Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Teenagers save the economy

For several days there's been a story, first anecdotal, then gathering evidence, that in the current economic mess women my age have stopped shopping but the under 25s continue to do so with the same reckless abandon.

Sarah Mower in the Telegraph has a piece on thios, separating the non-spending women from the girls. Basically, if you want to buy wet look leggings, you're still roaming the high street. If you're looking for classics, you're at home:

The latest retail figures show how the generational guillotine falls. Asos, the second-biggest UK online fashion retailer, which sells branded fashion to under-25s, has just reported its sales up 68 per cent in the last seven weeks. Next, the bellwether of safe, middle-aged taste, and owner of Britain’s largest online business, by contrast, is down 4.4 per cent, and planning redundancies.

Sir Philip Green of Arcadia Group, in his last results, noted the same divide opening up between the young and middle-aged brands he owns: while Bhs, Dorothy Perkins and Burton have slowed down, Topshop and Topman, arguably the country’s best-tuned fashion vehicle for girls and boys, was streaking ahead.

Should there be any lingering doubt about which side of the gap you stand on, I suggest a simple test: take a look at wet-look leggings and react. Every fibre of an adult female’s being (not to mention thighs) will scream “No!” at the very thought, but if you’re 15 to 20-ish, “absolutely!”

Asos (alone) sold 2,000 pairs of them last week and can barely keep the things in stock. And if you’re in that bracket, why not go for skin-tight leather trousers, rock Ts and super-micro-mini prom dresses into the bargain? And the multicoloured false eyelashes, hair pieces, over-the-knee socks, trilby’s and giant plastic glasses frames for going out. And while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget the boyfriends: without the skinny Topman suits and winkle-pickers, they’re dead.

The spectacle of youth spending on such fashion insanities is guaranteed to drive adults to fits of disapproval and covert envy. But it could be argued that these young people are unwittingly behaving like the exemplary New Keynesians. As they pour their pocket money, baby-sitting earnings and student loans into the tills of Topshop, H&M, American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, perhaps we should see them not as spendthrift twits but as public-spirited youngsters doing their bit to keep the economy moving. Long shot, I agree, but in these upside-down days, worth a passing thought.