Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hemlines Stabilizing, Economy to Follow?

Photo courtesy of WSJ.com

The Wall Street Journal recently had a couple of very intersting articles about New York fashion week. Specifically, both articles referenced a return to designer's individual identities but with a continued focus on courting consumers who want investment pieces. Carolina Herrera, who makes $1,000 white blouses, must be loving this atmosphere.

WSJ continued their analysis with comments that today's high-end luxury consumer is still shopping. It's the "aspirational shopper" that designers must now consider. In other words, the woman who buys 25 Jimmy Choo shoes a year is going to continue doing so. The woman who buys one pair of Jimmy Choo heels, treasures them as her most valuable possession and wears them to work everyday--she might think twice about spending $800 on a pair of shoes now. If they're classic, she might still consider them. But she now feels frivolous and wasteful if she drops $800 on a pair of shoes that are going to go out of style in a year. And contrary to popular belief, it's these aspirational buyers who are driving designers' styles (not the ultra-wealthy elite).

In the middle of this commentary, WSJ draws a frequently cited conclusion--that fashion trends indicate the health of the economy. While I don't think this is an accurate blanket statement (the Dow's up! raise those hemlines!) I do think that WSJ makes a few interesting inferences. They note how this fall season is markedly different than the previous seasons' ultra-ultra safe fashions...you can actually see designers' tastes and influences reappear. People, the aspirational buyer in particular, are still demanding value though. So for the time-being, the runway still looks more Gweneth Paltrow than Lady Gaga.

It's corny, but this whole discussion makes me think of this commercial...Allstate, maybe? There's a line where the narrator asks, "Is this the great recession? Or the recession that made us great?" It then cuts to a picture of a man eating a sandwich on a bench, presumably saving money by bringing lunch to work.

Ok. It's really corny. But I do think that this silly commercial gets at the underlying question that WSJ also asks--is this economic recession creating savvier consumers? I definitely think that we'll see a permanent effect on consumer behavior from my generation...time will tell exactly what that effect will be.

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