Fabric Colour Trends 2009-10

We are doing some work for a medium sized architectural practice. One of the partners asked me what the ‘in-vogue’ colours were for fabrics. This got me thinking.

There’s the usual stock answer where a fabric company would quote something which sounded like we were dress makers. “The in-vogue colours are the colours on the cat-walk”. Luckily I didn’t answer that way, partly because I haven’t been to a Paris catwalk for a while and partly because what colours we wear are not the colours we design our interior spaces with. I have a few reds and ochres in my wardrobe but none on my walls. Similarly I probably have proportionately very much more taupe around the house than around my body. So clearly the cat-walk comparison is wrong.

The time delay as well. There must be 2-6 months delays in getting the very latest fashions from the catwalk to the mass market retail outlets. It’s pretty hard to turn out new fabric collections regularly in that timeframe.

And then I thought some more. The job was for a Mediterranean villa. Are the colour trends in this country and in this climate the same as in such warmer climbs? Probably not. Hotter climates favour colours that are physically cooler. Picture the white houses of a stereotyped Greek village.

And then I thought about personalities. The villa owner is a wealthy and aesthetically discerning business leader. Will that sort of person have the same tastes and influences as the middle classes of a London suburb? Or will their Chelsea architect/designer reflect the aesthetic views of their personal domain? Some well-known designers push the same colour schemes again and again – because they look great and they work. Is that a trend?

So I came to the conclusion that what defines a colour trend will vary. It will vary by geography, by social aspirations & standing and many other factors. I’m not sure they vary by time that rapidly how we furnish, organise and decorate our houses does change but that change is more on the scale of a decade than the fadish seasonal change for clothing.

That seemed a bit of a cop out answer though. Let’s be analytical about it. What colours do we sell the most of? Well, to be honest, it is still the classic-contemporary feel. So plenty of taupes, white, muted neutrals and the delightfully named beiges. Even with the acidic greens, purples and violent colours of the early 2000s that were blasted in our faces on ‘Changing Rooms’; I have to say that the upper end of the market very, very rarely asked for or bought these colours. So surely the colours we sell are the ones that are on-trend? Maybe, but maybe also we self select the markets we target, the products we stock and hence the type of customer we attract.

And really I would probably question the original question as well. Fabric is much more than colour; texture and design are also key.

So where did that leave me? I probably should have thought of a sophisticated way of saying “just buy what you like” or “get to know what your client likes and sell them that” and said that, but I didn’t.

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