How Will Generation Z Change the Future of Fashion?

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It’s no secret that shopping trends have changed in the US, and not in a good way. Long gone are the days of buying your entire wardrobe a season in advance or putting clothes for the upcoming season on layaway.Each generation approaches fashion differently. For Baby Boomers, rules for what was considered appropriate attire were still solidly in place, as Baby Boomers became adult consumers. In the 1980s and 90s, there was a new Americana sportswear thanks to brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Donna Karan. Currently, fashion trends lean toward lean to revisiting 80s street wear.

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However, as attitudes around fashion and shopping trends have evolved, so have attitudes about fashion shows changed. Initially, American fashion shows were strictly for the press to review designer collections. Originally coined, Press Week by the great fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, fashion shows in the US tended to be small and intimate. These events would later move on to expand to include other industry professionals.Decades later, fashion shows slowly evolved to include celebrities, under the workings of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour helped bring a more expansive celebrity culture to the fashion industry. The mid to late ‘00s saw the rise of bloggers and social media influencers, who would eventually become the dominant crowd at New York Fashion Week, replacing the seats once occupied by editors and the old industry guard.

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While the current attendees of Fashion Week are still adjusting to some designers employing the ‘see-now-buy-now’ business model, as Generation Z edging toward adulthood, jobs, and slightly more spending power than their millennial predecessors—sorry, Generation Z inherited a better economy minus a seven-year recession—fashion companies are reconsidering their approach to how best to get their attention.

Albeit, there are a select few who are still deeply invested in the culture of Instagram and want to be the influencers sitting front row at these shows, but the traditional runway show format is just not how Gen Z fashionistos want to be marketed to. Though most fashion designers are still using the season ahead model, Generation Z, even more than Millennials, impatiently want immediate access to their favorite brands/designers.

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The way Supreme releases their collections could be the new gold standard for how Generation Z wants their designer clothes. Generation Z also places more value on experiential things over possessions. Having a new Louis Vuitton is no big deal to them, but having that Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration bag that was part of that limited-edition drop and only available at so many stores and pop-up shops around the world, that’s something to write home about.There’s a reason that Louis Vuitton selected Virgil Abloh to head up their menswear. He’s a man who knows how to create an experience, as well as promoting exclusivity. Another big success of this current fashion generation of fashion designers/creative directors is Demna Gvasalia, artistic director of Balenciaga and Vetements. Vetements is one of the priciest luxury brands in the business, and is known for doing a very limited edition garments. This business model of acquiring limited edition turns Vetements into an experience, as the inventory is so limited. Even if you have the cash to blow, acquiring Vetements is still reserved for the select few who were lucky enough to get there before the product runs out.

Even e-commerce websites have turned to doing exclusive drops, and they are proving extremely successful. Resale e-commerce site Grailed, known for having the best of the menswear premium brands from Thom Browne to Balenciaga, has made drops a part of their business. For summer 2018, Grailed has employed a Heatwave campaign, where they did eight weeks of eight drops every Thursday. The most notable was their Raf Simons archive sale, with the pieces going live and selling out within a matter of minutes.

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Public School, the brainchild of designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, announced earlier this year they would no longer be showing at New York Fashion Week, and instead would be releasing their collection with a series of drops throughout the year. Alexander Wang, one of the almighty headliners of New York Fashion Week, even moved off the Fashion Week calendar this year and instead showed in June, and will now be showing again in December, again taking more of a drop format to his collections.If the designers and brands today hope to capture that market share of Generation Z, the old school runway approach needs to be re-examined. The times have already changed, and a combination of what has worked in the past and new business models could spell success for the industry.

—Kristopher Fraser

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