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February 12, 2009 5:34 PM

Fashion

The Colors of the Runway

Iron is the new black for fall. There isn't anything such as a bad color, but every color has its own story to tell. Color reflects the personality of the wearer and the sensibility of the designer. Sometimes, as with...

Iron is the new black for fall.

There isn't anything such as a bad color, but every color has its own story to tell.

Color reflects the personality of the wearer and the sensibility of the designer. Sometimes, as with the top 10 Pantone colors chosen by New York designers for fall -- with iron ranked number one and the rest heavy on somber and neutral tones -- they even provide a window into the public's mood at a particular moment.

I didn't focus on the intricacies of color until I met Leatrice Eiseman, executive of the Pantone Color Institute, which created the standardized international reference system for determining ink colors.  Eiseman has been described as "America's color guru" and is the author of six books on color. Twice a year, Pantone compiles its survey of top colors for fall and spring that have been selected by designers showing in New York.

Here's what I've learned from Eiseman: In addition to no such thing as a bad color, blues and reds are strong each season, but oranges, yellows and greens have been making an impressive showing recently. Black and white never go out of style, and their constancy in collections is the reason they aren't included in Pantone's lists.

Perhaps most important, there are no longer as many rules when it comes to color.

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"People are really just putting together colors they like nowadays," Eiseman said. "There used to be so many rules with combining colors -- with a palette like this [season's], you have a perfect opportunity to bend the rules, instead of putting together the expected combinations."

This season, designers wanted to strike a balance between the use of neutrals, like Nomad and Honey Yellow, along with some unexpected colors, including Rapture Rose and Warm Olive, that would grab consumers' attention.

"Everyone knows times are tough right now," Eiseman said. "Designers are acknowledging this by working with colors that are practical and can carry broad appeal. But they still want to incorporate some uniqueness into their color offerings in order to stimulate consumers into buying their products."

So, at the shows in New York, take in the colors, prints and patterns on the runway. Check out how designers are trying to reach consumers with their color selections. And keep your eyes peeled for iron.


To view Pantone's Top 10 colors for fall, click here. >>
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