Some years ago, when working as a fashion buyer, I had a partner who was colour blind. Not only did he struggle to distinguish between different colours, but he couldn’t describe a colour either. So, when I would talk about a fern green, a sage green, an olive green or a pistachio, to him, all these amazing shades merged into one. Thankfully, he was an engineer and not working in fashion!
There are many ways in which a fashion buyer works with colour. From putting colour palettes together for a new season, to deciding on colourways for prints, to ensuring that the sage green in a top from one manufacturer in China, matches with the same shade from a knitwear supplier in India. Being able to see, describe and work with colour is a key skill to have. And it’s a skill that can be learned.
When I first started my career at Marks & Spencer, I was taught the language of colour, so that I could evaluate and distinguish one colour from another and be able to give our suppliers feedback on how to achieve the exact shade we were looking for. And when I was a buyer for Next, we worked with the design team to develop seasonal colour palettes that were not only on trend, but that also worked back with our core colours ensuring stores always looked fresh.
Whilst the buying team need to understand which colours are predicted to be on trend for a season, and where those trends are coming from, for example WGSN’s colour of the year for 2021, AI Aqua, seen below. The buyer also needs to understand how to develop palettes with core, seasonal and accent colours and how to schedule these through the season to give newness, but not create a cacophony that confuses the customer.
When communicating colour to others, it is useful if the buyer understands the science of light and colour as well as our psychological relationship with colour, which varies between cultures. This is especially important where e-commerce traverses’ borders. After all, whilst sunflower yellow may say happiness, joy and summer in a western culture, in parts of Asia, yellow is sacred and imperial, so you may not sell that many yellow dresses there! It is exactly this knowledge that we have built into our online course, Colour: Developing Seasonal Colour Palettes and what we also cover in our Buying & Planning – ULTIMATE course.
For more information, contact Beverley on 0438 089 632.