To stay fresh and relevant, it is important to stock the right colors to match today’s trends. The challenge is making sure you present the trending colors to your customers and have product by the time trends are in full swing. The perfect solution in these cases is color forecasting: Predicting the color trends of the next season. Mitch Heiman from Perrin Sportswear has some insight on how to go about it.
How do you decide which colors to stock in your business?
We do a lot of it through color forecasting, which is the practice of predicting colors and color stories your customers will want to purchase. It helps us get the right products at the right time with what's on trend. We forecast at least twice a year. We start with the Spring/Summer palette the summer before. Then early on in the year, we're going to look at colors we think we're going to keep after summer, and the new colors we will layer in to compliment Fall updates.
Where do you go for inspiration and research?
With the internet, there's no shortage of information on what's trending with colors! There are many different segments of business we look to for inspiration. A great place is what's happening with apparel, fashion and on the runways. That's going to include clothing, handbags and personal accessories. Then we look at home decor, accent pieces and even paint schemes. The big one is Pantone's Color of the Year, which is typically announced in the fourth quarter of the year. Unfortunately, if we wait for that announcement, we may be behind the eight ball for some customers that need to have their spring assortments finalized prior to Pantone’s pick. Finally, we look at the new colors that manufacturers of blank goods are releasing in the coming year and how that ties into these other areas of inspiration. Once we've done that, we'll try and dial in with some trend boards that are going to show and support the colors we're suggesting.
Are there any unexpected things to consider when forecasting colors?
We have to remember not all colors that are trending are going to translate into wearable garment colors. Take a bright, yellow/green color like citron for instance (which comes in and out of fashion often). It can make for a great throw pillow, accent or accessory, but it's not always the easiest color to wear! In these instances, we’ll always look at whether there are shades in that family that might be a better alternative and still be trend relevant.
We also look at where our customers are located, and the end user our customers are marketing to, and what that means for trend colors. Certain markets and areas can really lend themselves to some of the trends while others don’t. For example, look at tie-dye. In certain souvenir and theme parks, it always has a market. This season it had a real presence with many of the New York designers for Spring. Conversely, on the West Coast, they weren't doing as much with tie-dye. There was a larger focus on ombre and softer washes with a relaxed feel. We'll always try to target the colors that are suited to the right opportunities.
Additionally, anytime we're forecasting, we always try to remember that regardless of those trends, shades of blacks, greys and blues are always going to be some of the bestsellers in decorator's apparel. We will layer those in with our color assortments because they're not going away.
What do you do once you’ve done all your research and consideration?
We’ll create a color story of about 6-8 colors that we're going to look at. Once we have that, we'll think about how we'll decorate with inks - tying back to the garments and picking up on some of the hues and values. If we've got some brighter colors that are trending which might be too much for garments, we're definitely going to use those in our inks for our designs. Sometimes it's a lot easier to sell a pop of citron ink on a garment than have a full-blown citron t-shirt for example.
Do you have any other advice for someone looking to start color forecasting?
I think the important thing is that any time you're suggesting and presenting new colors to your accounts, put together some materials that support it. Often, if our customers have done well with certain colors, they going to need a reason why [to change]. Storyboards will go a long way in showing your customers why they should consider these new colors to broaden their assortments, look more trend relevant and boost their sales.