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And hue are we this year?

Published Oct. 13, 2005

Banana. Toast. Mushroom. Salmon. Sage. Granny Smith. Maize. Poppy. Berry. Food? No, fashion. We're talking color, but do you have any idea what shades those are?

America's fashion industry takes the naming of colors seriously. For instance, the hot citrus colors of the past season _ lime, lemon and tangerine _ have given way to Granny Smith (apple green), banana and poppy.

Greens and blues are big this season and will be monstrous next year because of the ecology craze, color specialists predict.

"The green shades are pervasive," says Phyllis Johansen, vice president of creative merchandising for G. Fox & Co. "What we're seeing for spring of '92 is green over and over, celery green, willow green, fern green. They are showing colors of the plants and the colors of the sea."

"Popular colors have a life span of about five years," says Tina Sutton, color consultant for the off-price chain Hit or Miss. "The basics are always there _ red, black, white _ but the shadings differ from season to season."

Those clever manufacturers. A fresh look, a different shade, something new for the wardrobe.

"That's why they rename colors every year," Sutton, who also falls for the marketing gimmick, says. "I already have mango in my wardrobe, but I don't have persimmon. The shades will be slightly different, but it's practically the same color."

Color names not only indicate the shade or tone, they can also evoke an emotional connection.

"Food names, especially fruit names, are good because there's an immediate connection," Leatrice Eiseman, director of Pantone, a color-forecasting company in Moonachie, N.J., said. "Think of peach, and you think delicious."

"Four or five years ago we had the jewel tones, the rich sophisticated colors that are a little more muted than the screaming brights we're seeing this season," Sutton says. (Ruby red vs. fuchsia or sapphire blue-green vs. bright boysenberry.) "But we're also seeing neutrals. In tough times people buy neutrals because they are soothing."

And you can wear neutrals with the brights to stretch your wardrobe budget.

What we're seeing in today's catalogs and store racks are turquoise (some jewel tones are still with us), teal (a bluish green), sea foam (muted grayish green) and sage (a yellowish green).

One of the bibles of color in the fashion, design and advertising worlds is Eiseman's The Pantone Book of Color (Harry N. Abrams; $27.50), which she wrote with Lawrence Herbert. Pantone sets the standard for more than 1,000 colors used by ink manufacturers.

"White is the No. 1 color right now," Eiseman says. "Imagine a color consultant saying white is tops. You're not going to see it as much in fall and winter, but it will be there."

Navy blue and shades near it, especially one called patriot blue, are expected to be top sellers for next winter and spring. The greener shades, such as teal, are on top now and should remain there. Red, white and blue will continue to be hot this summer and into fall because of its association with the Fourth of July and Operation Desert Storm.

Yellow, not the bright taxicab yellow of past seasons but yellow in all its variations _ banana, toast, maize, apricot, saffron, gold, curry and copper _ is in the stores now. Yellow is the most eye-catching color, especially when paired with other colors.

Many colors come from nature, but even diehard environmentalists would balk at some of the names. Among the worst examples are bladder green (light olive), liver (grayish deep red-brown) and puce, which literally means flea's underbelly from the Latin pulex and describes a brownish purple.

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