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Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism

BoF’s guide to why and how Gen-Z in the US engages with fashion — defining six personality clusters and examining behaviours through social media analysis, surveys and focus groups.

Gen-Z — aged between 12 and 25 and accounting for approximately 25 percent of the world’s population — is now coming into its own. But Gen-Z is truly unique. As the first digital natives, their formative years have been unlike that of previous generations, creating a greater cultural chasm between Gen-Z and older generations. 

In this report, BoF Insights reveals the results of a proprietary survey of nearly 1,000 US Gen-Zers conducted in partnership with Juv Consulting, four focus groups, and an analysis of 5,000 public social media posts to create distinct personality clusters conducted in partnership with Quilt.AI, alongside 20 interviews with senior industry experts.

By diving into Gen-Zers' affiliations, interests and values — including their favourite brands and influencers and preferred styles — BoF Insights provides executives with the data they need to best engage with this next generation.

Publication Date: October 2022
Length: 99 pages
File Format: PDF

Table of Contents

  • Social and Economic events by US Generation from Baby Boomers to Gen-Z
  • Gen-Z Global Population and in the US
  • Gen-Z’s Preferred Entertainment Categories
  • Gen-Z’s Influence on Family and Friends’ Fashion Purchases
  • Per Capita Spending on Fashion and Footwear by Age
  • Generational Wealth Gap in the US
  • Enduring Gen-Z Characteristics versus Ephemeral Characteristics
  • Importance of Social Media to Gen-Z
  • Comparison of Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha
  • Six Key Gen-Z Values
    • Information
    • Identity
    • Improvement
    • Ideology
    • Introspection
    • Informality
  • Six Personality Clusters Derived from AI Analysis, Including Profiles and Moodboards
    • Forgers
    • Signallers
    • Satellites
    • Rebels
    • Explorers
    • Idealists
  • Cluster Overlap
  • Reasons for Purchasing Fashion
  • Favourability Toward Different Fashion Segments
  • Attitudes Toward Luxury
  • Attitudes Toward Counterfeit Luxury
  • Importance of Different Brand Traits
  • Favourite Fashion Brands
  • Case Study: Gucci’s Audience Development 
  • Favourite Shoewear Brands
  • Case Study: Dr. Martens’ Authentic Brand Style
  • Importance of Different Product Traits
  • Splurge versus Save Fashion Categories
  • Reasons for Initiating Shopping
  • Sources of Fashion Inspiration
  • Sources of Fashion Information for Purchasing
  • Comparison of Favourite Social Media Platforms
  • Online / Offline Shopping Behaviour
  • Methods of Fashion Disposal
  • Resale as a Mainstream Activity
  • Brand Communications
    • Gen-Z’s Use of Irony in Communications
    • Leveraging User-Generated Content and Brand Ambassadors
    • Aligning Initiatives with Brand Statements
    • Degree of Purpose Communications by Favourite Gen-Z Brands
  • Brand Style
    • Fashion Inversion and Trend Acceleration
    • Case Study: Princess Polly’s Trend Forecasting
  • Brand Communities
    • Degrees of Community Involvement
    • Community Tactics by Personality Cluster
    • Case Study: Remass Pop-Up in Sook Space 
  • Brand Evolution
    • Cultural Shifts
    • Case Study: PacSun Moves Beyond Surfer / Skater Roots
    • Technological Shifts
    • Case Study: Elf Beauty Pursues BeReal Strategy

Why Buy this Report

  • Assesses the generational divide and prevailing attitudes of each major US generation from Baby Boomers to Gen-Zers, including a detailed examination of why Gen-Z is distinct by identifying six key values 
  • Features proprietary research with Gen-Z consumers in the US, revealing the most in-demand fashion and footwear brands, shopping triggers, sources of inspiration, and information for purchasing and finally methods of product disposal (including resale) 
  • Analyses six key personality clusters that are representative of the US Gen-Z population using  machine learning applied to social media profiles
  • Highlights concise case studies on Dr. Martens, Gucci, PacSun, Princess Polly and Remass (one of the top sellers on Depop), as well as strategic analysis of fashion companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aritzia, Forever 21, Gap, Guess, J. Crew, Nike and Patagonia 
  • Unpacks tactics for brands and retailers to effectively appeal to Gen-Z related to tailoring communications, honing in on style/positioning amid trend acceleration, building and engaging communities, and enabling a company to identify and adapt to cultural and technological shifts

Research Inputs

  • Survey panel of c. 1,000 Gen-Z participants (aged 13 - 25) across the US fielded by Juv Consulting
  • Social media analysis by Quilt.AI of c. 5,000 public Instagram posts conducted via machine learning to create six personality clusters 
  • 4 focus groups with a total of 15 Gen-Z participants located across the US (conducted with The Z Suite from BCG PR and Juv Consulting)
  • 8 interviews with executives from agencies, consultants, start-up operators and influencers and 12 interviews with founders, chief executives and other senior executives from brands, retailers, rental platforms, resale platforms, and gaming and social media platforms
  • Companies featured in the report include: Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, American Eagle, Aritzia, By Rotation, Claire’s, Depop, Forever 21, Gucci, Guess, H&M, Levi’s, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Old Navy, PacSun, Patagonia, Pink, Princess Polly, Puma, Roblox, Shein, TikTok, Under Armour, Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, Vans and Zara