Byline: Michael McNamara

CARLSTADT, N.J. — Pantone Inc. is expanding the world of color.
The 48-year-old company, which got its start as a printer of color shade charts for the cosmetics industry, has just created its newest edition of the Textile Color System (TCS) — a palette of 1,701 colors — which Pantone is making available to textile companies, apparel firms and designers.
The original palette, developed in 1983, featured about 1,000 colors.
“Through the new technologies coming down the pike, we’re positioning ourselves to be a key color resource for all industries, heading into the next century,” said Richard Herbert, the firm’s executive vice president.
“We want to make the computer aspect of the TCS as user-friendly as possible,” he added, “making it more intuitive and less of an impediment.”
The new TCS arranges the colors in three groups — clean and bright, muted and dull, and earth tone and gray. The system is sold in individual cotton swatch cards and in complete color selector books and through Pantone’s new software program ColorDrive. It’s also available through licensed computer-aided design and manufacturing firms.
Pantone sells its color systems to a wide range of industries in addition to apparel textiles, including graphic arts, plastics and home furnishings. Pantone’s international color standards are designated for more than $1 billion worth of products a year.
The key to the system, said Pantone executives, is that it provides a consistent reference point so a color can be matched exactly in different dye-lots or in different materials; for example, in a velvet collar on a wool jacket.
The 1,701 colors are coded with a six-digit numbering system in the swatch books and in the computer programs.
Swatch cards, sold individually, are available for $4.69 each; a color selector book covering the entire spectrum, with permanently affixed fabric chips, is $495.
“A mill or a designer can talk to production people and say, for instance, ‘We want to make something on a specific Pantone color,’ and if the person on the other end has the same exact color, it’s much faster and more efficient than to say, ‘It’s blue,”‘ said Rebecca Feldman, Pantone’s marketing manager for textile and plastics systems, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here.
The facilities here include a textile lab, where colors are formulated and dyed and evaluated under different light conditions.
“A navy blue, for instance, may look different in home light, daylight or store light,” Feldman said.
Andrew Dibben, design director for Marc Eisen, said the designer has used Pantone’s systems for about two years. “It’s something that’s universal. You can talk about a true, quantified color, rather than hoping the color is exactly the same,” he said.
“The main thing,” he added, “is that the book is a tremendous starting point. We use it mostly on private label projects.”
Other designers who use Pantone’s TCS are Victor Alfaro and Cynthia Rowley. Retail accounts J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart Stores, Target Stores and Lands’ End use the system for private label merchandise.
The company was formed in 1946, but didn’t expand beyond producing color cards only until 1963. That year, Lawrence Herbert, then a vice president, pulled the company back from the verge of bankruptcy by creating the widely used Pantone Matching System, a book of standardized colors in a fan format, for the printing, packaging and publishing industries. It was the first edition of its multiindustry color effort.
Of all customers using Pantone’s TCS, 38 percent are apparel manufacturers and designers and about 12 percent are textiles and fiber companies. Other key users are retailers, 5 percent; importers and exporters of apparel and home furnishings, 22 percent; home furnishings makers, 7 percent, and makers of other fashion products, such as accessories, 16 percent.
Roughly 40 percent of Pantone’s sales are generated in Europe, and 40 percent in the U.S. and Canada.
Pantone has established an office in Hong Kong, Pantone Asia Inc. About 20 percent of Pantone’s sales are in Asia.