The digital revolution within colour trend forecasting

Julie King, Helena Britt (Editor), Laura Morgan (Editor), Kerry Walton (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


Colour forecasting; the premise sounds simple: create a range of new colour palettes each season for fashion and textile products. However, the trend forecasting industry is facing a revolution as the digital era reshapes the landscape and new players enter the market at an exponential rate. The origins of colour forecasting can be traced back almost a century to 1917 when the Textile Colour Card Association of America (TCCA) released the first publication. It featured 40 colours presented in silk and wool swatches (Hope and Walch, 1990:34), a similar number of colours is still presented each season by forecasters. The contemporary trend forecasting industry was worth an estimated $36bn in 2011 (Barnett, 2011) and colour forecasting can be defined as the ‘selection of ranges of colours that are deemed as those that will be wanted for a particular product/market at a particular time’ (Wilson et al, 1999:18). Trend information and predictions are used by designers and buyers in a range of diverse creative industries where forecasters traditionally communicated with their clients primarily through printed materials. Each season new colour trends are published providing seasonal themes and colour palettes suitable for a variety of markets and demographics. In recent years trend services have developed online; their impact is immediate with global availability and regularly updated content (Petermann, E, 2014). The internet and mobile devices created a new approach to forecasting in the last decade, with established forecasters and newcomers developing apps which are changing the way in which colour is communicated, such as Adobe Colour, which instantly creates a colour palette from an image. In parallel those working within the fashion industry are changing. Millenials, known as generation Y and born between 1981 and 1999, now number over 70 million in the US alone, and they have very different priorities and working practices to previous generations (The Doneger Group, 2012). The Millenials are partly responsible for driving the change as they demand instant information available on a 24 hour basis via blogs and fashion news apps, all leading the change in the way in which trend information is gathered as well as published, through the Internet, blogs, and live streaming (Gaimster, 2012). Throughout these paradigm changes, users have continued to purchase trend books, attend trade fairs and colour seminars. This may be due to disparity between colour portrayed on screen and colour on paper or fabric which can be substantial. Limited control over local user screen brightness or calibration can distort the true colours being portrayed as Gaimster (2012) identified. ‘A lack of quality control, the focus on the visual over the senses, the ease of access of information leading to a lack of respect for that information and the sheer volume of information.’ (Gaimster, 2012:176) This paper explores the use of new technologies and mobile devices for communicating accurate colour and creating colour palettes and questions the role of the colour forecaster in the new digital environment using interviews with leading industry figures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFuturescan 3: Intersecting Identities
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherAssociation of Fashion & Textile Courses (FTC)
Number of pages139
ISBN (Print)9781911217084
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


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