April 25, 2011
As I was doing research on a new book to be released this fall (more about that in future) I was once again intrigued by the rise of the yellow greens in the mid to latter sixties until eventually it became an avalanche of avocado in the 70s but more often referred to an “Olive Green” in the 60s.
For a little personal background, I had moved to L.A. and enjoyed window shopping on Rodeo Drive. There was a store called “Jax” that was very Jill Sander-ish featuring very clean and modern design. The owner and main designer of the shop, was the first to combine olive and sky blue— an unheard of combination. Some people hated it, as it was ahead of its time, but the early adapters were fascinated by it. I saved my pennies (well, a bit more than that) and bought pants and a top and then topped (or bottomed ) it off with matching slip-in kitten-heeled pumps.
Wow—that was hot stuff. Of course, that was not Main Street fashion by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a great example of how one designer can start a trend and if promoted to the right audience can start to enter into the greater culture. It took a few years, but olive/avocado sightings were made through the 60s, first in fashion and then into other product areas as the color became more embedded in designer awareness. And Rachel Carson’s book ‘Silent Spring’ helped to push along the environmental aspects of the hue that started to make the earthy greens more acceptable.
Interestingly enough, from a mass perspective, Penney’s was the Target of its day. They were the most prescient in presenting colors ‘of the future’through a booklet called “Forum’ and is a perfect example of how they created a buzz about a color. It is a lesson in Marketing 101 and was in effect a “forecast”. The early adapters are usually of a higher economic level, but if you can hit the masses, you can really make a color story happen big time. The booklet was sent out to home economics teachers (now consumer education), journalists or anyone else who could help to create the buzz and ultimately, to sell the products. So by the 70s the groundwork was really set for the avocado and earth color explosion.