Laurie Pressman, the vice president of Pantone Color Institute. Photo courtesy of Pantone Color Institute

Whether selecting saturated patterns and prints or sifting through seemingly similar shades of black, in textiles, color is always key. At the Pantone Color Institute, its experts view color as “a language.” As such, the firm employs an in-depth cultural analysis of consumer desires, emotions and even political sentiments to project trends for an upcoming season.

Laurie Pressman, the vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, works directly with brands on color selections, presents on color and trends to global design audiences and is involved in the development of Pantone’s color research and color trend-forecasting products. Pressman also sits on the Home Products Board at FIT and the Fashion Advisory Board at SCAD.

Here, Pressman talks to WWD about the “why” behind color trends and Pantone’s color forecasting methodology.

WWD: Which factors are most important to consider when forecasting color trends?

Laurie Pressman: There are many factors to consider when forecasting color trends. The most critical thing to keep in mind is that color is a language, which expresses what is happening in our culture at a particular moment in time. With color and context so intertwined there are strong reasons why a color family or individual colors come into prominence when they do, and for the most part the popularity of a group of colors or color family reflect the age we are living in.

Examples include the popularity of pastels. Offering quiet calm at a time when many are feeling oversaturated and overloaded, we have seen pastels move from a seasonal shade to an accepted year-round color statement. The greens continue to increase in popularity too — a result of our focus on the environment as well as our renewed desire to disconnect and immerse ourselves in nature. And with our focus on what is natural and organic, russet orange shades as well as earthier neutrals, khakis and browns continue to be important.

WWD: How does Pantone align its color palettes with current emotional and/or political sentiments?

L.P.: As each color has its own unique message and meaning, the colors we choose to wear are a very personal expression of who we are and instantly provide a window into our souls. Color mixing especially speaks to one’s own personal creativity. And because color affects us psychologically and physiologically what is especially interesting to think about is that not only does what we wear influence how we ourselves feel but our color choices also immediately influence how other people perceive us.

Our Pantone color trends reflect a whole host of macro level trends. As it relates to particular emotional or political sentiments, more and more we are seeing people wanting to make sure their voices are being heard which explains why the dynamic and evocative Grenadine red and the elegant and sophisticated winey, Tawny Port as well as the combination of the two were so prevalent for fall for both apparel and in beauty — and why we are seeing personal expression in the form of unusual color statements, mixes and combinations coming forward.

Pantone’s “Ballet Slipper,” a standout color in its Fall 2017 collection. Photo courtesy of Pantone. 

WWD: Pantone noted a return to the “classics” for fall. What’s driving that trend?

L.P.: One of the things driving the return to the “classics” for fall is our desire for stability and grounding when the world around us continues to move and change. Classic shades provide us with the reassurance and dependability we are looking for. At a time when many are looking to spend their money on experience colors that stand the test of time also make for good investments.

Classic shades are also quite versatile. With our lives in constant motion we are not only looking for the colors and apparel we wear to cross seasons but we also want our clothing to cross the border of work and casual. Classic shades easily transcend the lines.

The trend toward classics is also being inspired by those who either due to economic considerations or are looking for a touch of vintage chic, prefer to re-use and re-purpose. Classic shades especially in more traditional silhouettes hold up and can be made to look fresh through colorful fashion accessories. Even beauty statements highlighting current color trends have the singular ability to change a look and keep it looking new.

WWD: Could you describe what is driving the trend toward “seasonless” and “genderless” color palettes?

L.P.: At the heart of both the “seasonless” and “genderless” trends are a relaxation of the rules and roles by which we once lived. This rigid structure and code we once adhered to in order to conform (i.e. wearing white after Labor Day in colder climates being a big faux pas), no longer dictates how or when we wear certain silhouettes, materials or shades. Color is the perfect medium to express our desire to own our identities and make unique statements.

Seasonless dressing is actually quite practical. We are so time-starved (and sometimes space-starved) that it makes your life easier not to have to change every single item from one activity to the next as well as one season to the next. We’ve learned to layer or to “peel,” depending on the season. Color plays into that as well — it is OK to wear typical fall-like russet cottons into spring and summer, or spring daffodils in a long taffeta skirt for a holiday season.

This more unilateral approach or “genderless dressing” is coinciding with societal movements toward gender equality and fluidity, the consumer’s increased comfort with using color as a form of expression, a generation that has less concern about being typecast or judged and an open exchange of digital information that has opened our eyes to different approaches to color usage.

WWD: Would you elaborate on why we are “post-trend?” How does “post-trend” pertain to color?

L.P.: In the past when we thought about trends we thought about a specific design aesthetic; a uniform that showed that you belonged. Think back to the Eighties, when everyone dressed like Madonna. Today, “what’s in is out.” We don’t want to look like anyone else; we want to look like ourselves. We know that in a world of information overload if we blend in, our voices will not be heard. The result is that your own individual unique identity is the trend.

As “post-trend” is all about individual identity, using color to add to the uniqueness of a look is an important part of post-trend thinking. Color trends are still quite relevant and in fact can fortify the idea of “post-trend” as you use newer trend colors to refresh any of the looks that could come from any era, including where we are currently — you just do it your way. For example: Fifties vibrant green pumps worn with the grunge green skirt of the Nineties, which is then accented by Pantone’s Greenery scarf of 2017.

WWD: What should we expect to see in color trends for fall?

L.P.: If I had to sum up the color statement for fall 2017 I would describe what we are seeing as: “classic with a twist.” Palettes lean into warm and comforting classics with refreshing and dynamic accents creating the color surprise and some more highly unusual and real stand out color combinations.

Led by a dynamic and evocative Grenadine red and the elegant and sophisticated winey, Tawny Port, standout shades also include a pale pink Ballet Slipper, a refreshing Golden Lime, an evergreen teal, Shaded Spruce and a fresh and bright Marina blue. These hues add a striking touch when paired with the classic autumnal shades of Navy Peony, Neutral Gray, Butter Rum and the quintessential autumn color, a russet orange shade we call Autumn Maple.