In 1930, the prominent British journalist and editor Holbrook Jackson addressed the Royal Society of Arts in London on an important commercial topic: “colour determination in the fashion trades” and the role of “Colour Forecasts.” Best known for his books on Bernard Shaw and William Morris, Jackson was editor of the Drapers’ Organiser, one of the major journals for the British dry-goods business. In this capacity, he had given considerable thought to color and commerce, acknowledging that this topic had artistic and economic significance. “Novelty businesses must live dangerously,” Jackson explained
When fabrics were fashion
The four decades around the First and Second World Wars were a period, like the Victorian era, during which fabrics were synonymous with fashion.7 Although women’s ready-made clothing was gaining a toehold (particularly in the United States during the 1920s), the fashion industry still had one foot in the nineteenth century. Many ready-to-wear retailers also had extensive departments that sold unembellished millinery and even-larger departments that sold the fabrics and trimmings needed by dressmakers and home seamstresses to make basic clothing and the occasional silk dress for Sunday best.
America’s first color forecasters
Starting in the First World War, American industry developed strategies for managing the chromatic chaos. The war put a damper on international commerce, cutting off America’s supplies of German dyestuffs and French color cards. American industries that produced style goods panicked at the prospect of having no reliable synthetic dyes and no fashionable color guidance from Europe.
In the autumn of 1914, a group of concerned US businessmen in the millinery and textile industries took matters into their own hands and created the Textile Color Card Association of the United States as an umbrella organization for firms and trade groups that wanted to overcome trade uncertainties and practice self-determination in color