Color Cartel

That gray is “the new black” is already a cliché. A recent New York Times Op-Ed lamented the fact; fashion magazines featured the color on fall covers; and stores are full of gray clothes. How did all the designers know that gray would be the color of the season? They consulted with an international trade organization based in Alexandria, Va., called the Color Marketing Group. CMG predicts what the fashionable colors of a particular season will be. And while nothing requires designers to act on CMG’s suggestions, the clothes showing in stores indicate that they do.

CMG, founded in 1962, is a non-profit group of 1,500 people from different industries–fashion, cosmetics, automobiles, greeting cards, etc.–that convenes twice a year to come up with both long-term and short-term predictions. The long-term prediction is a list of 16 colors, compiled two years in advance. The short-term prediction is a palette of colors that are currently popular–there are several shades of gray on this year’s. Next year, CMG says, the big color will be blue.

How do the CMG members choose their colors? The official line is that they look at economic trends (pastels in bad times, saturated colors in good times) and also examine social trends. What this boils down to is six hundred people sitting around in small groups, trying to figure out the next big thing. Gray, for example, was chosen in part because of the craze for technology and space-age stuff as the millennium approaches: “People associate gray with futuristic things like silvery metallics and anodized aluminum,” a CMG spokeswoman said. And why blue? “Water is a big social issue, what with the current emphasis on designer water and water conservation.”

This item was written by Eliza Truitt.