Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pantone Fall 2011 Color Forecast and why we end up following trends...

... I am not that kind of person who runs shopping every time a new trend emerges. Instead, I am trying to have more timeless wardrobe staples, which can be easily accessorized or complemented to give them an up-to-date look.

Now, Pantone and many other color (forecasting) institutions come up with new color trends every season. And the new one, for the Fall 2011, has been recently published by Pantone. (For this Fall's color forecast from Pantone check out this great report. )

"Designers take a painterly approach to fall 2011 by artfully combining bright colors with staple neutrals, reminiscent of how an artist would construct a stunning work of art," said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. 
I was always wondering how designers come up with trend colors; until I took a Fabric Selection class at Parsons. So we had this field trip to the Color Association of the United States - an organization dealing with color forecast and color education for designers. What I heard, made complete sense to me. However, when I had to explain it to my friends, they said that most of them don't follow trends. It was the summer of 2009, I believe, and Slate Gray was one of the season's colors. So, I just pointed at what we wore that day, and it was obvious to everyone - many of us had at least one item, a garment or an accessory, in slate grey. Every store was selling something in slate grey that season.

Why do designers follow color trends? What I learned is that there is no definite answer - there are many aspects involved: commercial, psychologic, aesthetic... But there are some interesting facts that help understand this phenomenon:

Here are some facts about color (from Textiles and Fashion, Jenny Udale, Ava Publishing 2008):

  • The human eye can see some 350,000 colors
  • Colors have subjective and symbolic meaning: In Europe, white is associated with wedding, black - with mourning, blue is for boys, and pink is for girls. In India, red is associated with fertility and is also a wedding color, while white is linked to mourning.
  • Colors can make us feel depressed or happy, warm or cool.
  • Red, navy, black and white are safe colors and are present in every season. What makes them look trendy is a combination with a new color

So, taking into consideration these cues, every season fashion forecasters look at what's happening in society, the economy, the arts, science, popular culture, entertainment and haute couture, for example.

Then, they try to predict how these developments will influence fashion and design in general. Mad Men is probably one of the most obvious examples - Joan and her jewel tone garments have immediately had a great influence on our color choices in fashion.

Or, here is another example, an excerpt from the Women's Fall/Winter 2009-2010 Forecast of the Color Association:
"Environmental awareness continues to grow as a focus of our society, greens continue to make a strong statement in this forecast. The reach, leafy hues of "Avant Garden" indicate that eco-chic designs will aspire to be upscale and sophisticated. In this aspect, the blues are a stylish alternative to being "green". From the soft blues of the sky and ocean in "Mystique", to deep, steely purpled blues in "Armor", warm blues are the less obvious and more adventurous choice for nature-inspired designs"
Look, at the names of different color groups: "Avant Garden", "Mystique", "Armor"... Colors are described by association, reinforcing the message communicated by a color forecasting company. Sometimes it's too much, I think - as in "the blues are a stylish alternative to being "green" (ha?), but, overall, ok, it does resound the growing awareness about the nature and the environment.

A spread in a Fall 2009-10 Color Forecast book by the Color Association
Of course, there is sometimes less logic - this is when we face color trend influenced by some artistic choices. I think Honeysuckle, Pantone's Color of the Year! Remember this year's color posts on sewing and fashion blogs? We all loved Honeysuckle, right? Though, I must admit that while the relation of greens and blues and the environmental awareness is more obvious, I am still puzzled over where the Honeysuckle comes from? If someone knows, please share it with me!

So, what if we, home seamstresses and indie designers, are not convinced? The problem is, that textile manufactures follow color trends as well, so we end up with fabrics in colors predicted for this season. There is always more choice on seasonal favourites in fabric stores (Navy stripes, floral prints, anyone?) and we will end up picking one or two, or even more, trend colors... Is it limiting? Is it bad? maybe... I would love to hear what you think!

Do we need color trends? Are you influenced by them? What are the staple, year-to-year colours in your wardrobe?


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