Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Math Of Fashion Color Forecasts

Every year, fashion forecasters and designers get together and decide what the most popular colors will be for the upcoming season. And we buy it like robots.
Tyra Banks said that.

But I don't buy it.

Meaning, I know they forecast, but I literally don't buy whatever the fashion color forecast is.

I think this is due to a few interrelated factors... But most simply put, those of us who buy and wear vintage don't feel the pressure. It's one part marching to the beat of our own drum and one part oblivion. We know we'll be very lucky to find that perfect navy pencil skirt in our size -- and we've been so busy looking for it, we may not have been in a mall for ages, and so we've missed all the store fronts screaming the color du season.

Being a fashion & home decor blogger, however, it's rather difficult to miss the plethora of posts shouting from the digital rooftops (and the print magazine folks too) that turquoise is the colour for 2010. And "prints" is the word, the word that we've heard, that has the most groove, the most meaning.

Most of us know they do it, and we understand why; it sells advertiser's goods, which is the hand that feeds their publications.

Still, are we moved by it?

My friend and I decided to do a little sampling and run some numbers.

We, however unfairly, settled our mathematical sights on a group we figured were more highly susceptible to the manipulations of the fashion marketplace: teen age girls. Most specifically, high school girls. And with it being prom season, we knew exactly how to get our numbers.

So we sat at the local high school prom Grand March, and watched hundreds of young women literally parade past us; while they posed and smiled for the cameras, we counted dress colors and trends.

As mentioned, the color for spring is turquoise, so if the marketing mechanism is effective enough to program robot purchases, that should have been the number one color. But it wasn't. Not even when we included teal and any blues that one could confuse as turquoise. (The hue barely made 10%, even with our generous rounding.) In fact, none of the so-called "colors for Spring 2010" were very plentiful.

Prints were rather plentiful... But if one sticks to how prints are being described or extolled (i.e. not soft patterns or textures), it only accounted for 28% of the prom dresses seen (including the 2 girls who had the misfortune of wearing the same dress -- the horror! -- and animal prints, which are rather classic at this point). It sure didn't seem that the promotion of The "It" color(s) and styles were very effective on the young women at gown selection time.

Black, of course, was number one; 35% of dresses -- 47% if you counted the iridescent shades of blue, mauve and green which glowed black. Red and green, in all it's shades (from moss to emerald to lime), tied at 31% each.

(Yeah, the numbers don't exactly equal 100% -- it's tricky when you are counting patterns v. prints v. solids -- and factoring in for the metallics and iridescents too. But we were really trying to give the fashion color gestapo every chance.)

The green was a bit surprising, but black and red seem like classic dress-up fare; in short, we saw no evidence that the fashion forecasters and designers had turned those young women whining for mommy and daddy wallets into robots.

Now, to (try) to be scientific, we don't have any observational data from last year's prom to compare to this year's. And, as we do live in the Midwest, some might argue that we aren't trendy enough -- but then we'd argue that those more sophisticated folks on the coasts should be savvy enough not to fall for the industry push. Or that teenage girls are teenage girls, with the same access to publications pushing the fashion message, to media showing celebs flaunting the latest trends.

Of course, we could also argue the state of the economy, debate the increase in cynical youth who won't be manipulated by the media-fashion message to the same extent at their parents, &/or many other issues.

But from where I sat in that high school, where I sit philosophically on my observations, we womenfolk are not as robotic as some folks think we are.

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