Recently, I had lunch with the Design Director of Maxwell Fabrics, Jennifer Apple. We had a very interesting conversation about trends based on the experience she had while attending the Color Marketing Group conference three years ago.
Jennifer found that while knowing colour trends two to three years ahead is important, adopting the trends as soon as they arrive can be too early for her business. When a new colour trend arrives, it still takes a few years for the majority of homeowners to decide they love it enough to commit to buying designer fabric for their home.
It’s tricky. Since it takes about 18 months to design and develop a fabric collection, she needs to not only be aware of colour trends, but she must also try to predict which colours will actually have staying power.
Maxwell Fabrics have just had a huge run on red fabrics. Teals and turquoise have become almost a staple colour in their drapery and upholstery fabrics. These colours pair so well with so many other colours like coral, yellow and orange. But of course, Maxwell’s biggest sales come from all shades of gray.
Jennifer says, “The conversation [about colour and trends forecasting] definitely keeps me up at night.”
And what about companies that sell building products like siding and roofing? As it costs approximately $100,000 to develop a new colour in these types of products, they need to sell palettes that are timeless not trendy.
Since dark neutrals date much faster than light neutrals it would not make sense to jump on the trendy neutral of the moment no matter when it arrives since the siding on your house will not change with new colour trends.
I’ve been writing this blog (almost five years) and the trends in backsplash tile have already changed three times. This actually makes accent tile more of a fad then a trend since trends generally have a lifespan of approximately 10 years. It’s why when I get yet another email asking me which backsplash tile I would choose to coordinate with any particular countertop, my response is never creative and groundbreaking.
What about builders who are STILL installing espresso kitchens all over the country because most of them are men and they perceive a wood stain to be higher quality than a paint grade [white] cabinet. Clearly, they are the ones that desperately need to attend a colour forecasting conference. I’m just sayin’.
I’m constantly surprised, even here in Vancouver, at how many brand new developments are being filled with finishes that are so clearly dated.
I’ve talked to developmental designers about this and they tell me it’s for a couple of reasons. The first is that the developer can get huge savings on product that is not the current, cutting-edge colour.
The second is because most developers are hoping to sell their project within several months or a year.
They’re counting on the fact that new home buyers will be so happy to get a new build they won’t necessarily notice that the granite installed in the kitchen is the tail end of the trend, if not already past its sell-by date in terms of trends.
They’ll just be in love with the idea of granite. And by the time they move in and realize that the finishes in their new house are already dated, it’s too late.
On the West Coast when the brown trend was over (approximately four years ago) I started seeing brown cars on the road. Brand new. I was surprised, because at the trend forecasting conferences I was told that automotive companies need to really be able to see colour trends years out because of how long it takes to develop their colours.
It’s obviously a balancing act – knowing enough about colour forecasting to make these huge colour decisions years in advance, as well as having the guts to set up all your colour dyes to make products that will be in your line-up for a good amount of time. It’s not like changing the paint on your walls when you get tired of it as soon as a trend or fad changes.
So, when is colour forecasting helpful and useful? How does it make your world better?
Well, it’s like this. I was consulting with a client today who had earthy, sage green drapes along with taupes and creams in her living room. She needed a new area rug and I helped her find one. However, her options were much slimmer because those colours are more dated than what’s happening right now.
Have you ever noticed that if you choose a trend colour like turquoise and orange for example and then you find lamps in those colours and you can turn around and find some cushions to match!
You walk down the street to another store and find placemats and some accessories in the exact same colours?
Well, there’s an entire process that leads up to that placemat being the exact colour of everything else. That’s colour forecasting at work.
Or, how about this scene about the Cerulean sweater from the Devil Wears Prada?
It’s one of the best conversations that captures colour trends in action!
I’ll be at the Westin Mission Hills at the CMG Conference, if you are in the business of choosing colours for a product, you should be there too!
Tomorrow the early bird rate for my October workshop in Toronto expires, here’s what Becky Noelker from Inspired Spaces said about her experience last week:
“I’d like to say again that last week’s workshop was an amazing experience. Thank you, Maria, for sharing not only your expertise but just as importantly – sharing yourself with all of us! It was very touching. Your heart and passion for what you do are evident and amazing.
I never expected my confidence to increase so dramatically from attending just one workshop. You provided an experience and the tools that will help my skill level continue to grow.
Although I look forward to more webinars, the interaction and experience in a small group like this can’t ever be underestimated!!
The hands on exercises really helped validate my choices or highlighted my mistakes and how to make better decisions. The discussions about why certain choices are either right, wrong or could just be better is where confidence is built.”
Here’s how Colour Trend Forecasting Works
Colour Trends in San Antonio 2011
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