Shades of Meaning
WHAT’S MEXICAN FOOD got to do with it? Or, for that matter, Japanese animation or Apple computers? Turns out, a lot.
Together, they’re three indispensable ingredients for a total nerd-fest. But, taken on their own merits, the seemingly incomparable trio comprises just a few tools of the color analyst’s trade.
“I think a lot of people think forecasters sit in an ivory tower and dream up these things and hoist them on the public,” said Leatrice Eiseman, author of Color: Messages & Meanings and director of the Pantone Color Institute, the Carlstadt, New Jersey-based color research and information center. In fact, the “it” colors of tomorrow oftentimes manifest themselves in the unlikeliest of places. Whether it’s the spicy tones of south-of-the-border cuisine, the cheeky color combinations of anime cartoons, or the mechanical, glowing green of the 90s iMac, buzz in various industries can give rise to the next hot hue. “Your antenna is always quivering,” she said. “I can’t be myopic, I can’t keep my eye on one area.”
Green: Innovation, Responsibility
For 2009, it seems Eiseman’s gaze has settled upon an interesting combo of colors—those that have long since laid down roots in the fashion arena and those that may be new, but have the potential for staying power. “Trends last longer now, sometimes for seen elements, and other times, unforeseen,” she noted. Take yellow-green, for example. As Eiseman explained, it’s been on the trend trajectory in various incarnations since the 60s, and after experiencing a particularly strong resurgence in the 90s (thanks to the aforementioned apple-green iMac), it now exists in tandem with a certain environmental movement (heard about it?). “That is one of the reasons green has held on for so long. It’s beyond being a trend, it’s part of our social consciousness now,” she said.
Jeff Wright, design director at PremiumWear, Grand Rapids, Mich., echoed that sentiment. “Earth tones and eco-related colors like blues and greens are … becoming increasingly popular.”
Eiseman pointed to shades of hunter and pine-tree green as being the most directional for the upcoming year, though Mike De La Vega, operations at Santa Ana, California-based Article.1 Apparel, mentioned that for organic items, raw neutrals such as olive are continually requested. “A lot of customers that come in and are new to the organic game, stick to the earth-tone colors … for some reason, they associate that with organic,” he added.
Blue-Purple: Current, Fashion-Forward
For those customers who are ready to branch out, however, De La Vega noted that blues are going to be big moving forward. The color family first started to gain popularity on the fall 2008 runways, but according to Eiseman, it’s not meant to be a one-season wonder. “As far as fashion is concerned, you do things for the next season that are a variation on the theme of what you did for the season before,” she said.
In particular, Eiseman sees a continuation of the blue-purples (lilac-esque shades with touches of purple). They’re richly saturated and serious, yet still connote the soothing vibe typically associated with blues. It’s color-speak at its loudest. “Today people are looking for a little bit more longevity,” she noted. “As the economy gets dicey, [they] get a little more practical.” And nothing can be construed as less sensible than a fly-by-night fad.
In this case, distributors can find stability in the knowledge these shades are going to gather strength throughout the next year. “Colors come to the forefront in a very natural progression of the color life cycle,” Wright said, adding, “[They] start from a very esoteric view that, historically, is a result of global, social,
economic and lifestyle influences.”
Yellow: Independence, Attention
Yellow hues are no stranger to the slow-and-steady buildup. Yet, after a long time as mere stage dressing, in 2009, Eiseman reported they will finally come to the forefront with mustard tones reigning supreme.
According to De La Vega, in the promotional wearables industry, this color is a definite possibility for those “willing to take the step” in the coming year. It could be a boon for branding, as yellow is a particularly eye-grabbing color. “In attracting people’s attention, yellow is the highest-visibility color. So, wherever it’s used, you absolutely have to look at it,” Eiseman affirmed.
But despite its potential, De La Vega admitted, “going with the bright colors can be a little risky sometimes.” It’s an investment for the supplier to expand a line’s color palette, and the hope distributors and end-users will be responsive can sometimes backfire. Still, “A lot of customers … are asking, ‘When’s the next color coming in?,’” he noted, and expressed plans to expand Article.1’s offerings in the coming year.