Shades of Starbucks spill into fashion

In designer collections for fall, many warm, comforting shades of brown are steaming hot.
NEW YORK -- During the last decade, Starbucks has had quite an influence on the way we live our lives -- from our route to work (via the nearest cafe) to how much we'll pay for designer coffee to our vocabulary.
"Vente mocha latte," would have drawn blank stares 10 years ago. Today the phrase is no more unusual than "Have a nice day."
Now we discover Starbucks is even affecting fashion -- and we don't mean with stubborn stains from accidental spills. Rather, the shades of Starbucks' specialties -- espresso, cappuccino, hot chocolate -- are coloring everything from coats to evening gowns.
In the fall 2005 collections, the many warm, comforting shades of brown are steaming hot.
"Brown truly is the season's new black," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, a company that analyzes and predicts color trends.
"Deep, teal blue is running a close second," she says.
The pairing of the two -- brown and blue -- is the trendiest combo on the runways. Other key shades are olive green, russet, wine and antique gold.
Prominent choices
Twice a year, just before Fashion Week, Eiseman surveys about 30 designers to learn what colors are prominent in their collections and what inspired their choices.
This time, she learned that the rich browns in European films of the 1970s influenced designer Jeffrey Chow, while Shelly Steffee was intrigued by the gleaming browns of 1930s automobiles. Nanette Lepore was captivated by the vivid blues of the Mediterranean, a favorite vacation destination, but it was the somber blues in Girl With a Pearl Earring, the 2003 movie about the Dutch painter Vermeer, that fired the imagination of Peter Som -- the designer who created the dusty blue cashmere coat that young Barbara Bush wore to her father's presidential inauguration last month.
The emergence of blue and brown as the "it" colors for fall didn't happen overnight, says Eiseman. The two shades have been percolating quietly for several years. Now they've spilled over into fall's fashion collections of clothing, shoes and accessories.
Subtle influence
Brown had its roots in the dress-down movement of the early 1990s, when earth tones started gaining ground on black. During the last few years, it has spread in subtle but influential ways.
"Women understand that brown is a luxury color, the color of furs, of chocolate -- and luxury is on the rebound," says Eiseman.
A number of blondes are going brown, she says, including Charlize Theron, who arrived at last month's Golden Globes Awards a newly-minted brunette--wearing a gown of deep blue. At the same awards show, best-actress winner Hilary Swank chose a Calvin Klein design of coppery-brown.
"There's an interesting dichotomy to brown," says Eiseman. "It has a sophisticated elegance, but it also has an earthy appeal. It's a warm, nurturing color."
Blue, by contrast, is cool like water, bright like the sky. It's also America's favorite color, which makes it an easy sell. When designers are looking for ways to tempt people to buy new clothes, they often turn to an appealing color such as blue, explains Eiseman.
"The turquoise of last spring has evolved into teal," she says. But there's an even deeper blue -- the blue associated with tropical water, the blue that promises escape and relaxation. It almost has a Zen calling."
It was no coincidence that the blue/brown combination was featured in almost every collection during the first days of this year's Fashion Week. When services such as Pantone identify a color trend, they alert their clients. Textile mills often are the first to respond. Fashion designers order fabrics from the mills, make the fabric into clothing, show the clothing on the runways of New York, London, Paris and Milan -- and a trend is born. Mass-market manufacturers pick up on the new colors. So do the makers of cars, electronics, home furnishings and appliances.