This is the fourth essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.
In late fall 1982, one of the six persons who determine the world's future fashion colors visited Portland. When Nancy Murgatroyd, fabric designer for Alexon, England's quality fashion house, showed her forecast color-range selections to Monica Monaghan of Pendleton Woolen Mills, the two women found that their choices for the '85/'86 fashion color season matched with some precision.
Because the production of fabric dyes, weaving of fabrics, manufacture of garments and their distribution to sales rooms take three years, the decisions about which colors you will wear next year were made in 1982.
We traveled to New York with Murgatroyd to interview the color-trend experts at the Pat Tunsky firm, the company that publishes a quarterly "Colors Advisement" bulletin for the fashion industry. Murgatroyd's British color range forecasts were in tune with theirs.
From her London office, Murgatroyd makes frequent trips to the centers of color selection in Paris and Milan. Future colors are an international design factor.
Although the determinations include a variety of color ranges to suit the seasons, the high fashion leadership range for the '85/'86 fall season is projected to be deep, dark, color-strong selections with small accents of bright primary colors.
Now, in 1984, a new set of color tastes is entering the international market, a turn in color combinations instigated by Japanese technology. Although everyone involved with color recognizes that the visible color spectrum (the rainbow) contains only six colors, combinations of the six, plus the inclusion of reflective intensities (white to gray to black) produce thousands of remarkable and subtle variations.
The combinations have been measured and standardized into mixing systems for industrial use. The color mixing system I know best is for printing inks; the most widely accepted trade system, the Panchromatic Matching System. (But even though thousands of colors are available to me by ordering with PMS numbers, I still can't find just the right color).
With the recent tremendous growth of the Japanese printing industry has come its own color mixing system, which offers far subtler variations than the American system. In addition, the Japanese sense of color combinations, flowing from the 5,000-year-old Chinese art culture, differs significantly from Western color combination traditions.
Now that Japanese industrial technology has made a new color system available to the fabric color selectors, the international fashion industry is forecasting new and exciting color combinations. The trend can already be seen with the popular 1984 color combination of bright pink and bright green. Because paint and printing inks do not have the three-year production turnaround time of the fabrics industry, this combination already has surfaced in interior design and printing.
The color selections of the fashion color trend-setters translate into furniture fabric choices, as well, and also mold color schemes for interior design. I have no doubt that Japanese color combinations are in the future of both fashion and furniture fabrics.
We've seen national color trends in the recent past. Ten years ago, architectural offices specified apple green as the most popular furniture fabric color. Today, plums and purples are pervasive.
Our current general color taste also continues to reflect the 1970s return to "nostalgia." Part of that shift to "Retro" includes the rediscovery of Art Nouveau, an 1890s organic decorative style that had a resurgence in the 1920s, and Art Deco, a geometric style of the '20s. The color styles for the period were based on the mass manufacture of new analine dyes in the early years of this century. The industry produced permanent, non-fading fabric colors, and "mauve," a pastel purple, became the rage. Compatible light colors, the "pastels," formed the color-range of " '20s Modern."
Replaying the pastels of the '20s is part of today's nostalgia trend in architecture and interior design. Portland has a prime example of "Post Modern" in architect Michael Graves' Portland Building, a playful mixing of colors from the '20s and '30s that already is a period piece of the 1970s color fads.
Our tastes in colors keep changing, and I, for one, am delighted with the more colorful world that new technology has brought us. Visually, it's much more cheerful.
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