Marsala is 2015’s Official Pantone Color of the Year

The authorities have spoken. Marsala, a gorgeous terracotta red shade, has been named the official color of the year by the biggest experts in the field. You may not have heard of Pantone, but the color authorities have been used as an industry resource for decades. After announcing the color of the millennium in 1999 there was so much public interest that Pantone decided to name a color every year based on their extensive research. They’ve also worked with Sephora to create some stunning new makeup to bring the shade to your lips, lids, and cheeks. While there may only be so many ways you can wear radiant orchid or tangerine tango, the new marsala collection, launching in Sephora and on on December 26, is by far the most wearable collaboration.

“This earthy red has wine and a very warm brown underneath, which gives the feeling of groundedness, strength, and confidence,” says Leatrice Eisman, Executive Director of Pantone Color Institute. “It has a richness that lends sophistication. When you wear it’s it is a self-fulfilling prophecy—you’ll find you get positive reactions form others and it builds up your confidence.” Eisman explains that we’ve seen glimpses of marsala in the late ‘60s into the ‘70s and a touch in the ‘80s, but it’s a very modern hue that totally suits the times.

So just how is the color chosen? “We have a committee at Pantone and we’re all very well traveled, and we’re all invested in color and looking for clues that engage us,” says Eisman. “If we’re seeing color in high fashion that’s where envelope is pushed first— before it goes more mass market.” Eisman says Pantone also looks to current films in production for settings and wardrobe, the art world, popular travel destinations for indigenous hues, and sporting events for team colors when calculating the next “it” shade. With up to 10 people on the committee how do they narrow it down? “Everyone has strong opinions, but it’s always astounding to me how many people are on the same wavelength thinking the same thing,” says Eisman.

Next it’s on to the Sephora offices. “One we get the color our merchants and product developers go to a lab and we begin to play with product,” says Margarita Arriagada, Sephora’s Chief Merchant. “We really allow it to sit and inspire us. We look at formulas, we think about what’s trending, and we and have our PRO team begin to use it to see if it’s working for a bronzer or a certain product. At that point we define what product delivery we want and give it to Pantone to match the color.” Arrigada says while some products are in the marsala color family, some items like the lipstick deliver true payoff to the Pantone shade.

With nude makeup all the rage on the runway and the red carpet, Arrigada thinks of marsala like a new neutral for all skin tones. “Every year we say the challenge is how to shake it up a little bit and make a splash, but we could tell immediately with this particular shade that we’d have more versatility.” She suspects the lipstick and 24-shade eye palette will be the first to fly off shelves. “Marsala is a color that I would not say to just use in touches or accents—it’s strong enough to stand on its own,” says Eisman. “In makeup it’s a shoe-in because women are familiar with this type of color in nail polish and lipsticks.” As a color expert, Eisman suggests pairing the shade with teal and aqua across the color wheel.

In terms of wearability, Gilbert Soliz, a Sephora PRO artist who worked on the campaign, calls it “client-friendly” for a wide range of skin tones and eye colors. “Depending how you wear it, the color goes from sultry to simple. You can use the shade in a sheer soft way, wrap it around the eye, wear it on your cheek, wear it on the lips—it really is a wearable shade.” And the color may bring you one step closer to looking like a supermodel. “The color immediately reminded me of Cindy Crawford back in the ‘90s with that monochromatic look. The full brows, tan skin, brown bricky red lips.”

Ready to give it a spin? For more on marsala and tips on how to wear it, click through our slideshow.