Luxury has an unchanging definition of fine quality, craft and status; until now, with an apparent shift underway as luxury fashion strives to cater for a newborn breed of digitally-minded consumers: Generation Z.
According to Business of Fashion, Millennials (born 1981-1996) and Generation Z’ers (1998-2006) will make up 45 percent of the luxury market by 2025. As a result, designers are adapting to revolve around this brand new society brought up online, accustomed to immediacy, vibrant visuals and a dynamic belief that anything is possible, thanks to the power of the internet.
Gen Z has never known a world without social media. Samantha Dover, senior retail analyst at market intelligence agency Mintel, explains to ORDRE how they are connected to the once hyper-exclusive realm of luxury fashion, “Apps like Instagram and Snapchat have enabled celebrities and reality stars to share their day-to-day lives with their largely young fan base which has normalised luxury fashion for Gen Z.”
Having such an intimate relationship, luxury houses are becoming increasingly influenced by Gen Z desires. From the Hypebeast revolution, with every fashion house now habitually fronting their collections with sneakers, to prioritising their ethical values - the industry’s becoming increasingly conscious with Versace, Gucci, Burberry, John Galliano, DKNY and Chanel all throwing out fur last year, once the holy grail of luxury fashion.
As Dover says,“The best performing luxury brands have adjusted their strategies to reflect the growing importance of youth fashion consumers, and a number are seeing incredible success from proactively courting them.”
Mintel’s statistics show 50% of Gen Z consumers in the UK have bought luxury goods in the last 18 months, so getting down with the kids is clearly the ultimate money move. Here, ORDRE spotlights three ways the new generation is shaping luxury fashion:
“The best performing luxury brands have adjusted their strategies to reflect the growing importance of youth fashion consumers.”
With the overflowing eclecticism of online identity, asserting individuality has never been so sought after by young people. The BoF-McKinsey Global Fashion 2018 survey identified personalisation as the number one trend. Whether it’s hypebeast-mogul Virgil Abloh customising high fashion with a permanent marker or Fendi printing initials on accessories, today’s consumers want that personal touch.
A very recent example of this is Selfridges’ Balmain pop-up in their corner shop area of the London store, which opened on the 24th June and closed yesterday (7th July). The pop-up exemplified luxury fashion’s incorporation of both streetwear and personalisation, as customers are the first to be offered the latest Balmain sneakers, uniquely customised by on-site artists.
In conversation with ORDRE, buyer at Selfridges Jack Cassidy explains how the pop-up was motivated by customers wanting an exclusive, limited edition product right there and then, “The Balmain customisation space is centred on Gen Z needs, transforming sneakers into one of a kind. Also, they can get their hands on the product before anyone else.”
As Selfridges’ project reflects, Dover explains that recent years have shown an increased luxury focus on individualism: “Gen Z consumers are more concerned with cultivating their own personal style than following trends.”
If you haven’t already noticed, the internet has triggered a resale revolution. Mintel’s statistics show that 16% of Gen Z consumers in the UK have resold luxury branded items; it might seem like a small percent but that number is sure to soar with the resale industry predicted to be worth 51 billion by 2023. It’s not only fashionable to buy resale items as they’re unique - tapping the individualism trend - but reselling is also creating a more circular fashion economy which appeals to our environmentally-conscious Gen Z.
Farfetch has recently recognised the potential market of resale, launching a ‘second life’ resale platform, motivated by sustainability. ORDRE caught up with Stephen Eggleston, VP of Commercial at Farfetch following the launch, “We’ve seen an increased interest in our vintage and pre-owned offering which could be attributed to the fact that consumers are now more interested in shopping sustainably. Any item that is pre-owned, whether it was vintage or not is a more sustainable option,” he explains.
It’s an innovative progression that is perfect for the internet-born generation, as Eggleston says, “Customers are more comfortable than ever with the online resale market, due to improved verification processes and the increased amount of varied options offered.” He continues, “We’re now able to help customers find hard-to-access pieces, from final collections or super brand collaborations, that they wouldn’t have been able to get their hands on five years ago.” Combining both rare gems and sustainable purchasing, it’s a platform made for Gen Z.
“We’ve seen an increased interest in our vintage and pre-owned offering as consumers are now more interested in shopping sustainably.”
Being ethical, both environmentally and socially is an important fashion movement given the industry is the second most polluting after oil. GreenMatch’s infographic results show that 72 percent of Gen Z are prepared to spend more money on sustainable products. Plus, McKinsey reports that nine in ten Gen Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. In short, young people care about the planet.
Whether high fashion is listening to Gen Z as a growing customer-base, or they’re simply just gaining a conscience, brand supply-chain transparency is slowly improving and labels are taking steps to reduce their effect on the environment. Just two weeks ago Prada announced that all its trademark nylon will be composed of 100 percent recycled materials by 2021.
This conscious generation is not only concerned about the environment, Dover reveals to ORDRE that social morale is a priority too, “They want to buy into brands that care about similar causes. 12% of Gen Z consumers in the UK have boycotted a luxury brand after reading negative press.” The increase of the ‘woke’ consumer leads racism scandals like Dolce and Gabbana’s late last year to be, deservedly, seriously damaging to sales.
It’s promising to know that the new generation are working on reducing fashion’s negative impact on the planet, and luxury is listening.