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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Ready for winter 2006?
All being well, you should be reading this while wearing green, or yellow. But who decided these are the colours of the moment, and what will they get you to buy next?

As winter arrives, so too does the chance for clothes firms to foist another season's worth of outfits on shoppers.

Shrek
Shrek - an unlikely fashion guru

If the stores get it right the public will spend millions on new outfits; if not there will be plenty to rifle through in the sales.

But what people are picking off the rails now is of secondary importance to the designers and manufacturers already thinking about where trends will be in the months to come.

Indeed, colour experts are already deciding which shades will be fashionable in winter 2006. (For those hoping to plan ahead, the look is "luminescence", apparently).

Picking the right hue is no small matter, says colour reference firm Pantone, as it is "responsible for 80% of the buying decision".

But is it really just a question of telling the public to "like this", or do the colour forecasters really know which way public opinion is swinging?

Shrek fashion


Last month, following London Fashion Week, the Magazine pointed out that every wardrobe should contain some green - suggesting that it is inspired by Robin and his merry men.

While the colour choice was right, the reason was off target, says colour expert Leatrice Eiseman. The inspiration is actually Shrek.

It was recommended to designers after an early preview of the film was thought to be "so charming" it would influence the children's market for months following its release.

Luckily, she says, a bit of Shrek fashion in your wardrobe now will still stand you in good stead, because the summer release of the sequel has given it longevity.

"It tells me the yellow and green is going to be prolonged in terms of shelf life," says Ms Eiseman.

Crystal ball

That a cartoon ogre should be influencing fashion is not particularly surprising says Ms Eiseman, who teams up with other colour experts twice a year to discuss coming trends.

The transfer between fashion and home happens very very quickly nowadays, it used to take as long as seven years
Leatrice Eiseman

Working up to two years ahead, they draw on everything from forthcoming films to specialist magazines, technology and the music industry to see what is going to be the next big thing.

She says that while none of the team has a crystal ball, the forecasts they produce are not just down to guesswork.

Their predictions are used to produce Pantone's seasonal colour forecasts, which are frequently used by designers to help them chose shades for everything from T-shirts to toasters.

"We're not just a group of people who sit around serendipitously saying 'let's just foist this on an unsuspecting public'," says Ms Eiseman, author of titles including the Color Answer Book. "There's a lot of work that goes into choosing a colour."

Green walls

Correctly predicting which colours people will be wearing has an important knock-on effect for other markets, particularly home design, says Ellen Pinto of Pantone.

'Luminescence', courtesy of Pantone
Luminescence - it's what everyone will be wearing, you know

Shrek green is on its way into people's houses, she predicts, whether it's painted on walls, or used for products like kettles, or even furniture

It's nearly always the case that new colours first appear in clothes shops because mistakes there are less costly.

When a colour becomes well-established it will quickly appear in other markets, particularly if people are feeling financially secure and ready to risk a bright red sofa, for example.

Antenna

With so much at stake, the manufacturers have to make sure they know what the right colour is well ahead of time. It takes 18 months to get a shirt off the drawing board and on to the shelves, for example.

Which brings things back to "luminescence", the range of colours which everyone will apparently be wearing two years from now.

While Ms Eiseman is loathe to give away her customers' secrets, Pantone's image of vibrant blues and greens should give some clues about where she thinks things are heading.

For any doubters, the clues are all around us - blues similar to those expected to turn up in clothes shops are already appearing as LEDs in cars, she points out. It's a clue.

"We have these antennas that start to quiver," she says.


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