Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How J.Crew Names the Colors {delicious!}

J.Crew is known for their delightfully rich hues. The following article is from the Huffington Post (click here to read in its entirety) shares some light on the process:
How J.Crew Colors Get Their Wild Names
By Katy Hall
November 13, 2014

Looking through the J.Crew website this season may give you ideas for a holiday party menu. There's a cashmere sweater in harvest grape, moccasins in dark nutmeg and chinos in melted caramel and fresh sage.

"People really respond to food," said Tom Mora, head of women's design at the company. "I've never heard a person not feel happy about eating. It's that emotion or smile on your face. These colors all have distinct smells or tastes to them."

Food is just one of many things that inspire the names of the more than 100 colors J.Crew invents every season. Seasonal smells, flowers and destinations can all work to shift a red to dark poppy, or a neutral beige to sandy shore. The continual supply of bold new colors, painstakingly curated and named, is one reason the catalog resembles a lifestyle magazine and the brand has earned cult status.

But before the colors are named, the colors themselves have to be selected. Mora and other color creators, including color librarian Cherie Zavitz (who has "the coolest job EVER," she said), start with a "mood board" in the company's color library in downtown Manhattan. They post items that set the collection's mood: vintage clothing, leather wallets, scraps of paper or silk. This season's neon electric flame, seen here in the stadium-cloth cocoon coat, started off as a "really intense shoelace," Mora said.

Once the seasonal palette is set, each color is dyed onto a fabric swatch and given a name that reflects the feel of the collection. "Whether we're going on a trip to Spain or the 1920s in Berlin or the California coast, you start thinking of what that does in your head," said Mora. "That's where you start getting the words you can kind of associate with the colors as well."

Summer collections may have a tropical or warm feel: neon flamingo, reef blue and even pebble can evoke a sunny day at the beach. Fall takes on a more weathered, outdoorsy tone with rich colors that are burnished or icy or crisp or rusty. Color names can go in a lot of directions -- and they have, considering J.Crew has coined thousands of them -- but there are a couple of things the company tries to avoid. One is being creative to the point of obscurity.

"We don't want to start naming names in terms of a town or get too specific," Mora said. "That confuses people. They need to get it immediately from the sound of the name. Sometimes when you have a name that doesn't include the color, like dusty cobblestone, it kind of does feel like a cobblestone. They still know what that is."

He added that sometimes colors just sound like they would smell bad: "Sometimes the two words together, like burnt something or ripe something, are like, ew!"

Simplicity can work just as well as the most imaginative names. Bright colors pair well with J.Crew's signature neutrals. Jenna Lyons, the company's creative director, lists adding a pop of color as one of her 10 style rules. "Color isn't easy for anyone," she told The Guardian. "It's not easy for me! It's a challenge. It feels good to embrace a challenge."

Standby colors like black, white and khaki aren't going anywhere. Those swatches are labeled and pinned on the wall in the color library -- along with the thousands of past colors that might make a comeback, if the designers and customers love them enough.

"There are always the favorites," Mora said. "You know it's a great color when the customer comes in asking for it by name." Two old favorites that have resurfaced this season are golden sun and brilliant flame.
There is also a video about J.Crew selecting their colors that is totally worth a viewing:

I found it really interesting how J.Crew gets inspired to create the shades and names. It got me thinking what my favorite color from J.Crew is... It might just be their Poppy Red.

I also did not realize they have over 100 different colors each season! And who knew Luigi was an important part of the process!?! ;)

What are your thoughts on the article and video? Any points that you found very interesting? What is your favorite shade at J.Crew? Please share! :)


  1. I want to be a color librarian. Thanks for sharing the article!

  2. Great video! Well done & charming. Thanks for sharing it, Alexis :)

    1. I'm back to say that some of my favorite colors are the bohemian red, vivid poppy in the Natasha blouse (polyvore pic), warm cocoa and warm burgundy (?). I loved the name and color of nightfall blue even though it didn't work for me.

  3. Fascinating! now I know why I never liked the Burnt Umber in the large box of crayons.

  4. I loved my viridian green pencil skirt when it debuted a few years ago after what seemed like the reign of yellow-greens. It still makes me happy every time I see it hanging in the closet. I recognized the color as one of a tube of acrylic paints I had as a child. I noticed that Boden's summer 2015 collection is built around the same color, so I know where most of my summer wardrobe budget will go. I don't know how they do it, but Crew's colors have a complexity to them that allows them blend with lots more colors than I initially expect when I buy them, if that makes any sense.

    1. This is one of the reasons why I used to love J. Crew and what's been missing lately. I love how their patterns match their colors in an unexpected way. (I am not saying that as articulately as I could). I love that I can pair a silk patterned blouse from one season with a pencil skirt from another and the color of the skirt brings out a tiny fleck from the pattern in an awesome way. Their stuff isn't really doing that for me lately. Or, I'm just looking at the wrong stuff?

      I have that green pencil skirt and it remains one of my favorite items in my closet.

  5. That viridian green skirt got away from me - I really wish I had one because the color is gorgeous. I agree with you about JC's color complexity.

    (So darn it, why has it been used so sparingly this season!)

    1. Cousy,
      Believe it or not, I saw the viridian skirt pop back just a few months ago. Don't give up. It could still be yours : )

    2. Viridian green is one of my all-time favorite J Crew colors. I bought the Tippi but accidentally shrank it :(

  6. this was so fascinating, thanks for posting this!

  7. Loved this video!!! But then I love everything Italian. I hope J Crew gets off the French phrases kick and does some with Italian but of course correct Italian.

  8. What fun! Thanks so much for sharing this video. Color librarian sounds like a fabulous job.


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