Who decides what colors will be “in fashion”?

Colorful Fashion Hotel in Athens (photo by chrissy575 - CC-BY)

Surely fashions come and go, without anyone “deciding”? Well, actually, there are individuals and organizations that give a “guiding hand” to the whims of fashion.

The Color Marketing Group is an association of people who work with color. They design with color, market color, and teach color. The Group holds regular conferences and workshops at which their members present their ideas on color trends. The group consolidates those ideas, “identifies” the direction of the trends, and “translates” the trends into specific salable colors for manufactured products.

The group takes into account color trends from previous seasons, plus cultural contexts (such as upcoming movies, or the flag color of the host nation of the Olympic Games). The CMG then issues to its members its “Color Directions Forecasts” which predict color trends one to three years in advance.

The members then go to work designing products based on those forecasts. As the time approaches, CMG issues press releases so that the media can report on the upcoming color trends. As if by magic, when the time comes, the products arrive in the stores with the predicted colors.

You might think that this has elements of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You might also think that it’s like a shaky “house of cards” because it depends on the group’s members having sufficient faith in the predicted colors that the members will actually produce products in those colors. However, it works well enough for the members, who depend on changes in fashion to keep up their sales, but who want to reduce the risk associated with bringing new fashions to the market.

Just to complicate things, there’s another organization that positions itself as the “world’s color authority”. Pantone LLC is well-known to those in the printing trade for its Pantone Matching System, a collection of numbered color cards by which most color printing is specified. (See also What are the primary colors of light, paint, and printing?) Pantone declares a color for each year, and also issues more specific predictions (e.g. “Fashion Color Report for Fall” or “Must-have color trends for next year”). Pantone also sells a more comprehensive fashion color planner 18 to 24 months before each season.

Pantone’s “colors of the year” have included:

  • 2007 – Chilli Pepper
  • 2008 – Blue Iris
  • 2009 – Mimosa Yellow
  • 2010 – Turquoise

None of this makes any difference to me. My color choices never go out of fashion, because they were never in fashion. My clothes, furnishings, appliances and paint choices must last through several fashion cycles, so I just choose timeless colors (like blue jeans and a white car) instead of fashionable colors. (See What’s the best color for a car?)


Color Marketing Group –
Pantone –

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