The collision of global markets and social mood

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue: N° 5

Introduction
This edition was always going to be N° 5.

It was always going to honor fashion's original badass, Coco Chanel.

And so it does . . .

The 5th edition of The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue contains 5 themes, was created in 5 days, and was posted on September 5th.

It is intended to be as spare yet complete as the little black dress, as lean as the iconic CHANEL logo.

Imagine, then, finding this pull quote on page 648:

"Coco Chanel was such a punk in the way that she approached style and feminism. 
She gave power to women, made it about how we wanted to look."

What a jackpot. It practically summed up the entire issue.

Abandoned as a child, Chanel empowered women because she was forced to empower herself.

“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”

"I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I would like."

"Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."

Chanel not only liberated women from the corsets and confines of the Victorian era, she liberated women from the confines of their minds.

"Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress. Elegance comes from being as beautiful inside as outside."

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone."

Remember, this was during a time when it was still very much a man's world.

"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud."

"Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman."

Chanel refused to follow the prevailing social mores.

She smoked.

She refused to ride side-saddle.

She turned the suntan from a symbol of the working class into a must-have fashion accessory.

And she chose fragrance sample number 5 because "5" had a mystical significance to her, owing from the convent where she was raised.

“I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th month, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it number 5.”

There was much in the 2015 issue that I think she would have been encouraged by, so let's get started.

What Is Socionomics?
Socionomics, pioneered by Robert Prechter, is the study of social mood and its influence on social events.

Social mood is referred to as a shared mental state.

Socionomics contends that waves of social mood affect the character of social actions -- as opposed to events affecting mood.

By studying such causality, social mood therefore can function as a leading societal indicator.

My shorthand is MOOD IS MODE.

Why Fashion?
There is a long established correlation between fashion and the markets, best exemplified by the hemline indicator developed by Ralph Rotnem, who began his career in 1929.

Prechter explains, "Though this idea is often dismissed as frivolous, socionomics explains why there is a correlation. The trends of stock prices and women’s hemlines are a function of social mood. When people feel bold and frisky, they buy stocks and wear more revealing clothes. When they feel threatened and conservative, they sell stocks and wear more concealing clothes. It is that simple."

This analysis is also inspired by the late Paul Macrae Montgomery who developed the Magazine Cover Indicator.

Why Vogue?
Vogue is the unofficial bible of fashion, and the September issue sets the tone for the year ahead.

September Vogue 2015 Overview
While social mood may be a subjective leading indicator, advertising is a factual leading indicator. Ad budgets are often the first to get cut when business slows.

It was cautioned in the 2012 edition of The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue that 2012 could have seen the top in pages. 2013 only grew by 1%. Since then it's been a steady slide in overall pages.

916, 856, 832 . . .

Elsewhere, Google Inc. has reported two quarters of cost-per-click erosion, -7 and -11% respectively.

Could such trends be why Condé Nast, Hearst, and Time Inc. did not report ad counts for September this year?

That's where Fashionista stepped in.

Fashionista purchased each of the major September issues and counted the ad pages, by hand, 3 times each. They found:

"Only WSJ, T (NYT), Glamour and Elle saw ad page increases this year. Vogue saw a slight decline, but still garnered the most overall. InStyle was the worst hit, with a 30 percent decrease year-over-year, which was confirmed by a source."

September Vogue 2015 had 615 ad pages, down from 631 in 2014 and a record 665 in 2013.

665, 631, 615 . . .

A steady trend in ad softness is a warning.

Oh, and this ad from the 2015 issue means "watch Apple." It was recently 31% off its highs.




Business aside, I was not a fan of the styling and composition of Beyoncé's cover shot. The hair wrecked it.

I still think that Beyoncé's 2003 Dangerously In Love was one of the hottest album covers ever. I remember wondering how anyone could be so beautiful.

Here, however, Beyoncé's hair seems matted down and greasy. She looks, literally, propped up by the furniture behind her. Such a presentation of the woman Vogue hails as the "touchstone of our time" means change is afoot.


Some of the change is good. She's one of at least eight non-white women on fall fashion covers this September. A positive development, and part of one of the key themes covered later.

From a design standpoint it's a pretty cover. Elegant, balanced, and quiet. The color palette seems straight out of the Pantone® Fall 2015 Fashion Color Report --

"This season displays an umbrella of accord that weaves earthy neutrals with a range of bold color statements and patterns to reflect a landscape of hope, fun, fantasy and all things natural."

Take note: one of them is called STORMY WEATHER. Also take note of ALL THINGS NATURAL.

On the first skim-through, the issue felt as though there was very little to work with. No clear trend emerged with color or style or feature, except for fur. After last year's treasure trove of accidental subtext (unintended, subconscious communication) leaping from nearly every page, 2015 felt devoid of substance.

More emerged on subsequent read-throughs, yet it still felt like an issue that served up a lot but didn't take a stand, other than to recognize vague new "forces" at work.

Yet as we'll soon discover, those forces are anything but vague.

September Vogue 2014 Recap
Last year's implications were posted on September 2nd.

A REBOOT was predicted.

On September 19th, the day of the long-awaited Alibaba IPO, the S&P 500 hit a peak of 2019.26.

18 days later it reached 1820.66, almost a 10% decline. The Dow Jones fell 900 points.

Two of September Vogue's explicit warnings were:

"Look Down for a Wholesale Shift From High to Low which could be a Global Phenomenon"

"The Turning points for Fall...and could end up Turning September on its Head"


Oil was $101.07 on September 2nd. It recently hit $37.75.

Gold was $1280. Recently $1072.

Euro was 1.31. Recently 1.04.

British Pound was 1.66. Recently 1.45.

Brazil's Bovespa index was 60,000. Recently it was below 45,000.

The Athens Composite index in Greece was 1150. It hit 568.

A wholesale shift from high to low -- a global phenomenon.

Not bad for a fashion mag.

But as tempting as it was to declare that last year's analysis predicted the mini crash, if you blinked you missed it. The S&P 500 rocketed back to new highs and bumped along for most of 2015, ironically until about a month before September Vogue 2015 hit the stands.

Also last year's Instagirls! cover spelled doom for Twitter, which barely got a mention.

Twitter fell from a high of 55.99 to 21.01. It barely got a mention this year either.

Lastly, in November 2014 Condé Nast moved to One World Trade Center, near Wall Street. The linkage between September Vogue and the financial markets may have just gotten a little stronger.

Ironically this DKNY ad features a 1994 photograph by
Peter Lindbergh at the corner of William Street
  and Exchange Place, right around the corner from Wall Street

The photograph above is significant. Less than a block away from the epicenter of global finance, and she's totally alone.

Analysis & Commentary
Before moving on, the rules of analysis remain the same: every word, every image, and the content of every image down to the smallest detail, counts.

There is no page-by-page running commentary this year, notes are kept to a minimum, and findings are grouped into 5 themes.

Implications, as always, come last.

First, a few overall comments and how they fit into themes . . .

The amount of fur in this issue was stunning.

The amount of girl-on-girl "romance" in this issue was also stunning.

It felt like an homage to the disintermediation of fashion and power through individuality and female ascendancy. Cutting out the middlemen. And a literal cutting out of the men.

Realism. Unstereotypes. A return to the arts. Upendings. Metaphors. Nature.

Native American and Inca overtones, nature, her stoic and confident
 stance, all suggest inner strength 

Alone, at one, and at ease with the natural elements

Tree huggers of the world unite

The old way is over. Heavy new forces at work

Yes, she's a blogger

Girl on girl

Girl on girl

Girl on girl

Girl on girl

Girl on girl on girl on girl

Fur, lace, skin, color, all together 

After the first skim-through, the cover lines made more sense.

JUST B (and later inside B STRONG)
-- This felt like a nod toward cultivating inner power.

THE ART OF GLOBAL DOMINATION
-- Since this analysis ultimately seeks to forecast the financial markets, and due to the use of "forces" and "rule-breakers," this came to be seen as a nod toward disrupting central banking, elites, and entrenched power structures.

FORCES OF FASHION
-- Forces to reckon with. Or forces of change. Or both.

THE RULE-BREAKERS DEFINING THE WAY WE DRESS NOW
-- Rule-breaking forces defining the way we _____ now. (the way we do anything)

FALL ROMANCE
-- Girl-on-girl romance. Men not needed at this time.

832 PAGES OF WILDLY WONDERFUL LOOKS
-- Cultivating inner power through the power of the nature.

After that, with a bit of context, 5 themes emerged.

The 5 Themes
Inner Power
Romance Without Men
Peak Empire
Disintermediation
The Forces Awakens
_________________________________________________

INNER POWER
Note the progression . . .

2012

2013

2014

2015
The forces in this theme are internal forces. Inner power, wisdom, individuality, energy.

More from Prechter ..."the larger the bear market, the smaller the factional units. During the reduction process in the size of the social unit of allegiance, one’s “in group” becomes smaller and smaller."

In other words, people seem to be going inside, which has implications.

Céline's Phoebe Philo, "I have no idea what the future holds. I follow my intuition and instinct on a day-by-day basis."

An article on page 554 entitled Nostalgia centered on the power of a single photograph which helped the writer dream and escape her strict evangelical household.

It is the power of fashion to liberate and inspire, to enhance femininity -- especially important in a masculine world -- that makes a publication like Vogue important even though on the surface it may appear trivial. It's important to female identity -- badly needed at this time.

And identity is best developed within.

Elsewhere, the article on page 771 about Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show, extended the impact.

Noah, who's birth during South Africa's period of apartheid was technically illegal, said "I was born a crime." Think of the inner strength it must have taken to rise above that and become a comedian.

Gucci's Alessandro Michele noted, "There is a marvelous anarchy that characterizes young people."

What if such anarchy is the realization that true power is not something that is granted by any authority, but is the spirit which already exists within us all.

As poet, mother, and musician Patti Smith wrote,

People have the power . . .
The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools

The excerpt from Smith's upcoming book M Train on page 502 was fantastic. I always respected her because she took time off from her music career to raise children and then came back and wrote one of the best songs I'd ever heard (where those lyrics are from above). It still gives me chills.



In some ways, wrestling the earth from fools may have already begun.


ROMANCE WITHOUT MEN
According to socionomic theory, women gain dominance in bear markets.

In addition to the girl-on-girl photographs above, on page 488 Gabrielle Hamilton gets married to a man, divorces, then marries a woman.

Elsewhere, the phrase "Gender-bending pussycat bows" added fluidity.

And on page 642, there was an important Message in a Bottle -- Rose of No Man's Land.

The ascendancy of women is a trend that seems to be building steadily, which means the bear is either soon to be, or nearly over. With the markets having been in a consolidation for almost a year, we could be in a bearish phase currently, or witnessing the start of something more sinister.


Like he's hanging on for dear life

If women are in ascendancy, if they are gaining dominance, then it may foreshadow a peak.


PEAK EMPIRE



That the September issue featured Empire, the hottest show on television, is huge.

"The show is a brilliant mash-up -- part Sopranos, part Glee, part Dynasty. What really makes it pop is its obsession with fashion."

Even the show's "perfect-storm timing" was noted.

How's this for timing:

Just before the recent August mini crash the New York Fed's Empire State general business conditions index tumbled from 3.86 in July to -14.92 in August, its lowest print since April 2009. Economists had expected the index to rise to 5.00.

The State Of The Empire was a disaster.

Since the market lows of 2009, bad news has been good news because it "meant" the Fed would add more stimulus.

This time, bad news was bad news. The Fed narrative could be beginning to break.

Ironically, "Street Smarts" was used as a caption in the Empire Rises feature. "Empire State Of Mind" appears on page 697. The Empire Fed print may an omen.

Meanwhile, the wild popularity of Empire places us in negative mood territory. Prechter's Pioneering Studies in Socionomics (2003) explains why:

"Definitive morals and heroes accompany a bull market; blurred morals and mixed heroes accompany a bear market."

Powerful oil tycoon Blake Carrington of Dynasty was a far cry from Lucious, a former drug dealer turned hip hop mogul.

"No shortage of magnetic anti-heroes" was mentioned on page 677.

Empire celebrates it.

Elsewhere in the issue, Ralph Lauren's latest focus? "To diversify his far-reaching empire" -- namely with restaurants. "It's exciting to step out -- the change never stops."

Maybe he should study this Miu Miu campaign entitled Subjective Reality.

Reality becomes highly subjective after long trends. Human nature loves to extrapolate trends into the future as if they will continue unabated. Lauren's expertise is fashion and apparel. If Peak Empire is here, he may want to reconsider his focus.

Warning for empires when reality becomes subjective

Another symptom of Peak Empire is explained next.


DISINTERMEDIATION
Another way people "wrestle the earth from fools" is by disrupting entrenched power structures.

This is alive and well in fashion and finance. Bloggers are now regulars on financial television. Blogs like Zero Hedge aggregate and crunch financial news faster than the Wall Street press can keep up.

One of the hottest campaigns in the September issue is by Sam Edelman featuring beautiful blogger Rocky Barnes shot by Patrick Demarchelier. Barnes was not crowned by a fashion magazine but by her 600,000 social media followers.

600,000 reasons to be herself

Social media has disintermediated fashion so thoroughly that for the second year in a row September Vogue was forced to bow to it. Its Forces Of Fashion main feature is all about fashion's changing of the guard, out with the status quo, in with egalitarianism, reversing the flow of influence.

"We now live amid a democracy of images. Every moment of every day, a kaleidoscopic river of visuals -- from Instagram and thousands of other streaming media sites -- flows endlessly over us..."

Even Amazon is entering the fray, while the Wall Street Journal's WSJ. and the New York Times' T are new forces to reckon with . . . disruptive only to those trying to sell ad pages.

All this symbolizes a power structure breakdown. Like Romance Without Men above, it's about getting rid of the middlemen.

Is it bearish? Not really.

Who wins? We do.

It's all part of the Reboot envisioned in last year's implications.

Meanwhile, designers are doing their best to keep up:

Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld, "Fashion's dictators are out -- and grotesque. It is now a nonstop dialogue."

Loewe's J.W. Anderson, "Fashion has had to become more agile. You have to break the rules." 

Proenza Schouler's Lazaro Hernandez, "We just try to stay fluid. The rules are always changing."

Or as Bruce Lee said, "Be water my friend."

This highlights THE ART OF GLOBAL DOMINATION cover line. The reason it was seen as a nod toward central banking, elites, and entrenched power structures is because they may be next in the crosshairs.

The old art was about concentration of power. The new art is about decentralizing it.

Just below the surface is the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin. Laugh now, but there are more coming. It might be a bumpy ride for fiat currency.

Listen to Hood By Air's Shayne Oliver, "When someone in the room is uncomfortable, that's when we know the direction we should be taking." Even Chanel said, "In fashion, you know you have succeeded when there is an element of upset."

The element of upset is not always predictable. Take Beyoncé, for example.

The B Strong feature story asked, "What do we want from the glamorous powerful women we call divas or icons or cultural forces? We want them to make us believe that exciting realities are just around the corner."

What did they get from Beyoncé? Not a word. Apparently Beyoncé has not answered a direct question in over a year.

Even the New York Times has noticed.

Beyoncé Is Seen but Not Heard

As has Salon.

Beyoncé's Deafening Silence: Why #blacklivesmatter Needs Her Voice Now More Than Ever -- in Vogue and Beyond

It is all too easy to label this a form of celebrity arrogance. But what if it is merely another example of disintermediation of the current media power structure? What if social media enables celebrities to simply bypass mainstream media?

Here Twitter suffers yet again. She hasn't tweeted since 2013. Sounds like she prefers Instagram.

Disintermediation takes many forms. Prices don't need to be sky high. Distribution channels can be deconstructed and reinvented. Models don't need to have a certain skin color.

What disintermediation looked like this September . . .

$9.99

Fashion by drone?


Out with the all-white model status quo


Out with it . . .


Even Victorian style can come back without repressing anyone

Disintermediation should be a welcome change even though it probably won't be a smooth ride for the markets. That could be due to the next theme.


THE FORCE AWAKENS
What is infinitely more powerful than disintermediation? Where does our inner power get renewed? What is the most powerful source of the feminine?

Nature.

Natural forces...ALL THINGS NATURAL -- one of the Pantone® themes for fall -- may be waking up after a long dark night. And there are signs we may be ready for her, more receptive, even yearning for a return to natural laws and simplicity.

Rather than putting up with corporations borrowing money to buy back their own stock, maybe we're ready to get back to the bottom line, too. Back to basics and time-honored fundamentals.

A return to the bottom line

Since magazines are ideal promotional vehicles, there may have been a certain amount of promotion in play with Forces Of Fashion. After all, there is a major Star Wars film coming soon.

The Other Force Awakens

Regardless, since every word and every detail counts -- even the promotions -- the direction of this September issue was pointed squarely at Mother earth.

Lake Effect, an article about Cindy Crawford's dressed-down off-the-radar bliss in central Canada set the tone. There, she never wears a watch and there are no clocks anywhere in the house. "The point here is to slow everything down. Life moves quickly, but it will wait."

Story captions were Far and Away, The Simple Life, and Leap of Faith.


House of Natural Style
Elsewhere, the issue visited Kelly Klein's photographs, jewelry makers, a new crop of young ceramists, Patti Smith's poetry, even a sculptor in the En Plein Air story. We were even invited Down The Garden Path in another nature reference (which may also may lead out to the woodshed, in Wall Street vernacular).

Louis Vuitton's Nicolas Ghesquière noted, "Designers are the markers of their time."

Gucci's Alessandro Michele remarked, "The world has changed. There is a great urgency to find a bit of poetry."

Prada's Miuccia Prada reminded us, "Mystery is essential to everything interesting."

On page 572, Earth SPIN and Fire may have been an accidental nod to astrological cycles that make up Bradley Turn Dates (multiple direct hits this year -- take note). By the way, veteran market timer Peter Eliades even used a 33.5 year cycle going back to the year 1802 to predict a market top in August.

Interestingly, on page 602, designer Joseph Altuzarra was labeled The Stealth Star, another astro nod. And on page 634 the words Elliptical Force described Frank Gehry's architecture, but the planetary subtext was loud and clear.

Governments are powerless against these forces and seek to steamroll naturally occurring cycles whenever they can. It only works for so long. See how difficult it's been for China? Perhaps our Federal Reserve will be next to learn the hard way.

With all five themes intertwined and building on each other, the implications become clear.


The Socionomic Implications Of September Vogue 2015
The BIG REBOOT forecast last year is likely just getting started.

Perhaps it started last September. Perhaps it started only last month. But it's not over.

None of the themes suggest anything otherwise. In each case there were multiple examples of subtext, repetition, visuals, and actual content throughout the entire issue that made each theme come to life and support the continuing Reboot thesis.

Last year's edition called attention to this sentence:

Fashion is an organism that senses when it needs to reboot itself

Fashion is definitely rebooting, possibly intensifying. The force has awoken.

Other forces have, too. Inner Power, Romance Without Men, Peak Empire, Disintermediation . . . it is hard to paint any of these as the harmony and cooperation experienced in a bona fide bull market. But then again, a stock like Tesla has done quite well by disintermediating the car industry. And Uber's nosebleed valuation comes from disintermediating transportation (and excessive optimism about its future prospects). So there will be winners and losers.

But if women truly are gaining dominance, a trend which was flagged here as far back as 2012 and seems to be intensifying, we could see some of that STORMY WEATHER that was mentioned in the Pantone® fashion color report.

Several bits of accidental market subtext appeared, though nowhere near the amount from last year.

Fall Forecast on page 640 contained the caption Deep Impact on same page. With the Dow Jones plunging 1,000 points on August 24th, could more impact be felt soon?

In the Victorian-influenced spread Hustle & Bustle on page 732, Topsy Turvy, Great Expectations, and Wuthering Heights appeared as captions. Perhaps investors need to temper their expectations, as prices do not keep perpetually rising year after year. In this context, a Reboot would be good.

On page 594 appears the headline Turning Japanese. Huh? The country with the worst debt/GDP ratio on the planet? Yet if our central bank persists in buying treasuries to expand the money supply, maybe we're headed that way.

On page 632: Chain Reaction, just like when China recently crashed, then Europe sold off hard, then we collapsed. In the markets, selling often begets more selling.

On page 636: "In the second Back to the Future movie, the date they jump ahead to is October 21, 2015." Circle it on your calendar in case it's a target date for the markets. The Black Monday stock market crash in 1987 was October 19th. The stock market crash of 1929 started on October 24th.

To be fair, there were a also few bits of bullish sounding accidental subtext in the following captions that should be kept in mind if the chart at the bottom is accurate.

Page 682, Up And Away. But there was also "...it's a high water mark in an already thrilling year." Also on the same page: Take The Long Route and Green Light.

Page 684, Up Next. Maybe so -- after the reboot perhaps.

Page 692, Jump Street. Higher?

Down to the nitty-gritty: here's how I'm playing the whole Reboot thing.

Currently the word almost exclusively belongs to Hollywood.


Not until the word REBOOT is specifically used to describe a period of decline in the markets (preferably by a non-financial publication) will I consider it to have expired. Even if it never does appear, at least the warning prepared anyone who listened.

Should it appear, it would likely represent a buy signal.
 
But to repeat from last year, a Reboot in the market would likely feel terrifying to many. Especially since bullish sentiment has been off the charts since 2013. How far?

The Investors Intelligence bull/bear ratio has bounced between 3 and 4 over the past two years. That's more than 2 standard deviations away from neutral.

In other words, crazed, sky-high, wild-eyed bullish readings for two straight years. Therefore a Reboot is not only long overdue but quite necessary.

Such are the socionomic implications of September Vogue 2015.

________________________________________________________________

Special thanks to Robert Prechter for the pioneering science of socionomics and for the inspiration. Without your work, very little of this would be possible; to the Socionomics Institute for continued excellence; and to the late Paul Macrae Montgomery of Universal Economics for the inspiration of his Magazine Cover Indicator. May he rest in peace.

Questions or comments may be sent to marzbonfire at ymail dot com

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