How to create a brilliant colour palette: Five expert tips


When it comes to forecasting colour my approach is half research, half intuition. I feel like 20 years experience has given me this database in my head which informs why certain tones are fashionable now and which ones will be big next. I’ve seen colour evolve from being pretty absent in the 1990s to now when those bright popping tones are everywhere.

I create two main palettes per season which are two years ahead of retail and three colour trend alerts a month which are three months ahead of retail. The alerts are geared towards fast fashion.

Regardless of the kind of palette I’m creating, there are always certain things I do and consider and these five steps are integral parts of my process…

1. I think about who I’m forecasting for. Fashion is a global business and it’s so important to think about who your market is before you start. For example, in China red is very popular because it is a symbol of their New Year. Meanwhile, orange is very important in LATAM and you really have to have it when you’re forecasting for that region.


2. I consider logically how colour can evolve. A good example of where colour trends can go is what’s happening with pink now. We first saw it become really popular in in 2011 and then it was a hot pink, but it has evolved and changed over the past few seasons. Now, focus will turn to purple and the palette will be moodier. Similarly, that obvious Mackintosh-style yellow will develop into a darker amber tone. You have to ask yourself where colour can realistically move to.

3. I avoid blogs. They tend to focus on what’s happening now and you have to be more intellectual than that. Trawling blogs and the internet on the whole can be misleading, so I try to keep a lot of my research offline. I think there is a very strong connection between art and fashion and get a lot of inspiration from art, particularly photography. I’ve been following Harley Weir’s work for a while and although people are really interested in her Dazed cover of Young Thug, I’ve actually been more inspired by her earlier work which was shot in the countryside to a large extent.

WGSN Jane Boddy

WGSN Director of Colour and Womenswear Jane Boddy

4. I think about highs and lows. A palette shouldn’t all be one tone – there should be popping accents as well as subtler shades. If you need inspiration of what a good palette in action looks like, go into Cos. When you look down a rail you can see every part of the palette – its clothes always have those little accents that hold it all together.

5. I use different textures and textiles. This really helps you understand what the colours you’ve picked out can do. I’m quite old fashioned about this and I like the process to be tactile. It’s partly because I really think you can find inspiration anywhere. I was on holiday in Spain and found straws left in a drawer of the place we were staying. I loved their colours and it made me think of bright plasticky tones. Essentially you have to be quite open to inspiration coming to you, regardless of material. It definitely makes it harder to match up to Pantone but it’s also a great part of the process.

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