Don't Be Off-Colour

International Trade Forum, January 2002 | Go to article overview
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Don't Be Off-Colour


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.

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