Generation Z. Zoomers. Centennials. The desirable demographic of pioneers and tastemakers have fashion retailers working overtime to try and win over.
Disrupting gender boundaries, striving to create meaningful change and loving Olivia Rodrigo may unite global Zoomers. Yet, the 24-year-olds and under in the US are very different from those in China. This report sheds light on the worldwide nuances across behaviors and fashion trends within this cohort, allowing retailers to adjust their strategies and target the $143 bn consumer base more effectively.
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Gen Zers share several character traits and behaviors such as being more inclusive, tech-savvy and socially aware. However, retailers need to take a more geographically targeted approach to their products and promotions, and avoid lumping them all together
According to Deloitte, sustainability is the top concern for Gen Z worldwide, and 75% of Depop's UK, US and Australian users surveyed shop second-hand to reduce waste. Though some regions will pay more for sustainable goods, this demographic doesn't know a world without fast fashion, presenting a challenge for retailers to wean them off mass consumption.
China’s Gen Z’s access to luxury fashion sets its top-performing trends apart from other regions. Yet there are some crossovers with Australia, where styles that transcend gender are especially appealing.
Nostalgia underpins several successful trends across regions, with 70’s and Y2K influences resonating across the US, UK and Australia through straight leg jeans, cut-outs and psychedelic prints. Comfort-centric aesthetics such as Athflow and loungewear prevail in the UK and a partially locked down Australia.
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Gen Zers will soon become the largest cohort of consumers in the US, with Insider Intelligence projecting the number of digital buyers in this age range to surpass $41mn by 2022.
Systemic change within the fashion industry will be paramount to retailers’ relevance to this group as Gen Zers are the most ethnically diverse demographic in the US - almost half are minorities, compared to 22% of Baby Boomers. Last year’s uprising of recognition and diversity proved the correlating impact of cultural and social movements on the fashion industry. Retailers need to overhaul any outdated processes, create a seat at the table and foster growth for authentic voices to speak to this consumer.
Despite Gen Z’s low income and frugality with the majority of consumers still in school, a 2020 study by First Insight revealed they were willing to pay more for sustainable goods than any other generation. 54% stated they would pay over 10% for a sustainably-made product.
An app synonymous with Gen Z’s reign, TikTok has surpassed Instagram as this cohort’s most-used app. This underscores the importance of retailers aligning themselves with the platform and its most popular content creators (who in the US include Charli D'amelio, Addison Rae, Bella Poarch and Zach King), as well as keep their fingers on the pulse of new and emerging tastemakers.
Images via Instagram - Addison Rae; Instagram - Charli D'Amelio; Instagram - Depop
American Gen Zer’s favorite trends are rooted in nostalgia, with Y2K and 70’s influences boosting the sell outs of straight leg jeans, cut-outs and psychedelic prints. Off the back of the #bamarush TikTok phenomenon, preppy and collegiate aesthetics resonate with consumers returning to campus. As the season changes, Pinterest searches for fall outfits, Halloween costumes and homecoming dresses are heating up, indicating demand from this consumer group.
Top moving trends - US
Straight leg denim
Images via BDG at Urban Outfitters, Shein, Levi's
Images via Princess Polly, Urban Outfitters, Stradivarius
Images via Topman at ASOS, H&M, Shein
Images via ASOS Design, Princess Polly, Urban Outfitters
According to a Draper’s survey, COVID accelerated UK Zoomers‘ preference to shop digitally, making online their preferred channel. App shopping also saw growth from 65% in 2020 to 85%. As this demographic manages their wealth, there is opportunity for further integration of buy-now-pay-later platforms. 77% of Gen Z consumers said they’d be more likely to bring forward their fashion purchases if retailers offered an installment plan option.
UK Gen Zers care passionately about social causes and the environment. However, fatigue and concern from the pandemic have set in, with Draper’s stating 25% of Gen Z have become less focused on sustainability over the last 12 months. Still, over half of millennial and Gen Z consumers agree all brands and retailers should be sustainable and ethical while supporting equality and diversity across race, gender, sexuality or disability. Additionally, more than a third of Gen Z said they abandoned a purchase because the retailer did not reflect their values. As the second-hand market booms and with a third of UK Gen Zer’s active on Depop, 28% rate the ability to resell an item as important.
Images via Instagram - Jasmine Asia; Instagram - Depop; Instagram - n2nawal
Delays from the pandemic led to a spike in Pinterest searches for festival outfits, hair and makeup. Dovetailing off Y2K dressing, products that support a grunge or skater aesthetic have experienced a surge in sell out activity. As the weather grows colder and uncertainty around the Delta variant looms, this look will evolve to support the already-rising EmoCore, serving as an antithesis of Dopamine Dressing.
Retailers should be prioritizing comfort once again for fall/winter. Pinterest has identified Athflow, an elevated form of Athleisure, as Gen Z’s new loungewear. This is evoked through flowy trousers, seamless jumpsuits and oversized silhouettes, all experiencing high majority SKU sell outs. With the Hot Vax Summer seemingly cut short, Zoomers will be seeking trend-driven pieces in tactile fabrications to rug up in an outdoor setting. As this cohort values uniqueness, DIY and crafts, cute and quirky knits are a mainstay within the Soft and Cozycore aesthetic.
Top moving trends - UK
Images via Bershka, Urban Outfitters, H&M
Images via Shein, Urban Outfitters, Monki
Images via H&M, H&M, Shein
Images via Shein, Bershka, ASOS Design
While Western Zoomers may be anxious about their future, the sheer economic prowess of China has catapulted its under 24 year-olds to a confident position. Bain reported Gen Z represents 16% of the Chinese population and their spending is estimated to reach 20% of luxury purchases by 2025, with men outspending women by 20%. This demographic lives paycheck to paycheck, having dubbed themselves “the moonlight clan” due to their ability to spend their entire monthly salary within a lunar cycle. Though the luxury market is banking on this cohort, plans to tax China’s unreasonably high incomes could curb future Gen Z spending.
Images via Instagram - Mia Kong, Instagram - Rui Zhou
Luxury and streetwear may be embedded in China's youth's aesthetic. However, Gen Z also values sustainable fashion and takes pride in its local culture and creatives. China is a hotbed for talent, with native designers Angel Chen, Percy Lau and Rui Zhou growing in notoriety at an international level. Combined with backing from Gen Z, they’re shifting the perception around "Made in China" fashion.
Navigating the labyrinth of Chinese social media platforms is essential. Retailers need to be across WeChat, Weibo, Tmall and Douyin. However, this market is wary of businesses trying too hard to win them over. They appreciate an authentic approach that remains true to the brand’s identity and value recommendations. China’s youth obsession with hip hop and digital gaming invites out-of-the-box approaches.
Gen Z can be critical of celebrity culture, particularly following the fall of celebrities Kris Wu and Zheng Shuang who were dropped from Louis Vuitton, Bulgari and Prada contracts. Gen Z’s favorite influencers include key opinion leaders (KOLs) Mia Kong and Fil Xiaobai as well as multidisciplinaires Yibo Wang, Mi Yang and Jackson Yee.
Though young in age, Vogue Business’ recent report has uncovered Gen Z’s understanding of fashion and luxury culture is on par with older generations. This influences the melting pot of trends sweeping the region, with fashion mavericks blending minimalism and classic pieces with cyberpunk.
Luxury brands have been looking to social media platform Bilibili, which has become pivotal in predicting China’s fashion trends. Genderless or “Mengmei style” continues to captivate this market, reported as Taobao’s top fashion keyword search last year. As fall approaches, this movement continues with oversized silhouettes, structured blazers, alongside timeless pieces mixed with edgy, experimental looks seeing high SKU movement according to EDITED data.
Top moving trends - China
Images via Avant Garde, Loewe, Zara
Images via The Garment, Acne Studios, Pull&Bear
Classic & minimalism
Images via Tove, Ochirly, Uniqlo
Images via The Row, Paper Moon at The Frankie Shop, Needles
At 20% of the population, Aussie Zoomers are an increasingly influential demographic and not just within fashion. The youngest cohort champions social impact within their workforce, helping businesses provide support within Australian Indigenous communities. Extending to retail, brands can’t pass off diversity as a box-ticking exercise or a nice to have. Three-quarters of Gen Z believe Australian brand advertising should be diverse and inclusive, and 70% think brands should take a stand on the issues they believe in. They also lean more strongly towards sustainability than fellow APAC Zoomers. According to McKinsey, Aussie Gen Zs are the only cohort of this age range willing to pay more for sustainable goods.
Images via Instagram - Arthur Apparel; Instagram - Felicia Foxx; Instagram - Rowi Singh
Celebrity culture is challenged in this region, with only one-third of Gen Z convinced by influencer brand partnerships. The lack of inclusivity in mainstream Australian media and fashion stands out as a glaring opportunity for retailers speaking to this cohort to tap young diverse creatives and talent. Influencers resonating with Gen Z audiences within this region include Aboriginal activist and drag queen Felicia Foxx, makeup artist Rowi Singh and trans model Aj Clementine. Adidas Australia recognized this opportunity, recently tapping a diverse set of Gen Z creators for its Forum Newsroom project.
Though international brands still appeal to Gen Z, several local designers are setting trends across the pond. Australian Gen Z brands that retailers should have on their radar include Daisy, Phoebe’s Angels, Haus of Dizzy, Sabatucci, Nagnata, Ka-He and Arthur Apparel.
Initially serving as a blueprint for post-pandemic life, Australia’s recovery has backpedaled due to its sluggish vaccine campaign. COVID cases are spiking again, forcing states back into strict lockdowns in the second half of 2021.
Lockdown fatigue has seen Gen Z seeking solace in Dopamine Dressing and maximalist trends. With younger Aussies at the forefront of the demand for vaccinations, there’s an impending wave of Hot Vax Summer dressing. Based on recent sell outs as this region approaches summer, Zoomers' long-awaited liberation uniforms are expected to consist of bold colors, playful prints and risqué designs.
Top moving trends - Australia
Images via Shein, Phoebe's Angels, boohooMAN
Images via Double Rainbouu, Instagram - Nique Clothing, Reebok
Images via Adidas, Instagram - Nagnata, Nude Lucy
Hot Vax Summer incoming
Images via Princess Polly, Instagram - Dyspnea, boohooMAN
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