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Digital decisions where colour matters

The SGS cloud based colour assessment service speeds up the decision-making process and removes subjective inconsistencies in designing and manufacturing new garments

Colour is essentially the light that is observed by the human eye, the company says. What is perceived as colour is affected by the light source, how wavelengths are reflected/absorbed, and how the viewer receives and interprets the light. Consumers, however, are not generally aware of these distinctions. What matters to them is how they feel, and colour can have a profound affect upon the way they respond to an item of clothing.

Decision making

Three groups of people are normally involved in choosing what colour a garment should be – the designer, the buying office, and the supplier/manufacturer. They need to make their decisions based upon an understanding of all of the above and also what they think will sell. With so many people involved, and the fact we also perceive colours in different ways, this process is inevitably subjective and difficult.

Traditionally, approving a colour for a garment involves the supplier submitting a physical colour sample to the other decision makers. These are then considered side-by-side, with the decision makers either approving a sample or making comments for a rework.

There are several problems with this process. Firstly, it is time-consuming and expensive, with samples and responses being conveyed back and forth between factories and offices. Secondly, it allows the opportunity for sample contamination or ageing, or the samples may even become mixed up, with decision makers commenting on the wrong swatches.

In the time of Covid-19, the colour approval process has become even more convoluted since many of the decision makers are now required to work from home. Samples therefore need to be ferried between even more destinations, increasing the chance of contamination or confusion. It is also possible that couriers may be unable to deliver to some decision makers, based on regional restrictions. The whole process is therefore slowed down and more expensive, with an increased possibility of mistakes occurring.


Forward-thinking businesses are now turning to digitalization to help them streamline the colour assessment process. Instead of sending physical samples to decision makers, they are sending samples to independent laboratories that then measure the colorimetric data and capture real colour images. If required, the laboratory will also generate a colour data file.

This information is then shared among all decision makers via cloud-based technology. All stakeholders have rapid access to the same image, report, data and standards, allowing them to make informed decisions based on identical information about the sample.

For designers, the process is faster and more accurate. It also allows suppliers to respond more quickly to changes in fashion,.

With samples only needing to be sent to one destination, the process is cheaper and more sustainable. It also allows greater consistency and engenders objective decision making.

The cloud-based solution of SGS helps suppliers to streamline their colour approval process. Samples are processed by a global network of specialist laboratories, and the results can be viewed by stakeholders around the world. The system measures samples to ISO 105 J03 or AATCC 173 and can be applied to wide variety of materials, including rubber and leather.

SGS is one of the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification companies, with 93,000 employees operating a network of 2,600 offices and laboratories.

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