“Brands look at colors more fluidly.”
Anna Starmer created the Luminary forecasting agency fifteen years ago, developing a unique earth-centered and sustainable approach. She works with some of the biggest retailers and brands to build a better industry, one that focuses on lasting inspirations and trends. FashionUnited meets the founder – she talks about her creative process, the making of Luminary books and why color plays such an important role in the fashion industry.
Can you describe to me your background and how you created Luminary?
I went to Chelsea College in London to study knitwear and textile design and when I left college I went to work for a color and trend forecasting studio. I worked mainly on materials and yarns for brands, but found that I liked the concept, story making, photography and storytelling. I learned the job and where my passion was and I became a consultant for many different brands like Monsoon, Miss Selfridge and Primark. I worked quite a long time with Marks & Spencer for their lingerie department. My job was to inspire the design teams by gathering information and putting together internal books that would be their concepts for the following season. Then I started working on Luminary The Book. I did it entirely by hand and went to the markets in Hackney, London to buy fabric samples and took all the photographs for it.
How has Luminary evolved over the years?
Five years after starting Luminary, I started to travel a lot. I created a book on India and all of a sudden I had agents all over the world trying to sell it for me. It was around the same time that I started working with a dye house in the UK to make my own samples.
In 2017 I went to Iceland and wanted to go to a place that wasn’t as much about the people as it was about the place. So I produced a book and a seminar filled with colors inspired by natural landscapes. It was then that I realized that we are so out of touch with nature in our modern lives. When I presented my seminar in New York, I asked the audience, “How can you design for human beings on this planet without considering your impact on the earth?” It has become a very big part of what I do now.
Luminary is not a standard color forecasting studio. Can you explain the concept behind this? How is Luminary’s approach different from other agencies?
The thing with what I do is because it’s based on color and concept, it can go through fashion, interiors, lingerie or packaging. My job is to inspire and bring new ideas. It’s incredibly creative and forward-thinking, but you also need good persuasive skills because you’re constantly trying to get people to new ideas. I have always been very interested in the natural world and this is what I have been using in my book for twelve years.
You work regularly with artists, colorists, but also big brands to change the industry from the inside. Can you explain the process behind and how you work with these partners?
It’s interesting because when I talk to students they say to me, “But how can you work with Primark? My reasoning is that if we can change Primark, we can do anything. I work with brands that produce in mass and try to get them to change the way they manufacture and operate. I also work with Ikea, which is committed to being carbon positive by 2030. I am increasingly becoming a bridge between the big brands and the small and innovative ones that are bubbling up and starting up.
We sit down with the brands and refine the things they’ve put in place and I’m always pushing for a more sustainable or regenerative approach. I will always ask questions like “Where do you make this?” “,” Where do the colors come from? “
Some brands invite me to check out their ideas and come up with better ones, so I’m going to look all the shelves and see what we want the workshop to look like for example. I also work with young companies and material specialists such as cashmere producers to concoct color stories for them. It’s about bringing that extra level of knowledge.
What are your customers looking for when they come to Luminary? Can you give a bit of detail about the services you offer?
I have discovered over the years that working directly with a designer is the best way to do it because they are specialists in their field and it has to be a collaboration.
I have been working with the same UK technical dye house for 15 years and dye my samples the same way as Pantone. Any brand that works with me can order additional samples to match their products. They use my books in-house to create their own color palettes and along the physical book brands are given sixty color swatches, so they can build their own mouldboard.
What are the biannual Luminary Color books about? What can we expect from them and what do they present for the seasons to come?
I want my books to contain original information, to be a personal take on what I think is interesting right now. They never talked about what’s on the podium – they’re based on how we live and what I see around me. Each book has a very strong story behind it and all of them have a earth-first approach. They have beautiful images, inspiring colors, lots of words about how we feel, what is happening, what influences us. I present many artists, designers and manufacturers of different materials.
Customers buy them early in the season – they’re two or more years early – so it’s a way for creators to start their creative process. Over the past few years, I’ve actually taken the seasons out of my books. I find people now use them in different ways; brands look at colors more fluidly.
Why is color such an important factor in decision making in the fashion industry?
Color is an instant human reaction. It’s intuitive, from the gut, from the heart. Even though we’re not particularly interested in fashion or style, we still have an instinctive reaction to color – we either love it or hate it. For this reason, color can make or break a mark. I have seen top selling products sell in one color and not sell at all in another. Because it’s such a personal reaction, it’s also a reflection of our mood and our personality. For example, the colors you choose to have in your home are a bold statement. It’s like the first impression you have of someone. Color can be used as a great communicator by people. We are all very confused about color right now because we are so bombarded with colors and images in our modern world. It has become difficult to remember which colors you really like.
Are there any changes you would like to see in the industry when it comes to forecasting trends and colors? If yes, why?
People talk a lot about changing the materials we use, but not about the color of textiles and toxic waste. The problem we have is that we have to completely change the way we produce and consume. It’s a huge mountain to climb and it won’t happen overnight.
Any company that works as an influencer or fashion trends organization that doesn’t focus on a earth-first approach … I don’t get it anymore because for me there is nothing else that is fashionable. I passionately believe that we need to buy less and buy products that we love, want to invest in, and have in our home and closet for years to come. We still need clothes and products, but all trends should be about how we can do it in a better way. They should move towards a better use of materials and encourage a better way of working throughout the supply chain.
What are you currently working on and what are the next projects for Luminary?
Luminary Issue 25, titled Lightness, was released in September 2021. I created it this summer and it’s a nod to Spring / Summer 2023, but definitely goes beyond. I shot most of the time in Sussex and locally – it showcases some brilliant innovators in materiality and color creation. I just launched The Future of Color, a 280-page digital report and presentation on the future of color and materials in design for the next decade. Also, I’m about to start looking at the next season, which is Fall / Winter 2023.