In The Studio

Nature’s Kaleidoscope

Roark’s Spring 2023 apparel with a Yiling Changues Print

Em Givens is an artist. She’s inspired by adventure expeditions, weather, nature and geography. In her travels, she likes to explore modern and contemporary art museums, and is well-trenched in couture fashion and streetwear. As color designer for Cotopaxi, she brings that inspiration into her craft “ingeniously incorporating vibrant deadstock materials in creative and playful ways,” she said. Since its inception, color has been an integral part of the Cotopaxi brand.

“What truly sets our color palettes apart is the incorporation of small, unexpected pops of vibrancy,” commented Givens. Repurposed materials are what makes Cotopaxi’s Del Día bags one-of-a-kind and Teca garments limited-edition. Each Teca jacket is crafted from recycled fleece and repurposed polyester taffeta. Given’s overarching objective with color “is to elicit happiness in those who wear our products and encounter them in the world.”

Each season, Roark women’s designer, Grace Marr, and her team chooses a destination to explore and test product while surfing, climbing, running and more. “Roark colors and prints have a distinct point of view because we get inspired by a wide variety of visuals that come with an adventurous lifestyle,” explained Marr. The brand’s Spring 2023 collection was born from travels to Tahiti. The team paired with local Tahitian artist Yiling Changues for custom designs that evoke the beauty of her island home on woven tops and bottoms. The Fall 2023 collection is a little closer to home – Yosemite.

First comes functionality and wearability, with style and flair to follow. Marr designs with organic, recycled and low impact materials. Seasonal colors are often inspired by nature and the specific locales visited, while evergreen colors like black, brown and bone are neutrals sprinkled in seasonally.

Cotopaxi Del Día bags

Green Team

When brands are unable to accomplish certain colors and prints in-house (or produce sustainably), they turn to color solution providers. COLOURizd specializes in technology for yarn coloration. Unlike traditional dyeing methods that can be water-intensive and result in wastewater discharge, COLOURizd’s QuantumCOLOUR technology offers a 98 percent reduction in water usage and elimination of harmful chemicals (along with a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption). The company recently worked with Kontoor Brands (Lee and Wrangler) to sustainably color its ATG by Wrangler shirts using yarn with QuantumCOLOUR technology. ATG by Wrangler is a collection of everyday outdoor styles that keep the wearer dry and comfortable in all climates and conditions.

Beyond the ecological benefits, COLOURizd CEO Jennifer Thompson noted that “the yarns also offer enhanced aesthetics and functionality.” Brands can achieve “a washed-down look without the need for additional processing.” In June 2023, the firm announced it would strategically partner with specialty chemical company Archroma to extend its network, tapping into Archroma’s expertise in development. Archroma adds value to the QuantumCOLOUR process with solutions including JUST COLOR, which is a formaldehyde-free pigment coloration system delivering soft fabrics with high fastness and durability, plus energy and chemical savings.

“Archroma has worked with brands for 25 years to help them more efficiently develop and implement their seasonal color palettes into production,” said Paul Cowell, VP of innovation, brands and sustainability for Archroma Textile Effects. Tools such as the Color Atlas provide a wide selection of supply-chain-available colors for designers and merchandisers. Custom colors can also be developed and are engineered to be achievable and reproducible in manufacturing (to help shorten and streamline the color process, from inspiration to execution). The company’s EarthColors range of biosynthetic dyes are synthesized from natural waste products (from agriculture and herbal industries), leaving the edible section in-tact for food consumption. During the process, the entire raw material is transformed into a new dyestuff.  “The fact that food waste is upcycled from other industries contributes to a circular economy,” noted Cowell.

Archroma EarthColors

“There is a lot of waste created in the color process, producing unnecessary emissions and polluted wastewater. It is Coloro’s mission to minimize that,” commented Sansan Chen, managing director for Coloro. The firm’s Color Feasibility Intelligence solution provides dyeing and testing data in real-time, so designers can avoid picking hues that are unable to be achieved on different fabrics within their brand’s specs. Designers can also choose colors ready for production with ZDHC compliant dyes, for more sustainable processes. “All of this results in fewer lab dip runs, fewer products in colors that don’t sell and fewer air shipments to send fabrics that took too many tries to achieve,” Chen noted.

Coloro also houses an extensive color library and provides a full-service solution to ensure the colors can be accomplished. Twice a year, Coloro partners with trend forecasting sister firm WGSN to predict the five key colors of the season. And if you’re inspired by people you see on the street or things you see in your travels, Coloro Creative Intelligence allows for uploading an inspirational image from your phone to get a Coloro palette generated automatically, based on image recognition. Taking it a step further, the program enables the ability to plug in a competitor’s color palette to see “how closely aligned your color strategies are – for whitespace opportunities and to avoid overlap,” Chen concluded.