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Title: Colour forecasting : an investigation into how its development and use impacts on accuracy
Author: King, Julie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2720 6244
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2011
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Colour forecasting is a sector of trend forecasting which is arguably the most important link in the product development process, yet little is known about it, the methodology behind its development or its accuracy. It is part of a global trend forecasting industry valued recently at $36bn, providing information which is developed commercially eighteen months to two years ahead of the season. Used throughout the garment supply chain, by the yarn and fibre manufacturers, the fabric mills, garment designers and retailers, it plays a pivotal role in the fashion and textile industry, but appears in many different forms. Colour forecasts were first commercially produced in 1917, but became more widely used during the 1970s, and in recent years digital versions of colour forecasts have become increasingly popular. The investigation aimed to establish the historical background of the industry, mindful of the considerable changes to fashion manufacturing and retailing in recent decades. For the purposes of the investigation, a period spanning 25 years was selected, from 1985 to 2010. In reviewing the available literature, and the methodologies currently used in developing forecasting information, it became clear that there was a view that the process is very intuitive, and thus a lack of in depth academic literature. This necessitated a considerable quantity of primary research in order to fill the gaps in the knowledge regarding the development, use and accuracy of colour forecasting. A mixed method approach to primary research was required to answer the aim of the thesis, namely to investigate how colour forecasts are compiled, and examine their use, influence and accuracy within the fashion and textiles industry, suggesting methods for developing more accurate forecasts in the future. Interviews were conducted with industry practitioners comprising forecasters, designers and retailers to better understand how colour was developed and used within industry. Two longitudinal studies were carried out with the two largest UK clothing retailers to map their development and use of colour palettes, and understand better how colour contributes to the critical path and supply chain. Two colour development meetings were observed, one with a commercial colour forecaster, the other with an industry association, and two colour archives were studied to establish whether or not any identifiable and predictable colour cycles existed. Data from the interviews and longitudinal studies were analysed using a grounded approach, and revealed some new insights into the influences upon the development of colour forecasts both commercially and from the retailer's perspective. The sell through rates of merchandise, EPOS analysis and range of practices between those interviewed and the two retailers studied provided an interesting insight into working practices and how colour forecasting information is changed when used by the retailers. It was found that a group of core colours existed, which were used season after season, and consistently demonstrated a high sell through rate, such as black, white, grey and navy. In order to establish whether or not colour cycles were consistently predictable in their repetition, two colour forecasting archives were assessed. If predictable colour cycles existed, they would be a useful tool in developing more accurate forecasts. Unfortunately this was not the case, as no clear colour cycles were found. However, the archive, together with evidence from the retailers demonstrated the 'lifecycle' of fashion colours was longer than expected, as they took time to phase in and out. It was concluded that in general the less fashion led brands used their own signature colours and were able to develop colour palettes far later in the product development timeline. This approach could be adopted more widely by retailers and designers as it was discovered that although accuracy rates for colour forecasts are generally accepted to be around 80%, the commercial forecasters provide colour update cards closer to the season where at least 40% of the colours are changed. Very early information, two years ahead of the season is no longer necessary in the contemporary fashion and textiles industry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fashion History & Theory ; Textile Design