Indiana University Bloomington

Business school’s retailing center tracking student fashion trends

  • Sept. 16, 2013

Researchers at IU’s Kelley School of BusinessCenter for Education and Research in Retailing have constructed a new tool to track just how fashion-forward college students really are. The Fashion Innovation Index -- or FIndex -- has emerged to track college-age students’ fashion habits.

“The college demographic is interesting because they are forward thinking and not afraid to experiment,” said Amy Levin, IU alumna and founder and CEO of College Fashionista.com.

The website highlights expression through fashion, photography and creative thinking. Working under the idea that “Your campus is the runway,” CollegeFashionista takes a look at trendy individuals chosen by their style guru peers.

“College students are influencers and trendsetters,” Levin said. “They are at the forefront of fashion.”

The findings of the 2013 FIndex Back to School Survey show that college-age fashion enthusiasts make purchases early, have less disposable income than last year, spend little on technology and the most on apparel (followed by shoes and accessories), and use the Internet most often to make purchases.

Key specialty brands include Urban Outfitters, J. Crew, Free People, Forever 21 and Zara, while key luxury brands are Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Tory Burch and Michael Kors.

The study grew out of the IU connections that linked the center with Kalypso, a consulting firm, and CollegeFashionista. Each member of the trio brings value to the project. The center focuses on retail and retail research; Kalypso has a reputation for translating innovation into operating results for clients, and College Fashionista has fashion gurus out on campuses reporting daily.

“This is an interesting population to look at and see if they are predictable,” said John Talbott, associate director of the center. “We suspect it could be possible that they are a predictor of broader retail sentiment.”

A representative sample of 600 style gurus from CollegeFashionista were surveyed to find out what, when and where they buy. Although only one survey has been conducted, after a number of years, Talbott hopes to have an understanding of this population’s perception of innovative fashion.

Steve Riordan, IU alumnus and Kalypso partner, said the project has two goals. The researchers want to quantify how innovative merchandise is each season in stores, and then determine if there is a correlation to sales increases.

“Fashion is a big business,” Talbott said. “We work with large stores like Kohl’s and Macy’s, and being able to offer them this information is important.”

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.