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A Circle Of Colors: How The Pantone Color Of The Year Trend Started

Some trends are such path-breaking ones that it can often seem like they are traditions. When we think of Pantone’s Color Of The Year, we often assume that it has just been around forever, maybe even since before the world wars.

However, Pantone has only been declaring the Color Of The Year for about twenty odd years now. However, we can track trends from further back- fifty years to be precise since the time Pantone was started.

Yes, the defining authority of color is only about fifty years old!

Interesting, isn’t it? Here’s a brief history of Pantone, trends over time, and how cyclical patterns help expand the seven colors of the rainbow into a plethora of hues and shades.

A Brief History Of Pantone’s COTY

It all started with Cerulean in the year 2000. The very first Color Of The Year made as much of a splash as the very first one can be expected to make. However, what held Pantone in good stead on the years since is the fact that they comb every trend, every medium and every significant event in the year gone by to predict a color that best represents the future.

If you think this is abstract, think again. Since the times of early theatre, the use of color in costumes has been a way to represent a range of emotions. Red for anger, blue for sadness- we all remember these things!

So, it is not really a surprise that the current socioeconomic mood dictates what color we go after. What’s truly remarkable is the process itself.

The first step, of course, is observing what is already being picked up. People are the early indicators of trends shaping up. Then, color experts look at trends across industries and consumer products, evaluating everything from lipsticks and bags to cars and wall paints. Lastly, there’s the process of defining the shades and applications.

Indeed, it also helps that Pantone is an authority on the subject, so the fashion industry follows suit, and we begin to see these colors both on and off the runway.

A Cyclical Affair

Perhaps because trends are wont to reappear, or maybe because we only have so many colors at the end of the day, we often notice patterns over time in how the colors make a comeback albeit in different shades. In 2000, the world was upbeat and the new millennium had just dawned- and Cerulean Blue represented hope and ‘looking up into the sky.’

However, come 2002, and the world had not recovered from the shock of the 9/11 attacks, thus giving way to True Red, the color of compassion and love.

But in 2003, blue was back again as Aqua Sky- a reflection of contemplation and serenity. This also inched closer to the very first COTY by several degrees. We see this trend continuing in 2005 with Blue Turquoise and again in 2008 with Blue Iris. That the preceding years were often marked by significant transformations is no coincidence- 2002 marked the beginning of the US war on Afghanistan, while 2007 was the year when having the first African American President became a possibility. In other words, blue is the color of calm and balance in a changing world.

We see this with other Pantone colors over the year as well.

Shades of orange and brown have often been chosen as statement-makers, and this year’s living coral is a great example of understated exuberance if such a thing can even be said to exist. Before Living Coral came Marsala in 2015, and Tangerine Tango in 2012. We’re really curious about the last one though- was Tangerine Tango supposed to be the last hurrah before the world was supposed to end. (Yes, that does seem like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Instead of the world’s end, what we got was a doomsday prophecy and a lousy movie, but we digress.) Colors on the orange spectrum often represent earthiness with a hint of OTT. Warm, welcoming, assertive- everything that today’s millennial is striving, sometimes struggling to be.

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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