Pantone color forecasts: Are they accurate?

Color forecasting is almost as old as the fashion industry itself. In the late 19th century, color cards issued by French textile mills were snapped up by their American counterparts, eager for ideas and direction. As Regina Lee Blaszczyk, a historian and author of the forthcoming book The Color Revolution, notes, Margaret Hayden Rorke, an American actress, suffragist, and the country’s first color forecaster (heading the Textile Color Card Association for four decades), traveled to the Paris shows each summer to soak up the latest tints, like the brownish-green Vert Amande— ven employing an American foreign correspondent, Bettina Bedwell, to act as a “spy.” (Intel from Bedwell, in 1936: “Many Frenchwomen are getting away from black.”)

This idea—that color trends begin on Paris runways, still holds a certain sway, at least in the popular imagination; witness the “cerulean blue” monologue in The Devil Wears Prada, in which Meryl Streep as an imperious fashion editor describes how a color that begins life in gowns by Oscar de la Renta in 2002 is then copied by other designers and is ultimately “filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner.” But Paris may not be the ultimate source; as Blascyzk points out, cerulean blue was tapped by Pantone in 1999 as the “Color of the Millennium.” Coincidence?

The Crisis in American Walking

Despite these upsides, in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars—those pitiable “vulnerable road users,” as they are called with charitable condescension—do. To decry these facts—to examine, as I will in this series, how Americans might start walking more again— may seem like a hopelessly retrograde, romantic exercise: nostalgia for Thoreau’s woodland ambles. But the need is urgent. The decline of walking has become a full-blown public health nightmare.

(part 2, part 3, part 4)

Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here

As we drive the Google car—or are driven by it—I watch the action unfold on the computer monitor mounted on the passenger side of the dashboard. It shows how the car is interpreting the world: lanes, signs, cars, speeds, distances, vectors. The rendering is nothing special—a lot of blocky wireframe that puts me in mind of Atari’s classic Battlezone. (The display is just one of a host of geeky details—to change lanes, for instance, the driver presses buttons marked Shift and Left on a keyboard near the monitor.) Yet it is absolutely fascinating, almost illicitly thrilling, to watch as the car not only plots and calculates the myriad movements of neighboring vehicles in the moment but also predicts where they will be in the future, like high-speed, mobile chess. Onscreen, the car is constantly “acquiring” targets, surrounding them in red boxes, tracing raster lines to and fro, a freeway version of John Madden’s Telestrator. “We’re analyzing and predicting the world 20 times a second,” Levandowski says.

Long Live the Industrial City

R&C Apparel is in one sense an archetypal, almost metaphorical, New York garment district business: Immigrant laborers work on outdated machines in an old building in a well-worn neighborhood, doing the sort of work one imagines was long ago outsourced to cheaperlocations. Indeed, most of it has been. Even as New York City was gaining in stature as a fashion capital in the latter half of the 20th century, its share of U.S. garment production underwent a full-tilt inversion, from a commanding 90 percent to less than 10 percent.

The story of this shift still haunts the district. “You couldn’t walk on the sidewalk,” says fabric wholesaler Bryan Kramer, recalling the jostling traffic of garment racks that once crowded the streets. Rodger Cohen, the second-generation owner of Regal Originals, keeps a tangible totem of the decline: a Pleaters, Stitchers, and Embroiderers Association wall calendar from the 1980s that lists some 400 members. “I’m the only unionized pleater left,” he says. Across the street from his office, someone has hung in another office window a sign that reads “Save the Garment Center.”

Rage Against Your Machine

Over the years and the miles, Simonetti has experienced just about everything a cyclist can on the roads today: honked horns, cramped bike lanes, close calls with cars, and even a few crashes—the last one landing him in the hospital. I was curious to ride with him for the sheer novelty of it, and also to get a handle on what seemed to be an increasingly prevalent culture war between cyclists and drivers, one that was claiming actual lives. At least for one beautiful morning, I wanted to move beyond the alarming headlines and toxic chat rooms and into the real world, to get a sense of how, why—and if—things had gotten so bad.

Ads via The Deck