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Are colour trends a thing of the past?

Posted on: 30 Nov 2017

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I am a trendwatcher, and I have a problem. For some years now, very little that's new is being produced. The eclectic style is predominant. We seem to have been designed out. For that reason, in recent times I have increasingly been focusing on colour. Colours are the embodiment of a societal trend.

Incarnadine colours

Take the soft pink and the greyish blue that were everywhere during Milan Design Week. My German friend Axel Venn, colour professor and author of 'Das Farbwörterbuch’ (The Colour Dictionary) refers to them as 'incarnadine colours'. Colours of the skin, the eyes, the mouth. The fact that they are almost timeless - despite all the 'this year's colours' - tells us about a profound need for more humanity. Tatooing also points to the yearning for a unique identity.  You often see these colours in combination with rounded female forms.

'Incarnadine colours' - the colours of the skin, the mouth, the eyes, tell us about the yearning for more humanity.

'Incarnadine colours' - the colours of the skin, the mouth, the eyes, tell us about the yearning for more humanity.

'Incarnadine colours' - the colours of the skin, the mouth, the eyes, tell us about the yearning for more humanity.

Pink, the colour seen most at Milan Design Week 2017.

Niek De Prest.

Bernhardt Design.

Hesitant colours

But I also see a lot of hesitant colours that are particularly suitable for people who prefer not to have an opinion. NCS S 5020-R80B and blurple (blue + purple) belong to this group. You could describe these colours as difficult. They are neither one thing nor the other, and partly because of that, they point to the absence of a trend that makes a statement.

Blurple, blue + purple, is a typical doubt colour.

Algorithms that predict colour trends and make combinations

I have kept loads of photos and presentations from the early years of my career as a trendwatcher (I started in 2004). I have also been taking another look at the colour ranges from those days, and have been plagued by self-criticism. How could I have treated colour so carelessly? Today I approach colour with the methodology of a mind hunter;-). Not that gut feeling is no longer involved, but knowledge clearly has the upper hand. I notice this in the fashion industry too: there, algorithms are used to predict the next colour trend and colour combinations are increasingly pre-ordained by software. It’s not the trends that prevail, but the economic objectives, the target groups, the turnover.  And it works.

So are colour trends really a thing of the past?

The industry will continue to put trend colours forward, and trendwatchers will look for and find patterns. But anyone who dares to look beyond this knows that colours are no longer the end. They are the means. Today, colour must develop an intimate relationship with customers and incite them to buy.  The time when a brand developed a recognisable brand identity and applied it in the same way everywhere, is also a thing of the past.

Niek De Prest

Trend Analyst & Business manager @ Bigfish

Niek De Prest

Niek De Prest has been working as a trend analyst and communication expert since 2005. Her trend projections are mainly related to the world of technology, innovation and life style. Niek de Prest is business manager of BigFish, a dynamic company which turns trend analysis into down to earth business strategies and effective communication.

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