January 4, 2005

Fashion economics, fashion psychology.

Last February, in response to fashion writing that tried to analyze, on some deep sociological level, why all the designers were offering up very prim clothes, I wrote :
I'll bet they are just laying the groundwork for saying "All that prim swaddling looks so old now" next year. The trick in fashion is to get you not to notice how bad something is now so that in the future they can sell something else that looks pretty bad by contrasting it to that thing from the previous year.

I want some recognition for my fashion savvy, because here they are now, abjuring primness:
A year ago they were all taken with ladylike clothes. You would have thought a fur tippet was the most exciting thing since fulminate of mercury. Now they're sorry they ever met the lady.

"If I see another tweed pencil skirt," the designer Lazaro Hernandez said, "I'm going to . . . "

Ha, ha ... I think that's the way many of us felt the first time we saw one! But, so, anyway ... what is in style now, you might ask. One thing is clear, it's not grunge! It can't be grunge, we're told. One sells luxury in the fashion industry. But fashion economics has its own outlandish psychology:
David Wolfe, the creative director of the Doneger Group, which forecasts fashion trends and whose clients include Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, [said] ... [i]f a young woman ... used to spend two paychecks for a coveted handbag, she will soon be spending an entire month's wages if it means that much to her.

Anyway, to a forecaster 2005 is already a wash. Mr. Wolfe has his sights on 2006. "It's going to be the start of dropping out, downsizing and divesting yourself," he said. "And that's going to have all kinds of design implications. Too many products right now are overdesigned." He foresees the beginning of "an aesthetic movement" that will lead people actually to brag that they own only one bag or expensive coat.

Mr. Wolfe chuckled. "I like this idea," he said, "that it's so elitist."

If your handbag cost you a month's wages and you think you're in the elite, you're absolutely out of your mind. Yet the fashion industry is built on expert theorizing that pictures a woman who would think such a thing.

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