Are The Younger Generations Changing "Luxury" As We Know It?

Are The Younger Generations Changing "Luxury" As We Know It?

Authenticity. Personalization. Sustainability.


These are all qualities that millennials and Generation Z shoppers are prioritizing when it comes to their shopping habits. With these two generations becoming increasingly influential as consumers - could their priorities transform the fashion landscape?

And, how can luxury fashion ensure it remains relevant and respected by this budding younger customer base?


According to Business of Fashion, "Gen Z" and the "Millennial" generations will make up 45% of the consumer market by 2025. To some labels, this presents itself as a challenge. Millennials and Gen Z are notoriously challenging as a consumer market - thanks to the stark juxtaposition and contrasts to the generations before them.

While online shopping and digital marketing are still shiny, new, and exciting to their predecessors - brands need to up the ante when it comes to marketing to their younger customer base.

In fact, subtlety, authenticity, and sheer honesty seem to be what the digital generation wants.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Authenticity and transparency

Although Gen Z is regarded to be more impulsive in their shopping habits, they still want to make informed decisions about their purchases. And while they live in the world of instant gratification and same-day-delivery, they also value the need for quality and reputability when it comes to where they shop, and who they choose to make their purchases from. This validation can vary in form - from visiting the store itself to see the product in person, to watching reviews from peers or industry experts on a platform like Youtube, Instagram or Snapchat. 

Interestingly too, the historical origin of a brand is losing its credibility. Younger shoppers are bored by the dowdy backstories and tradition of age-old brands, and a push for total reinvention has become the order. Brands are being forced to redesign their personas and tailor themselves to a market of micro-influencers and meme sharing Tik Tok dancers. This has led to more collections based on streetwear, and a blur between luxury fashion houses and the “hype-beast” aesthetic. (Hypebeast was originally coined as aslang termfor someone who is a "beast" about the "hype" - who would do whatever it takes to obtain their desired hype. It has since become an aesthetic movement.) An example of this is the appointment of luxury street-wear brand Off-White’s Virgil Abloh as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton in 2018.

Sotheby's

Interestingly, the historical origin of a brand is losing its credibility.

Younger shoppers are bored by dowdy backstories and the traditions of age-old brands. A push towards total reinvention has become the order of the day. Brands are being forced to redesign their personas and tailor themselves to a market of micro-influencers and meme-sharing-TikTok dancers. This has led to more collections based on streetwear, and a blur between luxury fashion houses and the “hypebeast” aesthetic. (Hypebeast was originally coined as a slang term for someone who is a "beast" about the "hype" - who would do whatever it takes to obtain their desired hype. It has since become an aesthetic movement.) 
An example of this is the appointment of luxury street-wear brand Off-White’s Virgil Abloh  as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton in 2018.


This abolishment of tradition  is attributed to the push for towards the accessibility of brands. Young consumers want their brands to reach them in aspirational, but genuine ways. There is a need for them to be an authority in their field - but to take a step off the high horse of exclusivity, so to speak. 

Sotheby's

Interestingly too, the historical origin of a brand is losing its credibility. Younger shoppers are bored by the dowdy backstories and tradition of age-old brands, and a push for total reinvention has become the order. Brands are being forced to redesign their personas and tailor themselves to a market of micro-influencers and meme sharing Tik Tok dancers.  

Sotheby's

This has led to more collections based on streetwear, and a blur between luxury fashion houses and the “hype-beast” aesthetic. (Hypebeast was originally coined as a slang term for someone who is a "beast" about the "hype" - who would do whatever it takes to obtain their desired hype. It has since become an aesthetic movement.) An example of this is the appointment of luxury street-wear brand Off-White’s Virgil Abloh as the artistic director of Louis Vuitton in 2018.


This abolishment of tradition is attributed to the push for the accessibility of brands. Young consumers want their brands to reach them in aspirational, but genuine, ways, be an authority in their field - but to get off the high horse of exclusivity.

This abolishment of tradition  is attributed to the push for towards the accessibility of brands. Young consumers want their brands to reach them in aspirational, but genuine ways. There is a need for them to be an authority in their field - but to take a step off the high horse of exclusivity, so to speak. 

Personalization and individualism

There has been an increasing shift towards individuality in the fashion habits of younger generations.

While they might follow influencers and celebrities for their “outfit inspo”, there is a move to favor the cultivation of their own sense of style instead of following trends, especially for Gen Z-ers. This can result in greater variations within collections, but also poses a further challenge for designers, specifically  regarding the question of “What exactly do they want?”

Selfridges

A resounding response resonates: customization and personalization.

After the Balmain X Selfridges Pop-Up in June 2019, it is clear that a custom-made, personalised piece is exactly what the younger market wants. Hosted as a launch for Balmains sneaker collection, the pop-up presented Londoners with the exclusive chance to snatch up their own pair and customize them on-site with any of the artists present - before being released worldwide. 


This event was testament to the fact that Gen Z and Millennials seek individuality. With brands such as Casetify allowing them to design monogram cell phone cases, and Apple creating a “Memoji” feature for users to create an avatar in their likeness - it is clear that younger generations crave their own personal touch to their possessions.

Sustainability and resale

Irrespective of any measures of personalisation or customisation, the most prominent trend in Millennial and Gen-Z purchasing patterns is the priority of sustainability and an environmental ethos. This ties into the necessity of a brand to be authentic and transparent.

Our younger generation appears to dedicate a vast majority of their spending power on ensuring that the brands they are supporting are ethical and do not contribute to the various climate and social issues that we currently face. With 30% percent of these consumers actively seeking out products that align with their ethics, it is clear that high-end brands need to emphasise their focus on this if they want to attract the soon-to-be big spenders. Having grown up surrounded by information, and more exposed to factors such as fake news, the Gen Z consumers demand true transparency from brands. They want to know that they can trust them without any doubt, and can support them with their conscious purchases.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In fact, 72% of Gen Z is willing to spend more if the brand is environmentally sustainable. With these younger generations having grown up amongst a climate crisis, the preservation of the planet as we know it is of utmost importance to them. And they expect their brands to feel the same. To the “social media generation” absolute transparency from companies is crucial for them to not only trust and support, but to become loyal fans of the brand. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In light of this, 72% of Gen Z is willing to spend more if the brand is environmentally sustainable. With these younger generations having grown up in the midst of the rising tensions and temperatures of a global climate crisis, the preservation of the planet as we know it is of utmost importance to them. And they expect their brands to feel the same. To the “social media generation” absolute transparency from companies is crucial. When done correctly, winning their trust and support means that they will be the most loyal fans of their favoured brands. 


The sustainability practices of these consumers is also tied to another of their preferences - that of high quality over cost and quantity. The mentality of investing in pieces that will last longer than a single season is a factor that is driving Millennials and Gen-Z towards luxury brands. With fast fashion powerhouses filing for bankruptcy, it is clear that the industry of affordable, yet questionable-quality-clothing is fading fast.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In fact, 72% of Gen Z is willing to spend more if the brand is environmentally sustainable. With these younger generations having grown up amongst a climate crisis, the preservation of the planet as we know it is of utmost importance to them. And they expect their brands to feel the same. To the “social media generation” absolute transparency from companies is crucial for them to not only trust and support, but to become loyal fans of the brand. 

The sustainability practices of these consumers is also tied to their preference for high quality over cost and quantity. The mentality of investing in pieces that will last longer than just a season is what is driving Millennials and Gen-Z towards luxury brands. With fast fashion powerhouses like Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy, it is clear that the industry of affordable, questionable quality clothing is fading fast.

The sustainability practices of these consumers is also tied to their preference for high quality over cost and quantity. The mentality of investing in pieces that will last longer than just a season is what is driving Millennials and Gen-Z towards luxury brands. With fast fashion powerhouses like Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy, it is clear that the industry of affordable, questionable quality clothing is fading fast.

That said, it does not mean that traditional luxury brands are the peaks of sustainable fashion. 


In fact, entirely new high-end brands have emerged as figureheads of the movement towards investing in sheer quality. Brands such as Everlane and Reformation have based their identities on providing stylish, sustainable, and moderately affordable clothing - and making them more accessible. 


But it is really about the latest arrivals on the rail.

Are they ethical or not? 

The latest wave of sustainable fashion has developed in the form of thrifting and reselling luxury items. The Real Real and Vestiare Collective have become commonplace names among influencers to find their own, pre-loved, designer pieces. Similarly, resale platforms such as Depop, PoshMark, and Thred Up have become stable forms of additional income for many teenagers and young adults, and a shopping mecca for anyone searching for a sustainable way to update their wardrobe.

Photo from Business of Fashion

Photo from Business of Fashion

The latest wave of sustainable fashion has developed in the form of thrifting and reselling luxury items. The Real Real and Vestiare Collective have become commonplace brands amongst influencers, as The Place to find your own, pre-loved, designer pieces. Similarly, resale platforms such as Depop, PoshMark, and Thred Up have become stable forms of additional income for many teenagers and young adults, and a shopping mecca for anyone searching for a sustainable way to update their wardrobe.

The terrain of fashion and retail is, at best, unstable in today's world. It is changing, and fast. The days of billboards and department stores are numbered. The Millennial and Gen-Z market is changing the status quo - with nothing but good intentions. Who knew a decade ago that the trend would not be within a style of clothing, but within the ethics and morals behind the clothes? Honesty, authenticity and quality are now in demand.

For the fashion industry to survive, and avoid contributing further to the climate damage and social injustices that have already been done, changes need to be made. The younger generations are holding the light, guiding the way for brands to follow. The path of hope is being lit, as we move towards a more transparent, accountable, ethical and sustainable future. 



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