I’m dipping into my Harvard archives again for today’s post. Last week it was post-Jungian psychology with John Weir Perry’s, The Far Side of Madness, this week’s topic is a little closer to home. German Jewish philosopher and cultural critic, Walter Benjamin, is at the forefront of my thinking, particularly his writing about fashion in Paris. “An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, historical materialism and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory and Western Marxism.”¹ In his final, incomplete book about Parisian city life in the 19th century, called, The Arcades Project, Benjamin writes beautifully about fashion as cultural medium and psychological tool, as well as a form of art and rhetoric wielded by the bourgeois. “The Arcades Project was published for the first time in 1982, and is over a thousand pages long.”² (Strangely enough, it wasn’t until a few years after my Master’s at Harvard that I discovered Benjamin’s writing on fashion. I first encountered his writing in his work as a literary critic and philosopher.)
On fashion, Benjamin writes:
For the philosopher, the most interesting thing about fashion is its extraordinary anticipations. It is well known that art will often – for example, in pictures – precede the perceptible reality by years. It was possible to see streets or rooms that shone in all sorts of fiery colors long before technology, by means of illuminated signs and other arrangements actually set them under such a light. Moreover, the sensitivity of the individual artist to what is coming certainly far exceeds that of the grande dame. Yet fashion is in much steadier, much more precise contact with the coming thing, thanks to the incomparable nose which the feminine collective has for what lies waiting in the future. Each season brings, in its newest creations, various secret signals to come. Whoever understands how to read these semaphores would know in advance not only about new currents in the arts but also about new legal codes, wars, and revolutions.
~The Arcades Project p.64
My zeal for fashion’s intuitive future signals could not have been translated more aptly! Reading this passage years ago was transformative. It was realizing that my own ability to translate fashion’s semaphores was not so strange at all and held great meaning for this particular form of art. Macro trend forecasts work to capture these secret signals about current events in the arts and as well as new and emerging trends in politics, the economy, technology, and design. I’ve found that there are indeed, incredible intersections between these different social and political landscapes that find their way into fashion before appearing on the world stage.
In more practical terms, for the purpose of today’s 2017 fashion color trends, these “extraordinary anticipations,” take form quite simply. Classic neutrals, black and tan are oft considered wardrobe staples, creating canvases for other colors, patterns, graphics and textures. In contrast to my last post about Fashion’s Extraordinary Madness, black and tan represent the opposite end of the psychological spectrum. They represent stability, duration, tenacity and patience. There’s also a sense of Yin/Yang – a kind of balance that steadies and reassures our footsteps and psyches.
I’ve also done something else for members of my readership who have expressed difficulty in translating some of these bigger ideas and cultural musings into actionable consumer insights. Many designers, buyers and merchandisers have expressed concern over how to translate macro trends into actual product. Sometimes specific insights about silhouette, fabric, print and texture get lost in the mix of “big ideas.” When I’m working with companies as a trend consultant, I find one of the most helpful things I can do alongside a macro trend forecast is to identify products already on the market that point to what a certain trend will look like in the future. For the purpose of today’s post on 2017 fashion’s color trends, I used Polyvore’s handy product archives and editing tools. If you aren’t familiar with this style and fashion powerhouse, you will be soon. Polyvore was just acquired by Yahoo this summer which means Yahoo is looking to enter the fashion game quite seriously. You’ll see these “sets” as Polyvore calls them, after the editorial selections below. Enjoy!
2017 Fashion Color Trends | Translating Trends Into Product
Hopefully these sets give you a more concrete idea of how to interpret our predictions for 2017 fashion color trends. Visit us on Polyvore.com for more sets, trends and style ideas!