The Genteel
February 24, 2021


Nicole Miller Pantone Emerald
Sketch from Nicole Miller's S/S 2013 collection.
Image courtesy of Pantone.

Leatrice Eiseman, colour specialist and executive director at the Pantone Color Institute, talks to The Genteel about the sixth sense of trendspotting, the zeitgeist hunt and why Pantone's 17-5641 Emerald is 2013's colour of the year. From Downton Abbey to Nicole Miller, inspiration abounds.

Valerie Lam: How are Pantone colours chosen?

Leatrice Eiseman: Pantone doesn't create new colours, but new colour combinations that evoke moods which befit our times. Pantone also creates colour forecasts where we look at a number of indicators for clues in the year ahead, such as films that are going to be released or sporting events.

Last year, one of the indicators was the London Olympics, and how British traditional style and more forward style would be on people's minds. Another example for 2013 colour trends is Downton Abbey and the set and costumes for the series. We also look closely at fashion design, and eventually what appears in fashion makes its way into interiors.

VL: That's a lot of clues within one year. How do you funnel down to one colour of the year?

LE: You're talking about colour of the year, and this one colour is symbolic of the year.

We do colour forecasting, and create a homes forecast that consists of nine palettes specifically for interiors. That's released once a year in a book where we detail the general theme and various applications of these colours in products and how it fits into the lifestyle.

The other entity we're involved in is the fashion colour report, which comes directly from designers [including Barbara Tfank, BCBG, Charlotte Ronson, Nicole Miller and Tracy Reese]. The designers send us their sketches, tell us what colours they're using and why; as we start to get input, we then choose the colours that appear most frequently. And that becomes the fashion colour report. That's done within six months of the next season. In a few weeks, they'll be putting together the fall palette.

...this one colour is symbolic of the year [...] it's hard to describe unless you're a colourist, but the colour of the year must be ascending, and you have a sixth sense for it.

The decision-making process of colour of the year is more or less the same; we get the zeitgeist from various travels, what we might see in different cultures and fabrics and in store windows. It's hard to describe unless you're a colourist, but the colour of the year must be ascending, and you have a sixth sense for it.

VL: So it's as if the colour of the year is out there and you're trying to catch something that's emerging, feel its pulse, before it hits the mainstream?

LE: Yes, my antenna is always quivering. In the case of emerald [the 2013 Pantone colour of the year], we saw it emerge among some fashion designers like Michael Kors, Oscar de La Renta, Trina Turk, and they were using emerald a lot. Again, in fine jewellery. Emerald is a very old stone, but trends ebb and flow, otherwise there's no need to discover new palettes. Pop art has also been a source of inspiration for emerald. Kenny Scharf, an artist in Los Angeles, participated in a graffiti-style installation exhibit and used a lot of emerald in his paint.

VL: Can you tell me more about the colour of the year, 17-5641 Emerald, and why that particular shade of green is desirable, say, compared to teal or seafoam?

LE: Emerald is a balance colour, it has undertones of yellow and blue. Yellow reminds people of sunshine, and it has a lot of warmth and blue has serenity. So with emerald, one colour brings out both elements, and we're moving away from the more acidic greens towards the blue. I wouldn't say that emerald is "better" than teal, they have different properties. Emerald is more representative of the times, both in fashion and the year where we need a sense of clarity, renewal, balance and unity in today's complex world.

Hodgepodge by Kenny Scharf.

VL: How did you get into colour consultation and tap into this sixth sense you have?

LE: I've written books and had an education in fashion, then studied psychology and then did some work at UCLA. I combined all of what I knew into a practicum that didn't really exist at the time. I've been working as a colour expert for Pantone since 2010 because there was a need - people from various industries and designers were asking for a colour forecast.

VL: How does someone know if they've got a sense for colour?

LE: Well, it's one of those things where people have an eye for ways to use colour that others would say, 'That looks wonderful, I never thought of doing that.' Once people start saying that, it gives you a clue that you've got the eye for it.



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