Meet The Secret Powerbroker Who Decides The colour Of The Year

Leatrice Eiseman Headshot

Leatrice Eiseman is somewhere in the world right now looking for the next colour of the Year.

The executive director of the Pantone colour Institute, Eiseman has made this important decision for the past 13 years. It is not taken lightly.

“We deliver the news in a sealed envelope, and we have our representatives go out to [partner companies] in their trench coats with their suitcases,” Lisa Herbert, Pantone’s Vice President of Consumer Licensing, explained over the phone. “They have to sign a confidentiality agreement and the colour cannot be revealed until we say so.”

This year’s announcement of emerald green swept through the marketing world and into celebrity wardrobes.

Pantone’s partner Sephora unveiled its Emerald-hued collection, with competitors like Revlon jostling to compete. Magazines such as Us Weekly, InStyle, Lucky, and Elle Decor began to capitalise on the trend with photo spreads and emerald-hued product features, while the colour cropped up in advertising campaigns for Banana Republic and the flash shopping website Gilt.

Banana Republic Ad emerald

“It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because people are going into the stores asking for it,” Herbert said. “[Retailers] have to have it, even if they have to scramble to do it.”

So why does Eiseman get to make this decision?

She’s recognised by those in the fashion and marketing communities as an American colour specialist, and has authored eight books on the subject of colour and consumerism. After graduating from Antioch University and UCLA with degrees in psychology and counseling, Eiseman put her skills as a colour consultant to work for major brands like IKEA, Best Buy, and Microsoft.

Eiseman doesn’t make the colour of the Year decision alone: Pantone has a committee of colour experts searching for the next big thing year-round, and hosts international “colorists” biannually in a pre-planned European city to discuss dominant hues for each season.

inauguration beyonceBeyonce wearing the Emerald earrings as she sang the National Anthem.

Even so, she’s the most influential person in the room.

She gave us a little insight into how she helps make the decision.

“It’s hard to explain to anyone how you really arrive at the specific colour,” Eiseman explains. “But it’s picking up nuggets of information wherever you travel — and I travel all over the world. If I see that a colour is coming into prominence (for instance, if I’m in Asia and I see the same colour in Italy and Germany), then I would say that colour is on the rise and starts to have a collective impulse.”

She and her team also do research on trends in related industries, like high-end jewelry and show business.

“We knew that greens have been big in the last few years, and people are still very much attracted to green and the message that it gives: The whole idea of being connected to the environment, unity, elegance, rejuvination, and clarity. The colour green stands for all of these things, and is universally appealing.”

And after Eiseman and her team decided green was trending world-wide, they had to decide the specific shade: “You can’t use the same shade that’s been out there in the marketplace for three years season after season, because it wont work,” she said. “What can you choose that still captures the zeitgeist of the public and yet still offers something new? That’s what we ask ourselves.”

So the next time you’re wondering why Emerald Green is so prevalent this year, you can thank Leatrice Eiseman.

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