Color for spring '05 is wildly divergent. The mix is dramatic—like throwing confetti and seeing where it lands," observed Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, of the spring 2005 fashion shows held last September at 7th on Sixth in New York City's Bryant Park. "You could make combinations of any of these colors—the rulebook has been thrown out the window. Meanwhile, pink, still fresh and relevant, has been adopted as New York's new signature color."
And indeed, designer after designer brought color to the runways: from soft blues and sun-kissed oranges to subtle kelp greens and glittery turquoise.
Carolina Herrera's philosophy was to combine colors that normally would not be mixed. She opted for glazed ginger, spicy orange and Aruba blue and mixed chestnut with whisper white. David Rodriguez's signature color was bougainvillea pink. "Color is the fastest and most primal way to evoke an emotion," he said. "I gravitate toward colors that have a soothing effect, or colors that have such a vibrancy you can't help but feel good." Sandi Davidson for Lilly Pulitzer said that their concept for spring 2005 was "...a sea of color, and included hot pink, coral, bright green, orange, lemon yellow and azure. Bright and soft pinks, greens and turquoise blues are very strong. What looks new and exciting is the use of citrus colors—yellow, orange and coral...and black." Bradley Bayou for Halston adopted a similar color philosophy using bright, vivid colors in cool tones and mixing them with looks of classic black and white. "I want to create the feeling of an urban garden," he explained. The punch of color contrasted against black or white (or a combination thereof) seemed both retro and fresh. It worked for the Constructivist movement!
After the ultra security of the shows post-September 11, the tents were a bit more relaxed this year, although attending a New York fashion show is like running a gauntlet through throngs of stiletto-heel-wearing fashionistas, camera-wielding photographers with dangerous metal cases and giant monopods and throngs of wannabes toting swag bags and bottles of Evian.
Spring styles were all over the map from elegant to very downtown. At the Jeremy Scott show it was bikinis and bling—clothes for the thug life or, at the very least, the club scene. Underscoring the importance of green, at the Y & Kei show, models paraded down a U-shaped raised wooden platform, with green grass and moss in the middle. Beautiful clear persimmon and green tones were shown against cream backgrounds with retro '40s style metallic wedgies.
B Michaels showed gorgeous gowns of gracefully flowing satin; Vicky Bugbee of B Productions described them as looking like Neopolitan ice cream, with their soft blush pinks wedded to tawny brown. With Kimora Lee of Baby Phat (you see a lot of her clothes on the streets of New York City) , Jeremy Scott and B Michaels, among others, there were more African-American designers showing at 7th on Sixth, reflecting cultural trends toward black fashion entrepreneurs like Sean Combs (a.k.a., P. Diddy), who opened his first Sean Jean store on Fifth Avenue commensurate with Fashion Week. P. Diddy designed a button "Black Folks Must Vote" sported by many young African-Americans at the shows.
Margaret Walch, director of The Color Association of the U.S. (www.colorassociation.com.), the oldest color forecasting service in the U.S., spoke of the longevity of orange. "Orange is not red, which can be boring—especially in graphics; it's not pink, which is girly-girly, it's in between. It's an exciting color and it can be a very sophisticated color." Unfolding a card of color swatches, Walch pointed out five oranges in the Color Association's 2006/2007 Environmental Interior Colors Forecast from corals to terra cotta, what she refers to as a spice palette.
Coral has the best consumer response for the orange family, Eiseman says, and delft has more pizzazz than navy. The Color Association forecasts a general cooling of the palette with the rise of aquas and turquoises growing in importance and with a move toward more acidic greens. "Last spring saw the emergence of yellow as an extension of the green family. We've been in a yellow/green phase, a citrus concept. A move next door to green is acceptable," Eiseman explains. In fact, at the International Maison et Objet Trade Show in Paris, France, which Eiseman attended immediately before coming to NYC for fashion week, she saw a strong connection between the color stories used for home furnishings and fashion.
Discussing trends Walch cited, "The democratization of fashion and design, graphics and advertising: That's very much parallel with the 196o's revolution too, but [it's] much more extreme today."
Considering color cycles, she explained, "We are moving from minimal color, which we've really been in for twenty years into full-spectrum color, which could last ten years. The '60s were pretty much bright; it could happen again. You look to places in the world where color is actually like that. One of those places is India." India is home to the spice colors seen in Pantone's top ten colors from their Fashion Color Report Spring 2005 (Flame, Coral Reef, Begonia Pink), and intense patterns used extensively with metallics. These elements were a clear influence on many designers at the spring shows.
In another flashback to the '60s, a lot of psychedelic color combinations were seen on the runways as well as on the streets of NYC neighborhoods like TriBeCa, SoHo, Greenwich Village and the Meat Packing District. Walch predicts we're going to see more happy colors, such as fuchsia and aqua because of our interest in the spiritual and in spa retreats as an antidote to our plugged-in lives. These trends speak directly to the success of niche home furnishing stores like the Pottery Barn, West Elm and a host of smaller boutique companies that have profited from the American turn inward to family and creating a secure environment.
She also sees trends from the '70s such as handwork and embellishment. "The experimental surface is the mark of a highly technological society," she said of trends toward surface decoration (seen in lattice work and horizontal pleating as well as with decorative stitching or metallic accents at 7th on Sixth). Manufactured goods are able to have a hand-crafted look even if that is accomplished through technology.
Walch feels we are turning to colors that are childlike in their optimism. And in deference to that direction, Color Association of the U.S. has renamed their children's color card, youth. In that realm, guava, sandcastle and purples are in evidence. People once thought of pastels as irrelevant. No more, according to Walch. "New pastels will have an impact on the print industry, especially aqua and light purple."
When we look at color, we often think in terms of decades, and the color stories that emerge from them, but decades don't necessarily align. In other words, trends from the '60s might have actually begun in '62 or '63 and have gone through the first years of the following decade. "Now in 2004, we're really in the twenty-first century," Walch stated. "It wasn't quite, in 2000. It seems very innocent. And it was innocent, because it was pre-911." Escapism, fantasy and nature will all be strong, continuing trends. She also sees an individual, quirky, newer approach to branding.
For Bill Marpet of B Productions, whose company does four-camera video shoots of no shows over the course of fashion week, "The technical impact of all that white is a video dilemma—shooting white on white, tone on tone," although he added, "I don't remember seeing anything that was plain white. It wasn't clinical." He offered this bit of advice, "The key is not to have head to toe white, so you don't look like a nurse!"
The spring shows with their exuberant happy colors reminded him of Busby Berkeley musicals. Trends he noted were a high-tech silver look, shine mixed with matte, dressier fashions and the influence of bling. "It doesn't get any bling blingier than Swarovski," Marpet said, referring to the proliferation of glittering Austrian crystals seen on many designers' fashions. "It translates into the stores, a woman can buy a new piece of jewelry, even if she can't afford the clothes."
Echoing a comment from Leatrice Eiseman, he said that deconstructionism is being worked into the vocabulary of fashion. While the style was much more pronounced a few years ago in the fashions of designers such as Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester, the spring shows saw clothes with subtle details drawn from this style that includes such elements as seams on the outside and torn fabric.
For the field of visual communications, The Color Marketing Group, an international, not-for-profit Association of 1,500 Color Designers based in Alexandria, Virginia (www.colormarketing.org), forecasts for 2005: "Safety with an attitude. For Boomers, these retro colors are familiar, while they are fresh and optimistic for Gen Y. The answers are in the shadows, black and white gives way to colors that allow for individual expression and cultural diversity. Edges are blurred, luster sculpts patterns, tone on tone creates textures and interference pigments bend light resulting in a discreet luxury."
For consumer goods, CMG offers Just Steel (technology with a mineral base...grounded and masculine, yet versatile); Intrigue Blue (a luxurious neutral); Living Green (complex yet subdued); Fire Copper (reminiscent of handcrafted metals) and Sea Shell (simplicity and security).
"The desire to return to our roots leads us back to traditional materials such as metal, leather, wood and sand. The result is nature-based color being applied to the latest technological products," stated CMG's press release about the 2005 consumer palette. "With Eastern influence from Japan and Korea, colors are quiet and softer. Based on the natural elements of earth, fire and water, they bring a sense of well-being and reflective quality to products. Colors are calming and bring a perception of safety and relaxation to counteract our stressful environment."
CMG forecasts that, by 2005, the attitudinal cycle will swing toward indulgence and away from the current mood of abstinence. Simultaneously, the business cycle will trend toward practical expansion following the current risk adverse/safe decision climate.
CAUS directors Christine Chow, Jacqueline Ross and Margaret Walch stated, in a note from the directors in their 08/2004 CAUS News: "A clearer, brighter and more multicolored approach to design even in health areas, is anticipated by 2006."
External influences such as the econ- omy and politics have taken a backseat to the emotional impact of color choice in our lives. At the same time, our shrinking world has made color palettes from the remote corners of the globe within the reach of a can of paint, a sheet of paper or a fabric swatch. Contemporary designers seem to be thinking more about the psychological benefits of color in our environment and many are taking some chances with their color choices. In the world of color predictions, the future looks bright. ca