Pink isn’t just pink, it’s phlox or blush. Beige isn’t beige when it can be sand or champagne. And brown certainly would never be brown when it could be cinnamon, tobacco or stone.
Designers unveiling their latest looks at the semi-annual New York fashion week say they spend untold effort not only choosing colors but naming those hues, drawing inspiration from old movies, summer resorts, Victorian lingerie and even childhood memories.
At the Anne Klein show on Tuesday, the color brown was coined bark, white was cloud, black was pitch and pink was the phlox flower. At Bill Blass, brown was stone, gray was pearl, beige was champagne, off-white was candlelight, gold was cognac, green was seafoam, pink was blush and brown was cinnamon and butterscotch and creme brulee.
Color names derived from food, flowers and nature have the most appeal, color psychologist Leatrice Eiseman said.
“Who can resist?” said Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, considered by many to be a definitive source on color in fashion, textile and interior design.
“It evokes a picture and it evokes a scent,” she said. “You get as many senses going as possible.”
Take the word dew, she said. While it is neither tangible nor any particular color, “it’s something wonderful,” she said. By comparison, “Shrek” green, based on the children’s movie, would not be a particularly good name in fashion.
At the show by the Chaiken design house, dark blue was dusk, brown was nut, orange was sunset and green was sea. At Oscar de la Renta, green was absinthe and beige was sand. At Luca Luca, blue was water; at Nicole Miller, brown was tea; at Ellen Tracy, orange was tigerlily; at Peter Som, green was lawn and at Douglas Hannant, yellow was sunflower and orange was poppy.
Barefoot in the garden
“I was inspired by a barefoot walk through the garden,” Hannant said in a Pantone report on color use by designers released this week in conjunction with the hundreds of fashion shows going on in New York.
“I chose all the shades of the sun,” said Anne Klein designer Michael Smaldone in the same report.
Color trends emerge from such sources as a popular food or a traveling art exhibit, Eiseman said.
Chocolate and coffee colors such as espresso, latte and mocha, for example, grew out of the popularity of coffee bars in the 1990s, she said.
Each new fashion season does not necessarily produce new colors as much as subtle changes or unusual combinations such as Carolina Herrera’s use of typically fall colors such as black, white, citron (that’s yellow), burnt sienna (dark orange-brown) and cayenne (peppery pink) to produce one of the most memorable lines for next spring so far.
Herrera said she got her inspiration from her vision of “carefree days on the French Riviera in the 1930s.”