Posted by: jeb1 | January 19, 2011

The New Hue for 2011: How ‘Honeysuckle’ Pink Was Chosen to Be Everywhere

The new year is looking brighter in at least one respect. Thursday, color authority Pantone plans to announce that its color of the year for 2011 is an intense pink it calls “honeysuckle.”

Twice a year, design experts gather to discuss a top-secret topic: the colors of the future. This year, Pantone deemed the orangey-pink “honeysuckle” as its color of the year — meaning we’ll see a lot more of it in the places we shop.

[FASHION1] Associated Press

Versions of the hot pink known as ‘honeysuckle’ recently showed up on the runways of designers such as Nanette Lepore.

What’s in a Name?

Pantone predicts that we’re about to see a lot of this color, appearing on everything from designer dresses to pillows, water bottles, nail polish, sofas and appliances. A sherbety shade of pink, with a hint of red and orange zest, honeysuckle is seen by designers as a pick-me-up at a time when many people have had their fill of misfortune.

Pantone polls graphic, industrial, fashion and other designers from around the world each year to forecast the colors that will have broad appeal. After many design experts told Pantone they were using versions of a hot pink, the company narrowed the field to this precise shade—known specifically as Pantone 18-2120 TCX.

‘It’s a very “Mad Men” pink. It’s like the lipstick our mothers wore,’ says Tom Mirabile, head of global trends and design at Lifetime Brands Inc., the company behind Mikasa, Cuisinart and other houseware brands. “There’s a retro aspect to it that’s going to be very popular.” The company has glassware and dinnerware coming out in a hot pink much like honeysuckle and is using the color in all sorts of home accents.


Mikasa Garden Palette Bouquet dinnerware pattern.

The word “honeysuckle” doesn’t signal bright pink to everyone. In some parts of the country, the flowers are yellow, white or other shades. A Pantone spokeswoman says that people’s opinion of honeysuckle’s color derives from the flower they saw as children.

“There’s an innate optimism to pink,” says Jonathan Adler, an interior and housewares designer who is using hot shades of pink widely in his 2011 collections. “As we speak, I’m wearing a hot pink shirt,” he says.

Courtesy, Pantone

The original Pantone Matching System fan guide. As reflected in the colors on cover, the 60s were all about bright, bold psychedelia, Peter Max and the Beatles.

The honeysuckle color evokes nostalgic feelings of summertime, says Leatrice Eiseman, a color psychologist who has been director of Pantone’s Color Institute for 25 years.

Strategically, colors of the year are supposed to help sell all manner of products and packages. “We also want [people] to stop and say, ‘Oh, neat color. Maybe I need to buy those plates,'” Ms. Eiseman says.

Pantone, part of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based X-Rite Inc., offers systems for identifying, matching and communicating colors to industries including printing, industrial, fashion, and home design. It also puts out color trend reports several times a year and has been expanding its consumer licensing division to put its name on everything from Pantone mugs to a hotel in Brussels.

Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler pillow.

It’s not entirely clear how pink rose to the top. Most designers won’t admit to any inspiration other than their own. “It’s funny how some colors just start to look good. It’s in the air,” says Mr. Adler, who says he never looks at trend predictions.

Designers have been toying with loud pinks on and off for several years. Two years ago, there was a flurry of pink in menswear and in decor. When manufacturers discovered that consumers were recoiling to seek traditional heritage looks during the recession, colors went earthy.

But when Ms. Eiseman saw hot pinks this year on men’s sports equipment, such as the graphics on skis, it really caught her attention. “Graphic designers today are right there at the cutting edge,” she said. Then honeysuckle pinks appeared all over the fashion runways in September, in startling contrast to the camel/gray looks in stores.

In choosing her spring 2011 colors, New York fashion designer Nanette Lepore says she reasoned that people need optimism after several years of depressing economic news and bland colors. Ms. Lepore focused on pinks and orange. “We wanted to look through rose-colored glasses,” she says, letting loose a string of rosy clichés. The colors have sold brilliantly, she adds.

The exact shade of pink gets careful thought from designers. Mr. Mirabile of Lifetime Brands notes that honeysuckle has less orange than coral pinks, so it looks better against most skin tones. Also, it reflects a color found in real flowers.

Some designers have chosen variants within the hot-pink family. Crate & Barrel used both honeysuckle and a similar Pantone shade called “pink flambé” in everything from furniture to dishware. Ms. Lepore calls her orange-tinged version of the color “hot melon.” Ken Downing, fashion director for Neiman Marcus, referred to “orange coral” when he described his pick for the color of the spring 2011 season.

Crate and Barrel

Crate and Barrel’s Surf chair.

The Pantone color-of-the-year announcement isn’t likely to alter designs for 2011, which are already in the works. While colors used to trickle down from European fashion runways to Target and the like, the interplay happens more quickly these days—though mass retailers tend to use colors more conservatively. Mikasa is using honeysuckle as an accent in a floral pattern, because loud solids don’t “have high-volume potential,” according to Mr. Mirabile.

[fashJ4] Kim Kennedy

Cynthia Steffe’s collection for spring 2011 offered a glimpse of the 2011 color of the year, ‘honeysuckle.’

But the color of the year will likely be seized on by marketers deciding, for instance, which products to feature in promotions.

Courtesy: Pantone

Avocado (above) represented the earth tones of the 70s, which saw the beginning of the modern environmental movement.

Confusion over colors is the reason Pantone came about, back in 1963 when Lawrence Herbert was working as a color-matcher at a New York City printing company. Mr. Herbert recognized that the printing and graphics industries needed to communicate colors with a tool more accurate than words. His first system was essentially ink recipes for 500 colors.

By the 1980s, he had added a separate fashion and home color system that would work on fabric. Today, Pantone’s products and systems include 10,000 colors defined for various industries. Pantone recently came out with a $650 gizmo called CAPSURE that works a bit like a point-and-shoot camera—but, when pointed at an object, will produce the Pantone color recipe for it. A “My Pantone” iPhone app identifies the primary colors in a photo.

But the core of Pantone’s services is helping creative people identify just the right color. Ms. Lepore sends Pantone swatches to her fabric manufacturers so there’s no mistaking the tone she’s aiming for.

The arrival of pink now doesn’t mean that other colors will disappear from the market. Turquoise, the Pantone color of 2010, and other shades of blue-green are expected to be popular in 2011. Mr. Adler notes that honeysuckle goes well with a “punchy turquoise” he’s been using. At Crate & Barrel, which used turquoise extensively in its collections this year, the color was a big seller and continues to be popular, says Beth Eckerstrom, Crate & Barrel’s director of trend and product development.

Turquoise was chosen for its ability to soothe and calm, says Ms. Eiseman, who is the author of a number of color books, including the recent “Color: Messages and Meanings.” Blues evoke tranquility for most people, she says. Ms. Eiseman also saw the use of turquoise in the movie “Avatar” as very color-influential.

[fashJ1] Crate and Barrel

Last year’s color of the year, turquoise, is still going strong at Crate and Barrel.

It’s no coincidence that most Pantone colors of the year are vivid. Five of the past dozen colors of the year have been a zesty reddish, pink or orange hue. Reds are a marketer’s delight, says Ms. Eiseman. Pink hues in particular generate the need “to pick it and chew it” like fruit. Flowery colors attract people, as well as hummingbirds, and “encourage propagation,” she says.

“Chili pepper” was the color of 2007, the last year of the economic boom: The fiery red seems appropriate for a year that started out so hot, yet ultimately burned so many so badly.

Yellows—which can reflect unflatteringly on many skin tones—have been few and far between. The golden “Mimosa” color of 2009 was the only yellow hue of the decade. And the only truly bland color of the year was 2006’s off-white “Sand Dollar.” Ms. Eiseman says that reflected the interest in organics and sustainability. But it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling they just must have those off-white plates.

Now that red-pink has bubbled up so widely, it’s a sure sign that designers will be cooking up something different for 2012. Mr. Mirabile, for one, says that for 2012 he’s leaning toward “more mineralized brights,” which are toned-down colors, after the brilliance of 2011. For instance, adding some gray would tone down a chartreuse green to the color of moss.

Write to Christina Binkley at

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