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Design Trends: What’s Driving Generation Z

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When marketing and selling an apparel brand, it’s important to understand the trends and styles driving your target market. We’ve just discussed millennial trends — and how technology, minimalism and a splash of pink can win over that generation’s hearts. Now, it’s time to dive into Generation Z.

With many in their teens and early twenties, this group of young adults has an immense consumer influence that’s only poised to grow. Here’s how to tap into the right trends and develop brand loyalty with the next generation.

Understanding Generation Z

According to digital marketing expert Jennifer Shaheen, Generation Z commands a whopping 44 billion dollars in purchasing power each year. As an apparel brand, understanding what this generation wants is essential to your long term growth.

So where should you get started with this emerging demographic? For starters, brands need to understand how this generation values diversity and universal equality. In a study by Millennial Marketing, members of Generation Z said they prefer advertisements that promote racial, sexual and gender equality. They also prefer branded materials that feel realistic, rather than idealized.

One apparel brand that’s hitting both of these marks — and seeing huge financial gains because of it — is American Eagle. As pointed out by that company’s CMO, Kyle Andrews, Generation Z is less interested in big brands and designer labels. “They’re less brand-conscious and they are not spending as much as millennials do,” Andrews says.

The Importance of Value

In order to resonate with Gen Z, then, brands have to show what they value and how they make a difference. Simply being a big brand isn’t enough to sell.

Influencer and marketing strategist Nicolas Cole adds that just like millennials, Generation Zers are conscious about their collective ecological footprint. This means that they’re more interested in brands that are making a positive impact on the world. Accessories brands like Warby Parker and Toms are popular amongst this generation because they give back to people in need.

Another interesting point is that Gen Z’s commitment to ethical brands is inspiring change within the fashion industry. Emine Saner, feature writer at The Guardian, says this generation is introducing a change in mass consumption. Rather than gobbling up any new fashion trend just because it’s emblazoned with a certain brand name, members of Gen Z are careful and conscientious about their purchasing habits.

Chase Dimond, founder of the CBD Marketing Agency, Boundless Labs, explains that “people are actively looking to make a change. They want to know more about the “how” and the “who” behind the clothes they wear – to understand the story behind their clothes.” The moral of this story? Creating a message of giving, sustainability and authenticity — and incorporating that into your in-store retail strategy — can go a long way in helping to attract and retain these customers.


Self Expression

Generation Z’s desire for inherent value is just as important as their need for self expression. Wearing a brand that everyone else is wearing makes these consumers feel like everyone else, when in reality all they want is to stand out.

Investor and Gen Z consultant George Beall says brands help Generation Z stand out against their peers. This is especially true on social media, where trendy, expressive photos (like these examples of christian wall art) can thrust a teenager into instagram fame. To tap into this trend, try positioning apparel brands as vehicles for self expression.

The retail business blog Fierce Retail writes that nearly 60 percent of Gen Zers say they prefer to create their own fashion statement. Hang tags and other printed brand materials can be used to reinforce this message, helping consumers feel a sense of self ownership when they wear and interact with your brand.

Short Attention Spans

If there’s one thing brands should know about Generation Z, it’s that they can’t stay still for long.  Marketing expert and influencer Deep Patel says this generation has incredibly short attention spans.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t able to concentrate or get tasks done. It’s simply due to the digital environment in which they were raised, and how they learned to process information. To reach these customers and grab their attention, it’s important to make an impression as quickly as possible.

Marketing and creative agency Zion & Zion says that marketers can attract consumers by keeping all messaging simple and clear. Sometimes, this means eliminating wording altogether and opting for impactful imagery.

Photographer and design expert Igor Ovsyannykov says image-heavy hang tags are a great way to influence the consumer to buy your product. For example, on a hang tag for a blouse, an image might showcase that blouse being worn with a bottom or a skirt that your brand also sells. This strategy works well for gifts, because a compelling and visually-stimulating hang tag can make a person feel excited and happy — emotions you’d want your friend or family member to feel when receiving a gift.


Design Trends

Clothing Brands can also tap into short attention spans by utilizing the latest trends in graphic design and color. Digital Arts staff writer Miriam Harris points out that millennials and their younger counterparts are drawn to simple lines and bold color patterns, much like the designs seen on digital interfaces. Brands have also been modifying their logos to align with this trend. Simple, square-shaped logos that are unified in color work well both on digital and print surfaces.

Plus, having a logo that easily translates across different mediums helps a brand establish a consistent and more memorable image. Steff Yotka, fashion news and emerging platforms editor at Vogue, adds that unfiltered content is essential for today’s brands. She says that Gen Zers want to see authentic imagery and models that aren’t photoshopped. When incorporating images into a hang tag design, keep in mind the appeal of realness and truth.

The Power of Simplicity

Another way to keep your hang tag simple is add a clean, minimalist brand name.

Accessories designer Jenny Luckett of January Moon uses this strategy on her hang tags for teething jewelry — stylish jewelry for moms that’s safe for babies to bite. Featuring a white circle with a clean, gray font, these hang tags are bordered by a bright pop of color. This design helps allude to a childlike feeling, which supports the main theme of the jewelry. It also helps draw in young mothers and their friends and family, and the simple brand name gets to the point and remains memorable.

Full-service inbound marketing agency Weidert Group adds that content should be well-organized and created for skimming. Although this strategy is typically applied to digital mediums, remember: Generation Z lives in the digital world. So even when you’re printing print brand materials, you should be following this same approach.

Real World Shopping Experience

Despite a recent trend towards online shopping, Generation Z is still committed to buying in stores. In fact, Fashionista associate editor Maria Bobila writes, a full 90 percent of Gen Zers prefer traditional in-store experiences. This means that apparel brands shouldn’t skimp on their in-store marketing and branding efforts even as they ramp up online selling goals.

Bobila adds that brick and mortar stores allow Generation Z to get closer to brand experiences, satisfying their need for authenticity. It also helps them discover brands and stores that represent their personality and goals in life, which in turn meets their need for self expression.

Images by: StockSnap, Jan Vašek

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