Interesting business indicator: Skirts Are Getting Shorter And That’s Bullish For The Economy

On March 28th, 2012, posted in: IT Careers for Central Ohio, Job Search Tips by Mike

Now here’s an interesting business indicator:

By Eric Platt. for Business Insider.

Ken Downing was at the airport late Friday, waiting for his flight to London  to depart. Downing, the head of womenswear at Neiman Marcus, had only just  completed the first leg of a month of fashion shows that span New York, London,  Milan and Paris.

For him, the week that had just ended meant a series of conversations with  buyers who will ultimately pick through the more than 300 collections shown,  including big names like Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg, and smaller ones  like Peter Som and Joseph Altuzarra.

But for some traders, economists, and pundits, the month now proves one more  thing beyond fashion: an indicator of how the economy will perform over the coming  year.

“Like the stock markets, hemlines are going up and down daily and  seasonally,” Mr. Downing says.

The Hemline Indicator

The Hemline  Indicator was reportedly first introduced by University  of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor George Taylor, an idea that women’s hemlines fluctuate and can  even indicate macroeconomic performance.  The higher the hemline, the  better the economy looks.

From afar, bloggers and editors have offered anecdotal  evidence regarding the direction of hemlines.

But for the first time, Business  Insider conducted a full analysis of hemlines at New York fashion week,  measuring some 2,092 images from 25 designers, comparing year-on-year changes in  the length of skirts and dresses.

The findings were pretty clear: hemlines are getting  shorter.

Click  here to see the individual results from New York Fashion Week >

The Results

The BI Hemline Index is calculated by measuring hem length as a percentage of  the length from floor to waistline.  The shorter the hemline, the higher  the index.

Overall, average hemlines in 2012 registered a 44.38 on the  index, up from 35.04 for the Fall/Winter 2011 collections.

Complete looks from each designer were measured, however skirts and dresses  were the only data points fed into the data set.  Measurements were taken from images provided post-show.

On first glance, hemlines appeared to fall, with designers like Marc Jacobs  showing little skin. However, when deconstructing outfits and measuring the  skirts shown over pants, hemlines jumped. At Mr. Jacobs show for instance, the  Hemline Index read at 45.6, compared to 41.1 last year.

Eighty percent of the designers included in the analysis registered shorter  skirts and dresses. Rodarte, the quirky womenswear label designed by Kate  and Laura Mulleavy, eschewed the floor grazing gowns of 2011, showing half  as many. Rodarte jumped 17 points on the Index, to 37.0.

Amanda Brooks, fashion director at Barney’s, said hemlines had moved  both higher and lower on the runway this season.

“I would say in terms of the dress or skirt silhouette, it’s kind  of anything goes right now,” Ms. Brooks says. “I wouldn’t say we’re seeing super  short, to me what’s looking the most fresh personally is this mid-calf with a  big slit up the front or an open vent. We’ve seen that on a lot of runways the  last few seasons, and I think it’s addressing the same moment as the idea of the  gaucho.”

Assembling the List

Business Insider chose 25 of  the most influential designers that show at New York fashion week, clothes that  will end up on hangers during the second half of 2012.

Beyond Marc Jacobs and DVF, the list includes 3.1 Philip Lim, Alexander Wang, Bill  Blass, Calvin Klein, Carolina  Herrera, Christian Siriano, Donna Karan  Collection, J.  Crew, Jason Wu, Jill  Stuart, L.A.M.B., Michael  Kors, Nanette Lepore, Oscar de la  Renta, Prabal Gurung, Proenza  Schouler, Ralph  Lauren, Rodarte, Thakoon, Theysken’s  Theory, Tommy Hilfiger Women’s and Vera  Wang.

The names were chosen based on two key factors. The first, the designer  have strong artistic relevance. Marc Jacobs collection, which will sell vastly  fewer pieces than the offshoot Marc by Marc Jacobs brand, was  used for the  official index because the impact from his mainline will be far  greater.

In a  review last February, Nicole Phelps, Executive Editor of, noted  that one retailer remarked that, “We have to come [to Marc Jacobs] in  order to find out what we’ll be seeing next season.”

The second component: the brand be commercially viable, weather through  wholesale, partnerships with broadline retailers like Target, or through  their own sales channels.

Jason Wu, Rodarte and Proenza Schouler have all had  surprising success with capsule collections at mass retailers, while Michael  Kors and Ralph Lauren have an ever expanding retail network.

Click  here to see how long hemlines were for all 25 designers >

A Contrarian View

Not everyone is convinced that hemlines hold much weight when predicting  economic performance.

“It’s interesting, as a fashion director I no longer believe hemlines are a  conversation on trend because its so particular to a designer and their point of  view,” Mr. Downing says. “We are seeing hemlines below the knee, at the knee,  and some that are still quite short.”

I caught up with Jeffrey Monteiro, the creative director of Bill Blass,  after his show on Thursday evening, the last collection at New York fashion  week.

“For me it’s just proportion,” he says. “Let’s make it longer, let’s  make it shorter, and once we find a proportion we like we just keep going with  it.”

Most designers mirror that viewpoint, that the economy has little effect on  what they present. But that is hard to argue, when designers almost unanimously  moved to a black and neutral color palette as Lehman  Brothers failed.

“The customer is definitely looking for something that will give her fashion  credit in her wardrobe. This whole idea of when the economy went upside down  that all that she would buy would be basics and there would be the return of the  black turtleneck, was not what we saw in the luxury market,” Mr. Downing  says. “She didn’t stop shopping, she just was not shopping as robust as she  was before.”

Hemline Index aside, one of the best predictors of economic growth is  consumer spending, and so far Mr. Downing is happy with what he sees.

“We feel very positive about the spring trends in stores now and customers  are responding very favorably.”

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