Anna Starmer from Luminary: "Brands are looking at colours in a more fluid way."

Anna Starmer created forecasting agency Luminary fifteen years ago,
developing a unique approach that’s earth-centered and sustainable.
She works with some of the biggest retailers and brands towards
building a better industry, one that focuses on durable inspirations
and trends. FashionUnited meets with the founder – she talks about her
creative process, the making of the Luminary Books and why colour
plays such an important role in the fashion industry.

Can you walk me through your background and how you came up with

I went to Chelsea College in London to study knitwear and textile
design and when I left college, went to work for a colour and trend
forecasting studio. I worked mainly on materials and yarns for brands,
but found that I loved the concept, creation of stories, photography
and storytelling. I learnt the trade and where my passion was and
became a consultant for many different brands like Monsoon, Miss
Selfridge and Primark. I worked for 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 in-house
books that would be their concepts for the following season. Then, I
started working on Luminary The Book. I made it completely by hand and
went to markets in Hackney, London to buy fabric swatches and took all
the photography for it.

Image: Luminary Colours

How has Luminary evolved over the years?

Five years after starting Luminary, I started to travel
extensively. I created a book about India and all of a sudden I had
agents around the world trying to sell it for me. It was at that same
time that I began working with a dye house in the UK to do my own

In 2017, I went to Iceland and wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t
about the people as much as it was about the place. So, I produced a
book and seminar filled with colours inspired by the natural
landscapes. That’s when I realised that we were 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?” That has become
a really big part of what I do now.

Luminary isn’t a standard colour forecasting studio. Can you
explain the concept behind it? How is Luminary’s approach different
from other agencies?

The thing with what I do is that because it’s colour and concept
based, it can go across fashion, home 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 persuasion
skills as you’re constantly trying to bring people around to new
ideas. I’ve always been very interested in the natural world and
that’s what I’ve been using in my book for twelve years.

Image: Luminary Colours

You regularly work with artists, colourists, but also high street
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 speak with students, they say, “But
how can you work with Primark?” My reasoning is that if we can change
Primark, we can do anything. I’m working with brands that are mass
producing, and trying to get them to change the way they manufacture
and operate. I also work with Ikea who have pledged to be carbon
positive by 2030. I’m becoming more and more of a bridge between big
brands and small, innovative ones that are bubbling up and just

We sit down with brands and finesse the things they’ve put together
and I’m always pushing for a more sustainable or regenerative
approach. I will always ask questions like, “Where are you
manufacturing that?”, “Where do the colours come from?”

Some brands bring me in to check their ideas and put together
better ones, so I’ll look at all departments and see what we want for
the shop floor to look like for example. I also work with young
companies and material specialists like cashmere producers to put
together colour stories for them. It’s about bringing that extra level
of knowledge in.

What are your clients looking for when they come to Luminary? Can
you detail a bit the services you offer?

I found over the years that collaborating directly with a designer
is the best way of doing it, because they are specialists in their
field and it has to be a collaboration.

I’ve been working with the same technical dye house in the UK for
15 years and I dye my swatches the same way that Pantone does. Any
brand that works with me can order extra swatches to match their
products. They use my books internally to create their own colour
palettes and along the physical book, brands receive sixty colour
swatches, so they can build their own moldboard.

Image: Luminary Colours

What are the bi-annual Luminary Colour books about? What can we
expect from them and what do they present for the seasons to

I want my books to have original information, be a personal take on
what I feel is interesting at the moment. They’ve never been about
what’s on the catwalk – they’re based on how we’re living and what I’m
seeing around me. Each book has a really strong storyline behind it
and all have an earth-first approach. They have beautiful images,
inspiring colours, lots of words about how we’re feeling, what’s going
on, what’s influencing us. I feature a lot of different artists,
creators and material makers.

Clients buy them at the beginning of the season – they’re two years
ahead or beyond – so it’s a way for designers to start their creative
process. Over the last few years, I’ve actually taken the seasons off
my books. I find that people now use them in different ways; brands
are looking at colours in a more fluid way.

Why is colour such an important factor of the decision-making in
the fashion industry?

Colour is an instant human reaction. It’s intuitive, from the gut,
from the heart. Even if we’re not particularly interested in fashion
or style, we still all instinctively have a reaction to colour – we
love it or hate it. For that reason, colour can make or break a brand.
I’ve seen best-selling products sell out in one colour and not sell at
all in another one. Because it’s such a personal reaction, it’s also a
reflection of our mood and personality. For instance, the colours you
choose to have in your home are a bold statement. It’s like the first
impression you get of somebody. Colour can be used as an amazing
communicator by people. We are all very confused about colour right
now because we are so bombarded with colours and images in our modern
world. It’s become difficult to remember the colours you really

Image: Luminary Colours

Are there any shifts you’d like to see in the industry when it
comes to trend and colour forecasting? If so, why?

People are talking a lot about changing the materials we use, but
not about colour in textiles and the toxic waste. The problem we’ve
got is that we need to change the way we produce and consume entirely.
It’s a huge mountain to climb and that’s not going to happen

Any business that works as an influencer or fashion trend
organisation that doesn’t focus on an earth-first approach… I don’t
get it anymore because for me, there’s nothing else that’s on trend. I
passionately believe we need to buy less and buy products we love,
want to invest in and have in our home and wardrobe for years. We
still need clothing and products, but all trends should be about how
we can do that in a better way. They should be moving towards 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, called 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 it around Sussex and
locally – it features brilliant innovators across materiality and
colour creation. I have just launched The Future of Colour, a 280 page
digital report and presentation investigating the future of colour and
materials in design for the next decade. Also, I’m about to start
looking at the next season, which is autumn-winter 2023.

Image: Luminary Colours


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