Prepping for Pantone: The Necessity of Agile Fashion Logistics

Ever wondered how Pantone makes their famous forecasts about what colors will dominate both catwalks and sidewalks in the seasons to come (this year's was "tangerine tango")?

According to Slate, it's a process of, well, exchanging lots of whimsy/snappy dialogue more likely found in some Aaron Sorkin/Project Runway mash up:

Paperwhite Tangerine TangoWhat do we say about blue?” asks David Shah, a British-born, Amsterdam-based designer who heads the meeting on behalf of Pantone, the quietly ubiquitous American company that maintains color standards for publishers, designers, and the fashion world. “Blue took so long to come back. It came back last year in a watery story, it’s here this summer in an indigo story—what are we doing about blue?”

“A good navy,” says a French woman with short blonde hair, “is going to fulfill the role that black used to fill, because black is now launching into another dimension.”

“How do we see black now?” Shah interjects. “As a dynamic color?” There is excited chatter. Black has shed its cultural baggage as a negative color. The Italians “did a big statement” about black. The big Yohji Yamamoto retrospective down the road at the V&A. The noncolor that is all colors. Exciting new materials that help black transcend its blackness.

So the new black is … black? Leatrice Eiseman, a color consultant and the sole American at the meeting, (the sole “pragmatic American,” as she describes herself), speaks for the first time. “What I fear about making a general sweeping statement about black is that we know we’ve been there—who doesn’t know about black? What’s new about it?” Animated conversation ensues.

See the key takeaway? Ok… there's really not much of one. It's mostly just a fun look at what goes into the famous forecast (I can't see a mysterious gathering of meteorologists being nearly as fabulous). But beyond the fashion and design implications, there are some apparel logistics lessons worth learning as well.

Mainly, it's important to understand just how much the operations of apparel companies truly are influenced in major ways by unpredictable outside forces — and not just by keepers of color and guardians of taste meeting in Parisian boardrooms. More significant are the fickle and mysterious tastes of consumers themselves.

As the Slate article points out, whether you think that the forecast is a service to humanity or that it's all a little bit silly, these sorts of things do have an effect on consumer tastes and trends:

“I’m looking at the colors now that were put out [by Pantone] two years ago for summer 2011,” says Mikel Cirkus, who heads the Conceptual Design Group at Firmenich, the flavor and fragrance company. “And you can look at what’s out in the marketplace—for instance, this red-orange, or flame orange, is everywhere now. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not even forecasting in my mind, it’s a dictating thing.

It matters. But Pantone -- as with anyone else involved in fashion trend-setting -- also gets it wrong from time to time. No amount of planning or forecasting can remove the unpredictability of apparel logistics, because shoppers don't only buy what comes down the runway. Style is deeply personal and affected by local trends, family finances, and a million other factors.

For apparel companies, this means that they could make a bunch of long-term, inflexible plans based on color forecasts and fashion shows. Or they can invest in nimble apparel supply chain management that is responsive to the inherent fickleness of consumer tastes.

Here at The Apparel Logistics Group, we, of course, recommend the latter approach. Our fashion third party logistics services can help.

Posted: 7/11/2012 10:58:50 AM by Global Administrator | with 0 comments

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