Twice a year, a group of influential designers and key fabric manufacturers gather at the Manhattan offices of organizations such asthe Color Association and Stahl to forecast the tastes of we shoppers--two years ahead of us deciding we have a craving for fuschia. Yearly choices are always within the framework of ‘color cycles,’ which only change every few years. The cycles last between two and seven years for fashion, but between seven and 15 years for interiors.
The association is one of a handful of arbitrating organizations in New York and Paris that sit at the head of the fashion food chain.
From the entire range of Panetone colors, this gathering will predict color trends and selects shades, coming up with clear-cut groups that they believe will become popular. Many indicators for inspiration will be taken into account: for example what's hot at the box office, political climate, influential museum exhibitions. Public taste in everything from sofas to cars will also be surveyed.
Those colors are sent to subscribing members, who pay dues of upwards of one thousand dollars to receive a foldout chart of swatches. For women’s clothing, the chart shows scraps of fabric, while for menswear it focuses on colored threads.
To guarantee a frenzied fever for everything fuchsia is a financial risk for the clothing industry. But if the association experts stake their reputations on it, the risk becomes more managed. An additional benefit is that the predictions create a sort of consensus, which benefits the entire industry: The necessary fabric will be plentifully provided by similarly informed manufacturers, so designers know they what pallet to base their collection on taking into account materials available within their budgets.
Within the year, these colors will appear everywhere. Key is the decision of what fabric will be produced and made available. Fabric makers will weave bolts of material in the desired shades, fashion designers will build the hues into their collections and buyers from the largest store chains will scout for those colors as they weigh what to stock for the next six months.
These predictions have long reduced financial costs and confusion for the garment trade. While couture has the budget to select surprising shades and patterns for their collections, the makers of clothes for the average consumer are expected to be creative within extremely tight budgets.
Color forecasting helps the fashion industry operate with business-like efficiency. Based on the consensus color palette, clothes are produced and eagerly stocked by shops. Customers--who hear about trends from sources such as magazines and fashion-show runway reports--become influenced on what to buy for the upcoming season. Waste is low, and profits secured. Color prediction helps to guide the consumer to shop the way designers want.
Don't worry about the manufacturers ability to limit what creative designers can do. Lucky for us all, fashion will always have it's rebels and enfants terrible to break free from the fold.
And if you are curious about what you'll be wearing not this winter but next above I have borrowed Stahl's color chart for Fall/Winter 2009-2010.