Color of 2017? Pantone Picks a Spring Shade

That may seem facile as a reading, but, well … who ever said humanity was subtle? Certainly the psychology of color ranges from the obvious (red represents aggression; pink is swaddling and calms people) to the chiaroscuro.


Haute House Tiffany Damask Chair.

When the Pantone team started noticing the creeping preponderance of green, there was a sense that perhaps it reflected what was regarded earlier this fall as the possibility of a new beginning with the first female president. But in the wake of Mr. Trump’s victory and the dissension it highlighted, Ms. Eiseman said, green “could have an even more significant meaning.”

“This particular green is an unusual color: a combination of yellow and blue, or warmth and a certain cool,” she said. “It’s a complex marriage.”

Which is probably putting what is going to have to happen in the current political climate mildly.

Pantone started choosing Colors of the Year at the turn of the millennium, in part as a way to demonstrate the psychology around what makes a color take off and to answer the question every fashion person is routinely asked, “Why is the color ____ so popular this season?”

Though the selections serve no direct consumer purpose — Pantone doesn’t sell any products related to the choices, nor does it license a symbol to other companies to denote they are using the Color of the Year — and hence the company has no way of measuring the effect of its declaration, the colors have become a sort of windsock for determining which way the national mood is blowing.

Certainly, I can attest to the fact that pretty much just minutes after the announcement is made, my inbox is inundated with emails from brands and retailers promoting products available in the Color of the Year. Airbnb was so excited, it is collaborating with Pantone for the first time next year on a Color of the Year “experience,” transforming one of its listed properties into an immersive greenery environment.


From left: Robert Geller, spring 2017; Prada, spring 2017; and Gucci, spring 2017.

From left: Firstview; Giuseppe Cacace/Agence-France Presse — Getty Images; Firstview

You could argue that the selection is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, except the point is that the products are already there (otherwise they couldn’t be marketed so immediately), which supports Pantone’s contention that it has identified a burgeoning trend.

For 2015, thus, it chose marsala, an “earthy” red-brown shade named after the fortified wine, which also happened to be the color of many politicians’ ties leading up to election year, in part because the color conveys a sense of comfort and security. For 2013, it was emerald, as seen that year on Michelle Obama in Marchesa at the Kennedy Center Honors, a dress that practically broke the internet.

Last year, Pantone took the radical step of choosing two colors — serenity and rose quartz (a.k.a. baby blue and light pink) — the better to reflect the gender-bending move toward “equality and fluidity” taking place across society (and fashion).

The process, which takes about nine months, is highly subjective, as Pantone admits, and more about instinct than science. Essentially, the team fans out across the globe and explores industries, to collect what they refer to as “proof points” — from car shows, on the runways, in decorator showcases and so on. At a certain stage they begin to notice meaningful overlap and narrow down the choices. Then one shade achieves critical mass.

“We ask ourselves about the message that color brings, and how we may be trying to use color to shape our experience,” Ms. Eiseman said.

This time they started noticing a startling ubiquity of leaf green. There was leaf green on the runway, for example, poking up around the fall 2014 shows and building through spring 2017, when brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, Michael Kors and Prada (to name a few) all featured it to varying extents. Tech companies like using leaf green in their offices. The Cité de la Mode et du Design, which houses the French Institute of Fashion, features a transparent walkway, lit in leaf green, visible from the Seine. Matcha tea is, well, hot.

The new Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster comes in a particularly fetching shade of leaf green. Green walls are becoming architectural staples in the form of vertical gardens, and green juice is everywhere. The Green party is growing in prominence. Dr. Strange wears a green amulet known as the eye of Agamotto, which has migrated into the children’s costume universe. Dior’s new makeup colors include a lip shade called “clover,” which is all you need to know.


A Mercedes AMG GT-R was on display at the Paris Motor Show in October.

Bernard Menigault/Corbis, via Getty Images

Though many women may recoil when they are told green is the Color of the Year — some think it is hard to wear — Julianne Moore wore leaf green Givenchy to the 2016 Screen Actors Guild awards, and Hillary Clinton wore it on the campaign trail. (Full disclosure: The New York Times has leaf green office chairs in many of its meeting rooms and offices.) If, as fashion theory holds, three examples of anything is a trend, this is a tsunami.

“There’s a Japanese concept called ‘forest bathing,’ which says that when you are feeling stressed, one of the best things to do is go walk in the forest,” Ms. Eiseman said. “But if you can’t do that, what can you do? Bring green into your environment. Put in on your body, or in your house or near your desk. That symbolic message is very important.”

In any case, you get the idea. And if you don’t, the seeds have been planted. It’ll grow on you.

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