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How colour turns into a trend

11 July, 2014

Biannual meeting of Intercolor / Intercolor - ESDI Color-LAB

Sabadell hosts the biannual meeting of Intercolor, one of the world’s most influential associations in determining fashion trends and colours.

Twice a year, fashion sector professionals gather in a different country around the world to decide the most important trends and colours for each season.

The ESDi Color_LAB in Sabadell has hosted one of this year’s meetings, specifically the one that has brought the Intercolor experts together. This organisation is one of the most influential when it comes to setting the guidelines for the colours, materials and fabrics that prevail in the world’s fashion store windows and finally in consumers’ wardrobes.

Representatives from 14 countries across Europe and Asia, mainly business and industrial associations, form part of Intercolor. In Sabadell, they spent two days pooling interpretations on the trends seen in their respective societies and deciding on the colours and materials that will prevail for the 2016 spring-summer season.

Essential to read trends

The President of the French Colour Committee and Intercolor General Secretary, Olivier Guillemin, told that the work the organisation he represents is today more important than ever. “With the internet, we can have the false sensation that we are capable of identifying the trends that are born and prevail anywhere in the world. But the process isn’t that simple. Intercolor members perform an essential task in creative exchange and in interpreting the colour philosophy and trends of each country. The members arrive at a joint proposal, always on the basis of the tradition, culture and essence of each of their home countries”.

Guillemin’s reflection implicitly involves a question that we put to the ESDi Color_LAB director, Encarna Ruiz:

– Are trends created or interpreted?

– Obviously they are interpreted; the Intercolor members read the trends we see in the countries and cities we come from. We reflect on the desire in the street, we organise and structure ideas and, finally, we turn them into a colour and material chart for each season.

The university laboratory that Ruiz runs, located in Sabadell, has been the Spanish representative at Intercolor since 2012. During this time, Ruiz has seen how France plays a decisive role in determining the overall colour proposal of all of the countries. “France is one of the main members of Intercolor and its colour palette is always the best. It is the major trend motivator at Première Vision in Paris,” Ruiz says, in reference to one of the leading fabric shows in the world’s fashion industry. Indeed, Première Vision ends up disseminating the trends that the Intercolor experts have previously agreed on.

The Spanish role

The colour proposals of Spain, and in this case the one drafted by ESDi Color_LAB, also play an important role in Intercolor’s final colour chart. “We always manage to get some of our colours on the palette. For next season the joint decision has been for pale tones, combined with browns, blues and reds. These will be the trends for spring-summer 2016,” the ESDi Color_LAB says.

Although it is true that the experts at the meetings must reach a consensus about the final colours they will prescribe to the fashion sector, it is also certain that there are significant differences between each country’s proposals. “We don’t know exactly why, but ESDi Color_LAB always ends up building palettes that feature blue and red,” Ruiz says. “They ask us and the Italians how we can define so many types of blue, while we ask Finland, for example, how it can identify up to a hundred different tones of white”. Ruiz’s reflection is profoundly linked to one of the questions that the president of the French Colour Committee strives to emphasise:

“The Intercolor members always maintain the identity of each of their countries of origin. Each country has its own personality, the outcome, for example, of its religion, the skin colour of the people who live there, or local traditions. All of these elements are decisive when we draw up a colour and trends proposal. Specifically, we propose macro-trends which could apply around the world, but then there are colour nuances for each country. You never get the same colours around the world because, for example, the light in Finland is not the same as it is in Spain”.

There is no doubt that culture, geography, migratory movements and historical traditions play key roles in the predominance of colours and the emergence of trends in each country. “China, for example, always presents a colour and trend proposal designed for Western women. They forget the internal market because their customers are Western,” Ruiz says. By comparison, there is the colour palette of Thailand, where shiny, bold textures feature in their bet for spring-summer 2016.

“The theory of colour tells us that it is important to combine colours in such a way that there is a dialogue between them,” says ESDi Product Unit manager, Elisabeth Ferrándiz. “Colour is a decisive element in the purchasing process of any product”. That’s why its study and application to fashion designs is one of the most important processes that professionals face.

In the trend centre

The ESDi Color_LAB, part of Ramon Llull University, is the only member of the international association to come from the world of academia. The other members represent businesses and associations. “We are very open to including new partners in Intercolor, but it isn’t always easy coordinating with other countries to get an organisation that is truly representative of it to join. The Philippines and Brazil are countries we would like to join us in the future,” Guillemin says.

For Encarna Ruiz, the benefits of forming part of Intercolor are very clear: “Our students can get first-hand knowledge of the origin and application of trends and colours. Furthermore, by taking part in Intercolor we become a benchmark and fashion-sector opinion leader, and this is a role that is essential within the industry”. 

Before ESDi Color_LAB, the Spanish representative at Intercolor was the Spanish Fashion Institute, but since 2012 it has been this university centre located in Sabadell that has taken the reins of the organisation financed by the Ministry for Industry. This change has contributed to Barcelona and the trends that are generated in the city taking on a more prominent role within the colour chart that is firstly sent to spinners, weavers and pattern-makers. “They all represent the first rung on the ladder. Once the fabrics are prepared, they are taken to shows so that designers can acquire them and start the creation process,” says the director of the ESDi colour laboratory.

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