It follows this year's pick of emerald green.
Officially known as Radiant Orchid, the tropical shade is a colour-wheel contrast to green, said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, but it's not the red that would have been a more obvious choice. "It's a little different, it's a little off the beaten path, and it's not a primary colour," she explains. "It's an invitation to innovation. The purple family offers (an) opportunity to do creative things."
And, she said, that's what pop culture wants right now. "People associate purple with creativity and originality — and those are very valued today. We see words like that being used to describe technologies and products that are seen as innovative and with an approach you haven't tried before."
Pantone sets colour standards for commercial use by design industries.
Eiseman expects people will take to it quickly because it's a flattering colour for many skin tones and complementary neutral colours, but it will also look like something people haven't seen in a while. That should work in an economy that's uncertain — not totally up, not fully down. "This is an opportunity to look at what you've already got in your closet and add to it. It will feel like the right amount of change."
The runways and red carpet have already had a few orchid moments, and Eiseman notes it's a colour that first lady Michelle Obama often wears. Even menswear has seen hints of it, with Salvatore Ferragamo and Ermengildo Zegna incorporating it into ties and trims.
Pantone's pick for colour of the year will, in theory, have a strong presence in fashion, beauty, home design and consumer products.
"It's very relevant for spring, but I think even going into next fall it can be very pretty," said Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director of upscale department store Saks Fifth Avenue. "In ready-to-wear, it mixes with other tones like chocolate browns, and burgundy or Bordeaux makes for a deeper, richer tonal story."
Sherin has invested the retailer's resources in orchid, and an orchid-colored Gucci handbag has already been photographed for a Saks ad. It will translate just as well into lip colour and eye shadow, and in home furnishings, she said. "I would love it in velvet. It would look so luxurious."
It's a paint colour and could be used in upholstery, and she can imagine it on the table, too. "We're seeing more of these infused desserts and cocktails, and I can see them embellished with orchid flowers."
Eiseman said the sign of success in her world is when she sees a colour on a coffee maker, and one in orchid is already in the works.
Follow Samantha Critchell and AP fashion coverage on Twitter at @Sam_Critchell and @AP_Fashion