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    Don't Be Off-colour


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    One of the major mistakes artisanal producers can make is to design their craft products in styles or colours that are no longer appealing to their target markets. In fact, the style and appearance of products can change very rapidly and the export marketplace requires new products on a regular basis because consumers become bored with old products.

    Where can artisanal producers find information on the latest trends in styles and colours? Advice panels such as those assembled by Canadian businesswoman Barbara Mowat (see page 13) are one good source. However, relatively few producers have the opportunity to tap into the knowledge of large-market buyers through these advice panels. For craft producers unable to plug into such a network, the ITC/UNESCO/Commonwealth Secretariat Practical Guide to Crafts Fairs offers several pages of advice on contacts and product design, including a section on colours:

    "Colour tastes vary considerably in all markets. For example, for many years Scandinavian countries have had strong preferences for pale and muted colours, while African and Caribbean peoples enjoy brilliant colours. But even these colours change regularly to keep the market interested.

    "In the fashion and accessories export market, colours change twice or three times a year. These changes are planned three to five years ahead, and there are publications in developed markets that provide forecast information on colour changes for garments, furnishing fabrics and paints. Many customers will provide such information when ordering products, but manufacturers should ask customers to provide the latest forecast.

    "The garment industry has the most colour changes in a year. The household goods market changes colours less frequently, introducing changes every year or two, depending on the product. Decorating materials and paints for houses change every year. Floor coverings may last up to twelve years or more, and colour changes in these sectors are slower, but the forecasters are working there, too.

    "Many agencies exist that provide these forecasts for colour and fashion changes. Some of this information is free, and some very expensive. The Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) in the Netherlands supplies free information on fashion forecasts, colour trends, standards and legislation on health and safety to producers in developing countries. The International Colour Authority (ICA) sells high-quality forecast publications containing an abundance of accurate information on market trends. These are the favourite publications of many professionals.

    "Certain magazines provide accurate information on the current state of markets for fashion and interior design in many countries. For example: Vogue (Europe), File Fashion (United Kingdom/Europe/Australia), File Decor (United Kingdom/Europe/Australia), House and Garden (United Kingdom/United States/Canada/Australia), Homes and Gardens (United Kingdom/United States/Australia), The World of Interiors (United Kingdom) and Abitare (Italy). These can be obtained from publication importers in many developing countries.

    "In modern markets colours are usually specified by providing the manufacturer with colour samples from a PANTONE® Colour Specifier. This colour specifier is the industry standard. It means that control of colours is absolute throughout design and production."

    Readers may contact the ICA at the following address: ITBD Publications, 23 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2PJ, United Kingdom. Tel.: +44 (0)207637 2211, Fax:+44 (0)207637 2248.