Fashion brands woo Gen Z as post-millennials redefine style quotient

By Suneera Tandon
The Gen Z shoppers’ signature style includes athleisure, t-shirts, oversized trousers, sweatshirts, box crop tops and sneakers.

NEW DELHI : Gen Z, or people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, are shaping the fashion trends with their preference for oversized t-shirts and sweatshirts, and all things cool and distinct, and are emerging as an important and expressive consumer group to influence purpose-driven brands.

According to fashion portal Myntra, in the past 18 months Gen Z was the fastest growing consumer group to emerge as a “very critical base" for the platform. “When we look at our overall customer base, millennials and Gen Z are equally important. But the Gen Z base has started seeing very high traction in the last 18 months," said Ayyappan Rajagopal, chief business officer, Myntra.

In August, Myntra brought London-based fashion brand Urbanic, which counts Gen Zers as its core consumer base, on board, to ensure it does not lose out on the opportunity to cater to Gen Z customers, some of whom are in their late teens and early 20s, he said.

For almost a decade, millennials dominated consumer trends and their spending habits helped brands craft products and experiences catering to their preferences. Now, the focus has shifted to Gen Z.

In fact, the world over, this segment of customers is influencing retailers to plan their collections and collaborations. More recently, they are driving demand for Y2K fashion or trends from the early 2000s.

The Gen Z shoppers’ signature style includes athleisure, oversized trousers, t-shirts, sweatshirts, box crop tops and sneakers.

According to Myntra, many large brands such as Jack and Jones, Nike and Puma are planning mini-collections or even sub-brands targeting this younger demographic.

More collaborations, such as the one with Urbanic, are underway, said Rajagopal. However, fashion brands did not divulge the percentage of business coming from Gen Z.

Sanjeev Mohanty, managing director and senior vice president, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, Levi’s, said Gen Zers value certain aspects of brands such as authenticity, transparency, being unique, giving back to society and collaboration, which are also part of their daily lives.

This makes them a highly engaged customer base. They are more likely to purchase a product or service that is backed by social accountability, he added.

While iconic denim brand Levi’s has always been rediscovering its offerings, some of its more recent tie-ups, like the Levi’s x Super Mario collection, Levi’s x Royal Enfield, Levi’s x Snoopy, Levi’s x LEGO and the Levi’s x BAPE collection, seek to create deeper connection with the Gen Z. “This ensures we are appealing to Gen Z’s love for all things unique, authentic and vintage," said Mohanty.

Gen Zers believe they are trend-setters and are likely to swap comfort for fashion, said Gopa Kumar, chief operating officer, Isobar, a digital media agency. They are also likely to spot brands that are “in sync" with their values, and are likely to pick athleisure, recycle old fashion and accessorize to generously to express themselves, he said. They are also “value seekers" and “discount hunters", given that they are just about entering the workforce, he added.

To be sure, while some may have just started working, others rely on pocket money, gift money or just let the parents indulge them. Yashica Malhotra, 18, for instance, said Instagram is usually where she spots new fashion trends and typically relies on family trips to the mall to buy new clothes since she does not get pocket money.

Kumar said that while millennials are still a key segment for fashion brands, the transformation needed to meet the needs of Gen Z has already started.

In New Delhi’s upmarket Select Citywalk mall, show windows for some of the largest global brands are seen appealing to this consumer cohort. Youngsters strolling in have swapped denims for looser fit jogger pants and oversized cotton t-shirts. “The internet has a far greater influence on what they wear," said Yogeshwar Sharma, CEO and Executive Director at the mall. In the mall, brands such as Adidas, and Onitsuka Tiger have performed well in the aftermath of the pandemic, he added.

GenZers are also a lot more online browsing social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok while it was still allowed in India.

This makes social media engagement via influencers more crucial for brands and platforms.

GenZ consumers may find favour with social media and pull advertising and influencer-led marketing, said Amit Adarkar, CEO at market researcher Ipsos India.

“So, just the way a mainstream or high street fashion brand can do well targeting millennials, an influencer-led direct to consumer brand targeted at GenZ could do well too," he said.

Fashion for GenZ is more personal, said Sunil Gupta, senior director, brand Adidas, India. “For GenZ, fashion has become a canvas to showcase what they feel, and they look up to brands like adidas as an enabler to express their creativity," said Gupta

“Cultural influences are key defining factors for the current generation and adidas has been constantly working with cultural icons like Beyonce, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Jeremy Scott to name a few, to curate pinnacle collections across apparel and footwear," he said.

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