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June 6th, 2001 Elizabeth Dye | Fashion
 

Color Me Dutiful

Obey tint trends or perish!

     
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When we as innocent tots cradled that box of Crayola 64, our wee brains never contemplated that colors could fall in and out of favor. Sure, "flesh" tone fell short, "orange-yellow" was more vivid and taxicab than "yellow-orange," etc. But the idea that the color wheel is a moving target whose vicissitudes must be tracked and heeded and reproduced in nylon track suits and turf shoes--well, that's a notion only grown-ups could come up with.

If you're Jen Keesey, senior color trend analyst for adidas International, predicting the next spin of the wheel is your job. Keesey is one of a fleet of color chasers who make sure that each season's apparel offerings keep pace with the myriad cultural shifts that determine "hot" and "not hot" colors. Turns out (surprise!) that apparel manufacturers are not just good guessers--there's an eerily systematic process in place to guarantee that the pumpkin sports bra or avocado windbreaker you suddenly crave is available for prompt purchase.

Yessir, business just gets better and better at predicting our desires...and if you wonder whether most of fashion's "evolution" is on the arbitrary-and-devoid-of-meaning side, read on.


Willamette Week
: For those of us in clueless readerland, what is color trend analysis?

Jen Keesey: Color and trend research for adidas International consists of looking at trends from all industries (high fashion, automotive, accessories, furniture, etc.), selecting a handful of ideas that are applicable trends and using them as design inspiration for footwear and apparel products. We try to select those that push the envelope while staying true to the adidas image. (Trends in sportswear generally follow high fashion by about a year.)

What has the greatest impact on color trends?

Color trends are influenced primarily by high fashion and by the automotive industry. Colors are fairly cyclical, meaning you might see certain colors return to favor after several years of little use. Shades and tints, which are variations of specific colors, change seasonally.

What does your "color research" entail?

As color and trend designers, we attend fashion shows all over the world, read trend and design publications, and look to other industries. Also, color plays a big role when targeting a specific consumer group. A little girl's shoe will be colored up quite differently than an adult's outdoor shoe.

What makes a certain color (or group of colors) hot?

Cultural trends have a lot to do with making certain colors hot. For example, right now there is a kind of "cultural embrace" happening, so bright colors are making comebacks, shades of reds, pinks, oranges. On the other hand, a sort of "new whites" is happening also--clean, crisp, different layering of whites for summer. Since colors cycle, it's impossible to say, for example,"green will never be hot."

How do you think changes in color fads affect other trend shifts? In other words, what influence does color have on the overall fashion cycle?

More often than not, color acts to accentuate other trends. For example, there's a current use of transparency in high fashion and housewares. Transparency is established by material selection, design, etc., but color can be added to accentuate and market this idea.

Finish this sentence: "On a typical day, I..."

...I juggle the immediate requests of our marketing and sales team with color/trend research. For example, I might explore new sights and products on the Internet as well as skim all the latest fashion, lifestyle and sport-specific magazines. Any relevant imagery and ideas I find will be relayed to the product designers. They'll incorporate this into their concepts to create strong "trend-friendly" products.

After my informative talk with Ms. Keesey, I can draw the following conclusion: That clear blue plastic backpack I bought "on impulse" from the Old Navy $10.99 table was not purely a spontaneous purchase. Oh no, the design of said fetching polymer carryall was precisely calibrated to appeal to my tastes. A league of color trend analysts feeds its families on the salaries earned from researching whether robin's-egg-blue PVC will sing the "buy me" song at the precise pitch to which my ear is tuned.

Kind of gives a girl the willies.


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