David Shah is the publisher of Metropolitan Publishing BV which includes Textile View Magazine, View2, Viewpoint, PANTONE View Colour Planner and View China; co-publisher of United Publishers S.A., Paris' View on Colour and In View Magazine; and co-publisher with CTDC, China of VIFF and CFCA Colour Planner. He is additionally the owner and director of DRS Consultancy BV, a specialist company dealing in publishing, fashion, lifestyle concepts, future strategies and designing and merchandising for men's and women's clothing for leading European and American chain stores and designer labels. view-publications.com/content.html
TONES: There's a new sense of populism in the world today, a renewed feeling of respect for collective thinking and action. How is this affecting the ways we conceive, convey and consume fashion and lifestyle goods?
DAVID SHAH: Society, in the West at least, has become completely 'untribal' in the last few decades. Membership of church denominations, unions and political parties has plummeted. Society has become classless with no identifiable sharing of common values, experiences and grievances. We have become too geographically mobile to belong to a place.
If we are to move from the concept of financial prosperity to the idea of emotional prosperity we are going to have to put a value on things that are increasingly scarce and don't have price tags - open spaces, security, reductions in pressure, friendship, meaning, communication etc.
That's easy to talk about! But, in the end, you are always going to have to link 'happynomics' to policy. How do you promote down shifting, reductionism and conviviality, at the same time as creating jobs and keeping the economy going? Perhaps there is an answer - an answer, which lies in thinking 'local', and 'neighbourhood'!
In our PANTONEVIEW Colour Planner for Spring/Summer 2013 entitled Unity, we talk about the importance of community. "Community" is a word that embraces many ideals from neighbourly behaviour, thinking local and conviviality to modern media jargon like 'geo-location' marketing. The fact is that human emotions aside, there is business logic to it as well.
The power of collective individuals has never been so great, as companies begin to use crowd sourcing and consumer voting as a means to design and improve product offerings. The coming together of the financial crisis and the sophistication of digital technology has meant that traditional retail models are turned on their heads as groups of consumers innovate a new and exciting retail market in handbags, shoes, local goods and resources.
We are also re-discovering our heritage and our traditions in a modern, digitized manner. Bartering, haggling and group purchasing is on the up as transition towns grow in popularity and
communities negotiate with others to get a cheaper deal. The power of one can be great, but the power of many is even more formidable.
TONES: Do you feel our color trends reflect economic conditions, run counter to them, or remain independent of them?
DS: It used to be said that hemlines followed the economy: also that colour reflected the general morale of consumers. This is not true anymore. Fashion and colour continues to create its own rules as we go along. For example, it used to be said that colour trends work in cycles. OK if that's so, why has red been with us for four years? When we hit the Lehman crisis October 2008, everybody believed that people would buy less and turn to investment fashion. Quite the contrary! Thanks to China and its aggressive production costs, budget retail boomed and fast fashion got faster and faster - at least in Europe. It was the same with colour; brights just got more and more popular. The cynical will say that bright colour is just a cheap way of cheering up the market, changing product with a quick 'paint job' and rebranding without investing. I do not agree. The feeling for colour goes deeper than this - as the new season shows. This is not the moment for 'nothing' greys. It is a time to stand up and be seen!
TONES: You've said that blues are losing their ethereal and contemplative associations and attaching more to physicality and action. What do you think is causing this shift?
DS: You asked in an earlier question whether colour reflected current economic conditions. I answered, "less so!" But, still, colour is always some kind of reflection of what is going on around us. The 1990s were all about 'green' - Gaia and mother earth! Now our concerns have switched to fears about water pollution and shortages. Hence the feeling for all those watery and washed out blues that were so dominant this summer.
As we move on a year, blues are no longer associated with fluid and liquid end-uses alone. They also take on more rugged and rigorous characteristics. They are teamed to colours of the land like ochre and sand and are to be seen in firmly 'constructed' end-uses. This new strength of character means that blue is rapidly turning into a 'basic' building block, usurping the role that black used to play.
Remember, you cannot divorce blue from denim and chambray and with that comes whole stories of pioneering and the traditional American work ethos! Interestingly enough, Levis, whose jeans are a standard for both, has been quick to understand this. Hence the wonderful advertising campaigns about Braddock and renewing run-down towns that have suffered tremendous job losses.
TONES: Weighty neutrals remain strong yet vibrant brights are emerging in every product category. Do you feel these two trends reflect division and conflict?
DS: There is no conflict in this statement. The point is that the concept of colour is touching everything - even those eternal neutrals like sand and beige. The new calling is for basic tones that are shaded and imbued with peaceful and beautiful colour. This sea change in traditional and fundamental parts of the palette will affect all end-uses and sectors of industry. So, get ready for that classic trench coat resurrected in new mid-tone hues with a weight and complexity never fully explored in the past!
Remember, too, that when we are talking about brights and colour, we are not just talking about simple primary hues anymore but move-ons into sophisticated levels, allowing for clever plays on colour and complex mixes, where tones are paired or worked in larger groups (often with neutrals and the new coloured neutrals) to bring drama and newness.
TONES: Metallic colors and finishes have been with us for a few seasons now. How are they managing to stay current?
DS: Metallics have become so much a part of our everyday colour language, they have lost that special rarity and reside as core colours of our luxury and technological culture. Nor will that change! What we are going to see, however, is a shift from accepted metal hues like gold, silver and bronze to far more iridescent or mirrored tones that are powered by light rather than a mineral lustre. Metallics also become more colourful. In addition, there is a move away from all-over surface coatings to integrated and broken effects worked within structures and materials. For example, changeant and tonic effects will be more evident within threads and yarns: cellophane and other colour shift effects create iridescent playful surfaces.
TONES: Black can be classic or it can be edgy. Where is black today? What is it signaling?
DS: Black is typical of the concept of cycle even though it seems to have been an endless cycle starting in the 1980s. Black emerged 30 years ago, evolved from being a 'fashion victim' and 'designer' uniform colour, grew in influence and power and became a total basic at every level of the market (including table-top T-shirts). Now, at the
end of its lifecycle, black seems to be in danger of being pushed out by colour - indeed, fashionistas are saying there's no room for black anymore in the winter wardrobe!
How wrong they are. Black has not disappeared at all. It is just starting its eternal circle/cycle all over again. And, it looks absolutely new, absolutely avant-garde, re-born not as a one, single black but in many different guises, intensities and militant options thanks to its marriage to light, texture, material and depth. It's interesting how the Victoria & Albert museum in London has just been celebrating the work of Yohji Yamamoto, whose work and world irrevocably centre around the concept of black. When once asked why, he answered that black was not a colour but 'all colours'.
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