4 Things We Learned About The Gen Z Fashion Lover at the Fashion Culture Design Conference – Vogue.com
Today at Parsons, former dean and current fashion-world whisperer Simon Collins hosted his second Fashion Culture Design Conference—or “unconference” as noted in the program—bringing together fashion tastemakers to discuss the problems plaguing the industry. There were panels on big data, creativity in the time of Trump, and the subject of whether fashion week is relevant anymore, but the one that got the crowd buzzing the most had to do with Gen Z. The five-person panel, including Leandra Medine and Jeff Staple, sounded off on what makes the post-millennial set tick.
Why bother? The group of people born from 1995 to 2010 currently make up a quarter of the population, and by 2020 they will be one third, according to the panel’s moderator. As such, these youngsters will be the ones with the buying power to dictate the trends of the future. So how do we connect with them? Here are four important takeaways the panel drummed up about the next generation of shoppers, trendsetters, and readers.
The sharing economy is for real.
Uber, Spotify, Netflix, Rent the Runway . . . the favorite apps of Gen Zers rely on sharing, not owning. “There’s no need to own,” said Medine, talking about fashion pieces. “In the era of social media and Instagram and ‘If I didn’t post a picture did it even happen?’ . . . You just need it for that moment.” That would help to explain the rise of Snapchat as the go-to app for the under-20 set: Once you’ve consumed it, it’s gone.
Unfiltered content is essential.
“I feel the biggest thing that is different between Gen Z and millennials is full transparency on everything. That’s what I think they want,” said Jeff Staple of Staple Design. “Baby boomers and millennials were used to a world that was designed and curated for them. . . . With IG Live and Snapchat, it’s more like I want you to see everything.” No filters, no problem; in fact, the more curated and clever you think you are, the worse it might be for your brand. Staple continued, “Authenticity is big. Five years into Instagram, if you post a picture that’s too nice, you get backlash.”
Inspiration matters more than prescription.
When Staple mentioned that growing up, he thought Jay Z and Ralph Lauren were legends worth emulating because of their all-encompassing branded lifestyles, while today’s youth are more obsessed with the unstudied world of Antisocial Social Club, the conversation quickly turned to the difference between inspiration and prescription. “I think [Gen Z’s] taste and their style is their own. I don’t think a prescription appeals to them,” said Tobe executive vice president Leslie Ghize. BPCM social media and digital project manager Maria Al-Sadek seconded that. “It’s all about the moment and having the freedom to be whoever they want to be.”
The allure of the one-hit wonder might kill brands.
The downside of the of-the-moment spirit of Gen Z? It’s difficult for brands to keep up. Medine explained, “I’ll come across these brands that are not actually brands; they are just tiny mom-and-pop shops that generate [revenue] through Instagram, that sell these cute white poplin tops. Some woman with a large social media following will catch on to this brand, buy one of the $80 tops through PayPal or through Instagram, and wear the top on her Instagram. All of a sudden everyone wants this shirt.” Designers in that position might find themselves trying to turn their small white poplin shirt business to a full-fledged brand, only to be passed over for the next It thing. “You have retailers, like Net-a-Porter or Moda Operandi, that are explicitly looking for these one-hit wonders,” Medine told the crowd. How can brands keep up? If you’re someone like Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, you keep churning out the It items a mile a minute.