Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Classics

Is it working, yet?  

As we stand at the threshold of an impending announcement (with breath that is bated, I'm sure) of Pantone's 2021 Color of the Year, I thought we could talk a little about the color selection for our current year.  Around this time last December, I touched "briefly" on the topic of color, and trend forecasting particularly as it pertains to the clothes we wear, and the role companies like Pantone play.

Cue highlights:

"...companies like Pantone bring part of the high fashion experience to us regular folks.  I mentioned Pantone a little earlier, and while they sometimes get confused with the color forecasting agencies, they're more of an intermediary between the apparel industry, and the curious masses.  They fit into this colorful world by having their own color match system that is widely used by some fashion designers, graphic designers, freelancers, artists, and product designers.  What they're also known to do is release their Fashion Color Trend Report to the public during each New York Fashion Week that lets the rest of us know what's going to be hitting store shelves in the upcoming season.  So if they're not forecasting, what are they doing?  After designers have taken their members-only forecast, digested it through their imaginations, and infused their collections with what inspires them most, Pantone combs the collections and compiles a highlight reel of the 12 strongest, most abundant, dominant, and popular colors out of all the collections showing at NYFW, and that is what they're putting into their easy-to-understand, tidy little report.  More often than not, these are the main colors that trickle down through every level of retail, and find their way into a massive majority of establishments from your piano-player-by-the-escalator department stores, to your local one-stop-shop."

But what happens when the one who appears to be predicting our color-future is actually, to some degree, just dictating it?  Can you even reasonably call it forecasting when it more closely resembles a foregone conclusion?  You see, once an outfit like Pantone has the data from all of the seasonal fashion shows from the current year, it comes back home and picks out a color to represent the times we'll be stepping into come the next ... Sometimes it's a color that's actually represented in the apparel garments, and housewares already off to the manufacturer, and for the years when it's not, they make sure that it is.  To be fair, they make sure that it is either way, some years they just have to work a little harder to make sure-sure.  Ok, so once they've got the scoop on what's happening they select a color, and then they take out licensing deals and partner with other companies to produce items featuring THAT color.

It is then blasted e v e r y w h e r e. 

Pretty soon it starts feeling like, "Hey, this is a popular color..."  Is it really though?  Were consumers actually clamoring for items in this particular hue, or did items of this particular hue edge out the same items that could, or would have been offered in a whole range of other colors had lucrative deals not been struck with a trend forecasting agency?  It's not entirely unethical or anything, I just think it lands a little different when the "forecaster" has skin in the game.  For me, some of the magic has worn off when this other entity elbows its way onto the dance floor.  It has interrupted the rhythm between the designers' imaginations, and the consumers' desires.  The artistry of it all is disturbed, and at times cheapened by the presence of this interloper.  Instead of a painter trying to sell you his or her passionately rendered vision, it's a carnival barker luring you to a stall where you can win an oversized velvet painting of a sad clown's face by playing a game that's been rigged.  I mean, true, we are told what we want ALL.  Of.  The.  Time.  We are being sold to, and manipulated almost constantly, so what's the big deal about one more person doing it?  There's just a yuck-factor at play when companies involve themselves in a much larger-than-them process in a way that's solely about ensuring a quick side-buck when they're already part of the overall enterprise in a much more direct way.  It's grubby to me, and also seems a bit unfair that one business is increasing its monopoly on our attention whilst inventing charmingly philosophical sounding explanations for why this color-phenomenon is happening.  My dude!  It's happening because you made it happen ... it's not some fantastical color-related anomaly that occurred and proved your incredible Nostradamus-like powers of prophecy true.  It was no accident, there was no trickle-down, and it did not happen organically.  There was no ebb and flow between the creatives and the masses that made this at all authentic, and so the whole thing just becomes even sillier when I look up at the quote from the beginning of this post.  I can tell you with absolute clarity, and certainty that no amount of anything from fluffy towels, interior latex paint, cozy sweaters, right down to navy blue pumpkins that were so popular at craft stores this autumn has made me feel more calm, confident, or connected this year.