“Colour is a Feeling”

Pepa Poch, Painter

We interview painter Pepa Poch to find out more about the way her art influences fashion and about the work she does as the only Spanish representative of the International Colour Authority.


Seeking the origins of the colours that prevail in fashion leads us to painter and artist Pepa Poch. Colour is the raison d’être of her paintings: she spends her time surrounded by oils and pigments and knows how to interpret the relationship produced between light and the bodies on which it is reflected like nobody else.


Her love of painting stems from her parents, who were also painters, while her relationship with fashion began in childhood, when her mother was a costume designer with Balenciaga. Surrounded by drawings by the master Spanish designer and her parents’ paintings, an artistic sensibility was born in her that today she expresses on fabric.


Poch talks about feelings, intimacy and the soul to express the meanings of the concept of colour. The chromatic universe around her is infinite and is always linked to personal experiences and the time she has spent in the different countries of the world where she has lived. Each country left an imprint in the form of a painting or artistic creation and, above all, in the shades she draws on to create a new colour.


The way in which Pepa Poch distils new colour ranges is a very important process for knowing the reason behind fashion colour trends. She is the only Spanish member of the International Colour Authority (ICA), a private organisation responsible for forecasting the colour trends that will reign in fashion each season.


Poch has been with the ICA since 1999, when she surprised the other 14 members of the organisation with her groundbreaking, bold designs. Fifteen years on, her work at the ICA now goes beyond detecting colour trends to largely creating them.


The best way to understand this process and the complexity of the meanings Pepa Poch awards to colour is to look at her paintings. During this interview we do just that, seated in front of one called “Sopa d’amor” (Love Soup).


You have just come back from the annual meeting of the International Colour Authority. What did you do there?

I took along my colour proposals for the 2015-2016 season.


You are the only Spanish representative of the ICA and your colour proposals have been illustrating its trends catalogue for the past 12 years. How did you get your start with them?

The Spanish Fashion Institute put my name up for replacing the former representative at the ICA. They had seen my work illustrating the Institute’s magazine and decided to send me along to present their proposal. When I got there, the ICA asked me which colours I would personally present and I surprised them with a very bold palette – strong colours that had a great deal of strength and light. After that I became a member.


There are 15 countries in the ICA and yet you all come out with a single palette. How do you do it?

Yes; although we all have different cultural roots and influences we end up converging in one proposal.


What process does that take?

We meet up in London for three days. Nobody mentions their ideas on the first night, but the next day we present them and defend our positions, with the aid of photographs or magazine cuttings. I take my paintings along, although these days I take smaller versions of them because it’s very hard to carry them on the plane. It may seem surprising, but at the end of the presentations we always realise that we agree! Without having to talk about it beforehand, we all converge in the proposals we make.


What colour trends did you defend this year?

Oranges and fuchsias were the stars. We generally have good judgement and that helps us all to agree at the end.


Has the financial crisis affected colour trends?

Yes, we have started to speak more about periods rather than long-term trends because colours don’t come and go as quickly today. It used to be the case that pink, for example, was on-trend…and then the next thing you knew it had disappeared.


What role has art played in extending trends?

Art managers are making a clear commitment to making things more timeless. The idea is to get trends to last longer and to update them with really contemporary accessories. People need things to last longer because no-one can afford to shop as much!


What else did you do in London besides meet up with the ICA?

I took part in the presentation of my new exhibition “Riba London” at the Royal Institute of British Architects.


Does fashion begin with art?

Art is a very important source of creation. I would say that art is very serious and fashion changes faster and is more frivolous. But they are both parts of culture and stem from feelings and trends.


What is it that unites art and fashion?

At the end of the day, designers work in parallel to artists. Fashion, makeup and products in general always keep one eye on art. How many collections have we seen in the past few years inspired by Dalí or Mondrian! I myself made a tunic, when I was 18, that was inspired by Picasso and which won the Roviralta Foundation prize. 


How do you interpret technology’s role in artistic creation?

Technology seems to make everything easier. We can take a colour and put it where we want, or strike a key and do what we want, it’s that easy! But it’s important to have a foundation! I come from a school where we were taught that everything had to be done in pencil. Today images are digitalised and printed on a canvas and they simply fill it in with colour. I’m not saying that’s not art, that’s not what I’m saying, but it’s a type of art that isn’t as expressive and which doesn’t have as much value.


Does it happen in fashion, too?

The trend is similar. I remember Ava Gardner and other artists who wore glamorous clothes made especially for them – gosh, the way those clothes moved! It’s true that now we have to be practical and we can’t always dress like that. I myself need a t-shirt to paint in. But I believe that we have reached a time when technology should be set aside a bit.


To what end?

We should try to go back to something more primitive, manual and artisan. Possibly not quite as primitive as when I dyed clothes traditionally using natural pigments in Conakry, Guinea…


Many of the influences on your work come about from the trips you’ve taken to Africa, the US, Greece. Do you go there to look for new inspirations?

The reality is that life took me there, I didn’t go there to look for anything. When I had a show on at the Ayala Museum in the Philippines I found new palettes and images which I later reproduced in my work.


And Cuba – is that where this painting in front of us emerged from?

Yes, it’s called Love Soup and I painted it there.  


Empordà, where you live – What does it contribute to your creative world and colour palette?

It contributes a lot. For example, that was where I painted the La Renaissance series featuring dry sunflowers. Empordà is the only place where they are found.


Your parents were both painters, but they also worked in the advertising and fashion sectors.

There is one part of the art world where you have to earn your living and you often have to do something else as well until you achieve recognition. My father was a painter but he worked in advertising for many years, and my mother was a costume designer. There are two types of painters: the one who works in what he can and the one who inherits a name that allows him to earn a living from his paintings from the start…


Have you been able to earn a living from your art?

Yes, luckily I have managed to and also I paint what I want. I make the paintings that I would hang in my home.


What painting are you working on now?

I am doing a portrait for a project about homeless people, run by Barcelona City Council. I have met up with the person I will paint; I’ve spent a lot of time talking to her and she has conveyed the ideas of what I will paint. I paint portraits of the soul!

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