March 23, 2022

What Gen-Z Means for Fashion Brands and Consumers

Theren Moodley
Theren Moodley
A decade's worth of fashion experience across; product design, development, sourcing & logistics

The plan for this blog about fashion is to try and explain a bit more about Gen Z fashion, their relationship with fashion and how this might differ from whats come before.

A quick summary:

  • What are the Genz Z fashion trends 2023 - Greater democratisation of brands, DTC preference and use of vintage outlets like DePop
  • What does Gen Z look for in a brand - Cost still plays the largest priority for Gen Z, followed by styles and finally sustainability
  • Gen Z aren't that different - The factors and variables driving their consumption is similar to that of the previous generation, abet with a larger focus on sustainability

Read on to find out more.

Some background to gen z fashion

My generation has always had an interesting relationship with fashion trends. From skinny jeans to vans and elastic laces, we grew up during the fast fashion revolution, only to be repulsed by it once we had a few dollars in our wallet that allowed us to chose more sustainable fashion brands. We've worn baggy tees, ripped jeans and sweaters with bands names on them 🎸

Although we like to think of ourselves as sustainable fashion consumers, that label seems to have stuck more to the generation below.

A generation characterised by their social progressivism, environmentalism and love of fashion fashion. More on that later.

So what about Gen Z fashion? How does the Tik Tok generation differ from mine in their relationship with fashion and sustainability, apparent contradictions between the two and what does this mean for the fashion industry as a whole?

When Gen Z is looking for a brand what matter more? Cost or price? Or neither

And what are the potential Gen Z fashion trends for 2023?

Led Zeppelin band T
You know who you are

Gen z want faster fashion and fashion democratisation

As a start, where millennials grew up with bricks and mortar fast-fashion staples, such as Topshop and H&M, the brands Gen-Z look for are almost entirely DTC and digitally native 💻

With Gen-Z fashion driven by a generation spending more time online than any other demographic growing up in the digital landscape this is no surprise.

What is surprising however is this fragmentation and democratisation of the market, that has shifted away from the monopoly of brands of old, showing that newer players tend to understand what Gen Z looks for in a brand better than older fast fashion houses.

If you, as a fashion creator have an idea, some designs and a social media account, it's very easy to produce some products in low quantities, have an influencer drive up hype on social media, sell them on Shopify and drop ship to your end consumer.

The rise of the creator economy means more and more designers are entering the market, and consumers have more choice than ever 🎨 And there's no indication that this Gen Z fashion trend is slowing down into 2023.

This brings me to the second difference, biggest contradiction and main body of this blog.

While, the Gen-Z fashion market is almost entirely online and democratised compare to previous years, it’s still to some extent being dominated by larger players. Shein, Misguided and Bohoo have all thrived in the market due to extremely low cost products, short lead times and frequent new product drops.

A full wardrobe at Shein costs $60, compare to $40 for a shirt at a traditional fashion-fashion brand like H&M. Clearing highlighting that price plays a huge part in what Gen Z looks for in a brand and is a big Gen Z fashion trend of 2022.

1000 styles a day for sein
1k styles a day, let that sink in for a minute

In order to offer these low prices, these brands have been accused of using questionable means to reduce production costs; from low-cost labour & environmental degradation, to product high-wastage and use of unsustainable processes. Shockingly, an outfit bought from these fashion brands are more than likely to end up in a landfill site after being only worn once.

The contradiction with gen z fashion

However, Gen-Z are thought to be the most socially conscious generation we’ve had. One who only purchase and promote from sustainable brands, who directly support their core values.

When asked about this apparent contradiction, a few patterns emerge 🧐

A lack of awareness of the issues in the fashion supply chain, turning a blind eye when making a purchase, recycling through second hand outlets like DePop and the most importantly, cost.

With Gen-Z entering the workforce earning entry level salaries, growing up in an age of instant gratification and the lack of affordable sustainable clothes brands has lead to the paradox we are in today.

We know what Gen Z looks for in a brand and what Gen Z fashion trends may be in 2023, but what Gen Z spends their money on in reality is an entirely different thing.

Yes, sustainability is what we should all aspire to, but economic factors among other things are also in play. More so for a generation where the pinch is felt in their wallet more so than most.

bohoo fast fashion
Cost aside, clearly consumers speak with their wallets when issues come to light

So, where does that leave us?

Yes each generation is different, but each is not a new radical force. It is rather a gradual evolution of experiences, pain points and contradictions.

We'd all like to be sustainable, but how many of us eat a vegan diet, limit the amount of times we fly (pandemic aside....) and only consume the minimal amount possible?

As has been well documented, the sustainability of the fashion industry is currently under the microscope, and sustainable clothing brands are having to do more to get their message across, while importantly offering their product at a competitive price 🌱

Only then will the move away from unsustainable fast fashion pick up speed and scale past a semi-niche segment of the market.

So let's take a bit of a pause and think as an industry on the whole, as well as ways we can make fashion items sustainable and competitive, rather than trying to just figure out Gen Z fashion or what does Gen Z spend its most money on.

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