helped lead the Hawaiian Renaissance in the 1970's, are featured as set decoration in the Tradewinds Suite where the Mossbacher family resides. In the Hibiscus Suite, botanical illustrations from the 18th and 19th century both accent and compete with Tanya's flower-printed caftans. These paintings and illustrations were important centerpieces to production designer Laura Fox, and help add depth and texture to the design of the show.


The Lei Sellers
The Lei Sellers
Hui Aloha Church, Kaupo Maui
Hui Aloha Church, Kaupo Maui
Hokule'a II
Hokule'a II
botanical hibiscus print
botanical hibiscus print
botanical palm print

By the end of The White Lotus, the bright colors of this tropical setting have turned poisonous. The island itself takes on a hellish cast. In a show packed with color, the use of white is not insignificant. The sacred lotus is revered in Buddhism for its ability to rise unstained from the mud in which it grows. The White Lotus hotel remains the colorless backdrop upon which this outrageous human drama is staged. Beneath the surface is rot.


...Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil, Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil; Till they perish and they suffer—some, 'tis whisper'd—down in hell Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell...