Color Atlas is a tool used by colorists.


Faster speed to market coupled with the inherit challenges of a global supply chain continues to pressure fashion apparel brands. Meanwhile, shopping preferences and demands for a broader assortment of goods in a consumer-centric environment is also impacting business.

And from the perspective of a fashion colorist, these changes are requiring better color management, said Chris Hipps, director of global operations at Archroma Color Management Services. Here, Hipps discusses tools that can help designers and colorists manages these demands as well as other trends in the market such as the influence of Millennial consumers.

WWD: When it comes to color management, what are some of the changes that have occurred over the past decade?

Chris Hipps: One of the most significant continuing trends is “speed to market.” Fashion colorists are tasked to create more, faster. Designers require color selection tools that help them quickly build their palettes and accurately communicate their colors to global supply chains. So, the color libraries and digital tools that designers use must allow for convenient and hassle-free color selection. In order to execute the design intent once colors are selected, color standards must be immediately available, consistent from library to library and swatch to swatch, and backed by global mill support.

WWD: What exactly is “color engineering” and why is it important?

C.H.: Color engineering involves creating color standards that are achievable, consistent and based upon sound formulas that may be reproduced in global factories. It involves using the correct light sources, correct combination of colorants and the ability to provide global technical support for the companies making the products.

Consistent color standards are important because they ensure that everyone is trying to achieve the same color. Inconsistent color standards result in delays and compromises when trying to make the color. Using sound formulation strategy also reduces time and improves quality by making sure the color can be achieved at the beginning of the color development process.

WWD: Shoppers — Millennials in particular — gravitate toward beauty, apparel and accessory products that offer a broad spectrum of choices. What role does color play here, from a design perspective? And how can a product designer use your firm’s tools to better inform this process?

C.H.: Color plays a huge role in attracting consumers. It is the first thing that brings attention to a product. Archroma is helping designers to realize their inspirations faster and more accurately by developing innovative products such as the Color Atlas by Archroma. This color library gives designers more creative freedom via access to more than 4,300 new colors.

Through focus groups with designers and other stakeholders, we learned that the physical form of a color library (book or otherwise) has a significant impact on its utility. We decided to not use three-ring binders, ring sets or swatch stacks due to the frustration designers expressed at finding colors using those formats. The accordion format we chose allows designers to browse quickly and find their colors faster. Feedback from several clients is that it takes them 30 to 50 percent less time to find colors in the Color Atlas than in other color libraries.

WWD: How else is Archroma helping designers to realize their inspirations faster and more accurately?

C.H.: In addition to the ergonomics built into the Color Atlas, having consistent color standards readily available for each color ensures that work may begin on palettes immediately. There is a free online companion tool called Color Atlas Online that allows designers to search photos or images right from their phone to help find their colors quickly. It also allows users to browse the Color Atlas and order color standards in just a few clicks.

For factories, the site details formulas to use to match the colors and advises when there may be an issue matching a color on a certain substrate. Also for factories, there is quick access to global technical support to help meet the designers requirements. Quick global access to physical color standards and technical information helps achieve the color the designer wanted, faster.

WWD: With shifting and complicated supply chains, shorter calendars and fewer resources, how can designers ensure the products they design make it to the retail shelf?

C.H.: Designers should choose color standards that are achievable, reproducible, and consistent. Every designer and/or factory has had trouble matching a color only to find out that the two “standards” were not the same color. They should also make sure that their colors are supported at the mill level.

Having this support reduces the time it takes to diagnose color problems and reduces trial and error resulting in delays and compromises. It is often useful to have the same expert team that produced the inspirational library address any color challenges encountered in the supply chain.

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