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The Business of Fashion in the Age of Realism

CEO Tinh Phung
"What are the kids wearing these days?" It's a question that fashion forecasters constantly ponder. The fashion industry, driven by the need to stay relevant, is fixated on capturing the attention of the youth. And...

Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism

"What are the kids wearing these days?" It's a question that fashion forecasters constantly ponder. The fashion industry, driven by the need to stay relevant, is fixated on capturing the attention of the youth. And now, as Generation Z (Gen-Z) comes into its own, the industry is faced with a unique and transformative force.

Gen-Z, aged between 12 and 25, makes up approximately 25 percent of the world's population. But this generation is unlike any other before it. Growing up as digital natives, their formative years have been shaped by technology, creating a cultural divide between them and previous generations. Social platforms have given Gen-Z tastemakers a powerful voice and the ability to connect with audiences like never before.

In the United States, Gen-Z is not only shaping culture but also driving the economy with a purchasing power of about $360 billion. Each generation experiences pivotal events that shape their outlook on life. Baby Boomers thrived in the post-World War II economic boom, while Gen-X witnessed social change and increased female labor participation. Millennials grew up with the internet as their playground. But Gen-Z is different. They are pragmatic and realistic, having come of age against the backdrop of the climate crisis, global movements like "Me Too" and "Black Lives Matter," and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

To understand Gen-Z's relationship with fashion, BoF Insights has released a groundbreaking report titled "Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism." This report delves into Gen-Z's personality types, their sources of inspiration, preferred brands, and their approach to sustainable fashion. The insights are based on in-depth analysis of social media behavior, a survey of nearly 1,000 Gen-Zers, and focus groups.

Fashion is the favorite entertainment category for US Gen-Zers to spend their money on, surpassing dining, video games, and music. As young consumers, they play a critical role in the fashion industry because spending on fashion tends to decline as people age.

To better understand and connect with Gen-Z, BoF Insights partnered with Quilt.AI, an AI-powered insights company. Through an analysis of social media behavior and profiles, they identified six personality "clusters" that characterize the US Gen-Z population. While Gen-Z cannot be easily pigeonholed, these clusters provide valuable insights into their shared affiliations, interests, and perspectives.

Personality clusters of US Gen-Z population

Additionally, BoF Insights collaborated with Juv Consulting, a company founded by three 16-year-old entrepreneurs, to conduct a survey of nearly 1,000 US Gen-Zers. The survey revealed that 89 percent of participants consider fashion important for boosting confidence, and 82 percent believe it is crucial for establishing their identities. For Gen-Z, fashion is not just about following trends or showcasing status.

Keeping up with the latest fads has become more challenging than ever due to the rapid pace set by social media. Gen-Z has even flipped the design process on its head. Aesthetics like Barbiecore, Cottagecore, Dark Academia, and Coastal Grandma originated from social media and resale platforms, rather than being dictated by fashion brands. As a result, Gen-Zers tend to incorporate trend-inspired pieces into their own personal styles, rather than blindly following trends.

When it comes to their favorite brands, Nike, Gucci, and Adidas top the list among Gen-Z. Gucci, in particular, stands out as the only luxury brand among the top 10 favorites. Notably, Gucci's early efforts to engage young consumers within virtual gaming worlds like Roblox have paid off. BoF Insights reveals that a majority of Gen-Zers aspire to buy more luxury clothing and accessories as their purchasing power grows.

Favorite fashion brands among Gen-Z

The report concludes with a playbook for fashion executives, providing strategies for effectively connecting with Gen-Z through four key pillars: communications, style, communities, and brand evolution.

BoF Insights' report offers a comprehensive analysis of the generational gap and the prevailing attitudes of each major US generation, from Baby Boomers to Gen-Zers. It also features proprietary research with Gen-Z consumers, case studies on notable fashion brands, and practical advice for brands and retailers to appeal to Gen-Z's unique characteristics.

As the fashion industry continues to evolve, understanding and adapting to the preferences of Gen-Z will be vital for success. The "Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism" report equips fashion executives with the insights they need to thrive in this rapidly changing landscape.

Note: The original images have been retained within the article for illustrative purposes.