Who decides that everyone will be wearing the same color for 3 months?
May 9, 2013 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Everyone is wearing mint green as of spring. EVERYONE. How does this happen?

Is there a fashion counsel in a dark room, like at the beginning of Zoolander, where they confer? Do they review which colors are in surplus and push those, like the specials on a restaurant menu?

This is the first time that I have ever noticed a color overtly and aggressively saturating every corner of the sartorial landscape. My guess would be that it's actually happened every season of my life and this just happens to be the most eye-catching color-- lots of contrast and such.

What in general (in the sense that this has indeed always happened) and specifically (in the sense that mint green was chosen to cover every human frame for Spring 2013) is going on here?

if it matters: I live in Seattle, I'm not remotely 'inside baseball' about fashion, & I'm a 35 year old male.
posted by herbplarfegan to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
It starts with an amazing fashion show somewhere. That trickles down. Fashion media, wholesalers, copiers, etc.

The scene in The Devil Wears Prada explains it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:27 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't know how accurate a depiction of the industry is, but there's a scene in The Devil Wears Prada that covers this very thing.
posted by jquinby at 10:27 AM on May 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yes, there really is an international color planning conspiracy. It's called the Color Marketing Group. They decree what colors will be available every season, allowing sufficient advance time for the fashion industry time to make the clothing.

The positive side of this is that you can find socks in the right shade to match your shirt (or shoes for your dress or whatever). The negative side is that some years there simply is nothing available in the color you're looking for. Entire years go by in which you cannot buy any purple clothing, say. It's what makes me obsessed with dyeing my own clothes, so i can get the colors I want.
posted by Ery at 10:28 AM on May 9, 2013 [18 favorites]

It's emergent behaviour of a complex system. It filters down from fashion houses to high end retail to low end retail over a couple of years. Someone in NY or Paris or London will be able o tell you what colours will be in next spring.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2013

Pantone color report! Which follows on the heels of various Pantone color forecasts - which I believe involve focus groups, industry leaders and a bit of wishful thinking.

Has this "always" happened? I would argue that fast fashion and data tracking have meant that it is more systematic and pervasive, and that there is more of an idea in the air that certain colors are very "now". Fast fashion means, of course, that people are buying more - if you buy one or two new things every season, you may not buy mint green or want something acutely trendy, but if you pick something up once a week at Target or H&M, you probably will. It's possible to "keep up" with fashion in ways that it was not as recently as ten years ago.

Since the modern fashion system got started, particular colors have been fashionable at particular times - certainly, the discovery of bright aniline dyes in the 19th century made those colors intensely fashionable for a while. And there were colors that were really fashionable around Queen Victoria's jubiliee and again at the coronation of....er...the British monarch who was crowned in the late thirties?

I feel like fashionable colors change up faster now than they used to, though.
posted by Frowner at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Psh, Wall-E explains it way better than the Devil Wears Prada. "Try blue, it's the new red!"
posted by resurrexit at 10:35 AM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

This totally does happen every year, or season, or whatever. I never follow which colors are "coming up". No one has to. What color is in? The one that freaking everyone is suddenly wearing at the same time.

But I think people aren't necessarily driven to buy the Current Color of clothing, out of an inner scream of trendiness. When there are only a few colors floating around in every shop you go to, you end up saying, "Okay fine, I'll get this thing, because that's what's available". Trend-followers are obviously numerous - but even if you aren't trendy, you get stuck with the trend when it's all you can find in stores.

(Does this mean the godawful unflattering shades of yellow are going out? Because I've been kind of twiddling my thumbs waiting for a mint green surge, and finally it has arrived. After this, god only knows how long it'll be until I can acquire clothing in any of my favorite colors. The next wave is probably going to be the kind of purples and browns that make me look jaundiced, and it'll be another eternity until I can find colorful clothing I can stand.)
posted by Coatlicue at 10:51 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might be interested in some of the stories NPR has done recently on "fast fashion" -- here's one.
posted by amanda at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Every year it's the same thing. I remarked about this same color yesterday as four young fashion forward women were all wearing it.

What is especially intersting to me as a seasoned thrift store shopper that when a specific color is 'in' one year, the next year it is noticeably dated. And the thrift store is full of items in that color. A few years ago an intense pink was in, in shirts, jackets and dresses especially. Unique Thrift is full of them.

Also red pants this year.
posted by readery at 10:54 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Beware of selective perception. You may be seeing that color everywhere, but that doesn't mean it's everywhere. If you were a street painter, you would see painted street lines everywhere. If you were a light installer, you'd see lights everywhere. If you were a curtain maker, you'd be seeing curtains everywhere. You notice what you are tuned in to notice, whether it's a thing or a color or whatever.
posted by Dansaman at 10:54 AM on May 9, 2013

I feel like fashionable colors change up faster now than they used to, though.

The reason fashion has seasons is less to do with the actual seasons of the year and more to do with the three months required to get clothing from the royal courts to further flung outposts, and later the transatlantic crossing that was required to get clothing from Worth to New York, and from New York to the rest of the continent. Moving what influenced was slow. It got incrementally faster with better transportation, but its become exponentially faster with electronic transit.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:59 AM on May 9, 2013

Beware of selective perception. You may be seeing that color everywhere, but that doesn't mean it's everywhere.

Yes, this happens, but color trends are definitely a thing, and he is not imagining it.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2013

It's called the Color Marketing Group.

I was a member once. We'd meet twice a year and discuss trends in our individual industries (not just fashion!) and create a consensus for color palettes a year or so out. It was fun...sort of. Great parties.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:03 PM on May 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

Also, there are general palettes of seasonal color.

Spring: pastels. Think robin's egg blue, mint green, pale yellow, pale pink.
Summer: Bold colors and bright white. Think strong blue, bright white, turquoise, hot pink, neons.
Autumn: Jewel tones. Emerald green, plum, russet brown, orange, gold.
Winter: Cool colors and metallics. Grey, silver, gold, black, pale rose pink, brown.

However, as you've noticed, The Color Of The Season is picked from within that pallete - so, for instance, mint green is The Spring Pastel this year.
posted by RogueTech at 12:06 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

And the reason why everyone is wearing the same color is that that is whate they are finding in the stores everywhere too. As someone else pointed out, finding other shades is kind of a bitch. So we all end up dressing alike.

Well, not me, of course, because I'm a special snowflake. But everyone else :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:18 PM on May 9, 2013

Emerald is the Pantone Color of the Year.

I read an explanation once. Retailers buy palettes from Pantone and that means you can buy socks from one place and shirts from another and they match.

("Lively. Radiant. Lush... A color of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony." Apparently.)
posted by 4bulafia at 3:51 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

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