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Trendspotting 2010: What’s the Color of the Year?

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As a person who follows fashion, I’m always surprised at how trends materialize. I sometimes suspect that one winter night in 2003, all the shoe designers banded together and said, “From now on, everything will be pointy.” Or perhaps all the women’s-wear designers had a secret conclave where they decided that 2008 would officially be the Year of the Leggings. It’s amazing that from such a diverse bunch of designers, there seems to come an eerily similar group of styles, patterns, colors, and cuts. 

Enter Pantone, a company that mostly provides color-matching services to makers of fabrics and textiles, printers, clothing manufacturers, and other design professionals. Its swatches allow designers to compare and standardize colors on products that were made on different equipment from different dye lots. At the end of 2009, Pantone announced that the 2010 Color of the Year would be turquoise. Or rather, it would be Pantone’s 15-5519 Turquoise. “Combining the serene qualities of blue and the invigorating aspects of green,” gushed the press release, “Turquoise [is] a languorous, effective escape from the everyday troubles of the world, while at the same time restoring our sense of well-being.” 

So Pantone has decided what color we’ll be wearing this year? Well, I’m glad that’s settled. But ladies, don’t rush out and buy a closet full of turquoise just yet. 

Trickle-Down Fashionomics
Every year since 2000, Pantone has named a single color as the “it” color for the coming year. Drawing inspiration from designers, lifestyle trends, and other sources, the company has forecasted the success of colors such as True Red in 2002, Chili Pepper in 2007, and Mimosa in 2009. 

But top-tier designers don’t usually get their inspiration from press releases. In fact, it’s the other way around. Pantone predicts the hot color of any given year or season by surveying designers’ upcoming collections and evaluating what’s already out there. 

In the fashion industry, trends start at the top and work their way down. When a couture designer features a particular color or style, it inevitably finds its way from the runway in Paris to other designers’ showrooms. Soon it trickles down to ready-to-wear lines in department stores and mass-market retailers like Gap or Zara, and eventually the trend finds its way into discount stores like Target and Wal-Mart. When a particular color or style dominates the runways one season, it’s safe to assume that the same color or style will take at least six to nine months to dominate store shelves. 

Top designers work too far in advance to be swayed by Pantone’s Color of the Year pronouncement, but designers of mass-market brands and other accessories heed what Pantone predicts will be popular, and the color tends to show up in everything from knickknacks like key chains to interior paint colors. Magazine editors look for garments in the right shade to feature on their pages, and home decorators push design schemes with turquoise walls, mimosa accent pillows, or textiles in the year’s hot hue. 

Not only does Pantone put out its choice for Color of the Year, it also pays attention to seasonal trends. It publishes the Pantone Fashion Color Report after surveying the designers at Fashion Week, taking note of color motifs in various collections. Once the company has learned what the hottest designers are using, it lets the rest of the world know so that the mass-market designers can catch up. If you’ve ever wondered why department stores tend to feature garments of the same color during any given season, it’s because the designers likely used the inspiration Pantone gathered, and the store’s buyers probably did, too, paying attention to what’s most likely to be fashionable and in demand. The Fashion Color Report for fall 2010 predicts that in a few months we’ll all be wearing Purple Orchid, Chocolate Truffle, Oyster Gray, Rose Dust, and Living Coral. 

The Wed Effect
Pantone’s yearly color choice has a huge effect on the bridal industry as well. Since many brides use Pantone swatches to color coordinate their ceremony, reception, and wedding party, the choice for the year’s hot color is not ignored by fashion-forward brides looking to create a modern and trendy affair. Bridal magazines are already full of turquoise inspirations for bridesmaids’ dresses, jewelry, paper products, and other accents. 

One of last year’s hot colors was yellow—paired with grey, fuchsia, and a number of other bright hues. This year, wedding-style experts are already predicting that punchy colors, including turquoise, will be what’s hot in 2010. The Wedding Report, a market-research firm specializing in weddings, has already predicted that blue color schemes will be most popular this year, and Perfect Wedding Guide lists turquoise as its number one color trend for 2010.   

If turquoise isn’t the best thing for your skin tone, fret not, because Pantone releases a new Color of the Year every December. Perhaps next year’s will be Pistachio, Posie, or even Electric Blue. Check out this season’s designer collections to get a jump on next season’s hot colors.

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