Remember when Millenial trends were all the media talked about? From avocado breakfast to girl-boss energy; everything was looked at under a microscope. Now it seems like Gen Z’s turn to take centre-stage.
If you went off headlines alone you’d think Gen Z were just a group of tide pod eating – Tiktok filming – social discourse warriors. Well, forget what you might already believe. It’s all too easy for bigger media companies to look down on the younger generation and their culture, but they’re far more capable than they’re given credit for.
Often (lovingly and mockingly) referred to as the ‘woke generation’, Gen Z make waves when it comes to shaking up the status quo. While many write this off as ‘just kids with big opinions’ you might be surprised to hear that the oldest members of Gen Z are actually around 24 – at the time of writing – having been born in 1997. They’re not ‘just kids’ at all.
With that in mind, we’re interested in what these changemakers make of the fashion industry and how they’re evolving the space.
Social trends are not temporary
Trends are far more than just translations of the runway for Gen Z.
Overnight, a small business can pick up thousands of orders from being highlighted on social media. This then spawns a trickle effect of similar pieces on the market and when consumers fight for the real deal, it only drives demand.
Of course, we’ve seen this before, but Gen Z’s insatiable appetite for new and unique pieces often drives them to smaller, handmade sellers who can’t handle viral demand. This creates a new twist.
The best example of this would be the iconic ‘Strawberry Dress’. Made by Lirika Matoshi, this playful pink dress took over social media in 2020. People even wrote songs about the dress! This was shortly followed by a flurry of Tiktok videos featuring people dancing to the strawberry dress song whilst wearing the strawberry dress itself. There was even a ‘Strawberry Cow’ remix.
Whilst it may seem like a fad or temporary ‘it-girl’ item, the Strawberry Dress created a wave of feminine styling. It broke the pattern of popular neutral tones with lively pastels and took us back to a time where fashion was fun.
As another domino fell, make-up trends moved along with it. Alongside these feminine, frilly, tulle dresses we saw the return of rosy cheeks and even the resurgence of fake henna freckles (try that one at your own risk)!
The impact of the ‘Strawberry Dress’ can still be seen today, a year on. This wasn’t a quick fast-fashion trend, in-and-out with the passing of time; it started a movement of softer, ‘girly’ styling that has stood the test of time.
Size Inclusion is Essential
Generations gone by have seen their social media platforms of choice rudely taken over by algorithms. As such, it’s hard to find authentic content. With that in mind, the content that does float to the top is often made by those who fit the mould: Slim, straightened hair, whitened teeth, simple styling.
We say this with no disrespect of course, but when everyone at the top looks the same two things happen.
1) Things get really flipping boring.
2) People who don’t fit the mould start to feel alienated.
In rebellion, Gen Z is connecting in ways that aren’t always interrupted by those same cream-skimming algorithms. Sites like Tiktok, Twitch, Discord and ClubHouse tend to give a platform to almost everyone.
With that in mind, there’s been an influx of content focusing on all sorts of different body shapes, styles and subcultures. Instead of trying to fit the mould, Gen Z are coming together to celebrate what makes them unique.
Instead of constantly seeing the same ideal presented to them, they’re understanding that fashion comes in all shapes and sizes.
With that in mind, the standard 8 – 16 range isn’t going to cater to a large selection of Gen Z.
Unisex brands are currently redundant
First of all, most people understand that when it comes to the internet, items are labelled as ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ to help with SEO. So despite what the tabloids may say, there isn’t too much uproar about these identifiers.
That said, the rise of so-called unisex brands may make you question otherwise. They’re an interesting concept and one that we’d love to see explored more – however, they fall flat once you look under the hood.
Most unisex clothing offerings are essentially men’s clothing in effeminate colours. There. We said it. Sure anyone, regardless of gender, can wear a pastel pink ‘Fruit of the Loom’ t-shirt… but is that really pushing any boundaries?
Gen Z are very quick to call out the inauthenticity of brands like this. In fact, whilst we don’t want to point fingers, we can think of a fair few brands that have fallen foul to Gen Z’s online backlash when the term unisex is used without forethought.
Fitting in and self-expression are not mutually exclusive
The one thing we love the most about Gen Z is the surprisingly blurred lines between sub-cultures.
For most of us elders (using the term lightly), we once would put ourselves into very certain categories. Let’s say you dressed in a tracksuit and listened to club music – in my day (Ok, I’m officially old) you’d be called a ‘townie’. On the other side of the coin, if you listened to rock music and dressed in black, you were either a ‘mosher’ or an ’emo’.
It’s not like this for Gen Z. They blend genres and styles to make something brand new. Even the musicians they listen to swap and change their output and aesthetic with the drop of a hat. For example, Gen Z favourite Olivia Rodrigo shocked the charts with her pop-punk ‘Good For You’ anthem after growing up on the sickly sweet High School Musical set. Then there’s Halsey who moves from dance to pop-punk to pure pop; mix and matching her attire in between.
If anything, Gen Z seems to relish what makes each other different rather than trying to fit into certain categories.
Social change is at the heart of everything
Gen Z are finally reaching an age where they can really make changes and we’re so excited to see them continue to shape the fashion industry for the better. Not just from a style point of view, but from a social change point of view also.
When you consider the world events that this age category has lived through – not to mention the direct access to them via their devices – it’s easy to understand why social change is at the forefront of most Gen Z ideals. Fashion doesn’t escape this. Gen Z want brands to bin the ‘slacktivism’ and gestures and make real positive steps. Instead of a whimsical, well meaning Instagram post, they want brands to see brands; using models that represent all body types, prioritise eco materials, use their platform responsibly. Calls to ‘cancel’ brands that don’t make the effort don’t always fall on death ears. Gen Z has the buying power to make their demands met.
Ultimately, as Gen Z ages up, their impact on fashion will only grow. We can’t wait to see where they take us next!