For nearly 20 years, even before they started the very popular Color of the Year, Pantone has released fashion colour palettes for spring and fall during Fashion Week. This season is no different. But how were trendy colors disseminated before that?
Color forecasting has been with us for a long time. In the 1800s, Paris was the boss of European fashion, determining what was à la mode. Fashion houses in Paris produced color cards which ensured both textile mills (and later on, ready-to-wear retailers) in Europe had dye lots that matched the most popular shades; where Paris went, the US followed.
Thanks to chemistry student William Perkins, England was an early leader in chemical dyes. He not only invented a synthetic purple, but an entire industry. Synthetic dyes proved superior compared to their natural counterparts which either streaked or faded. By the outbreak of war in 1914, nearly all the dyes used by the American textile industry were coming from German dye manufacturers.
Cut off from German dyes and Parisian color cards by British blockades, the New York fashion industry was stuck with Olive Drab and Battleship Gray, which was unacceptable to … pretty much everybody. Retailers and textile mills banded together to create the Textile Color Card Association. Over time, the association created a Standard American palette valid for 2 or 3 years as well as semiannual forecasts. This marked the first steps in freeing American textile mills and ready-to-wear retailers from Europe’s grasp, creating a truly “American” look.
Today fashion and trends are so fast we can end up with 52 seasons a year. Instead of trying to tease out these micro trends, Pantone focusses on the big picture, the overarching color pairings we’ll see repeated over the next few months. From Ceylon Yellow to Ultra Violet, these colors will come up again and again, from clothing and housewares to PS4 controllers, sometimes paired with several neutrals we’ve not highlighted. Looking to use these online? See the Hex colors.