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Gen Z and luxury fashion: five reasons why it’s taken off

Gen Z have embraced luxury goods - including sneakers, such as these Nike x Off White collabs

From app to doorstep, Gen Z can have a whole new outfit within 24 hours – for less than 30 dollars. In spite of this, the luxury fashion market has found a whole new generation of fashion-conscious consumers in Gen Z. We take a look at the reasons why. 

#1 Quality over affordability

It’s no secret that students the world over are often on a budget – but that doesn’t mean they want to scrimp on quality. The fashion vertical is their biggest discretionary spending category each month – so they want to make sure they’re getting quality for what they spend. In the UK, quality is students’ top priority when it comes to buying fashion items. For US students, affordability comes out on top – with just one percentage point difference, quality is hot on its heels.

A road of luxury fashion stores in Melbourne.

Student consumers have more options to choose from than ever before, with a constant bombardment of online ads battling it out for their attention. It’s difficult for brands to win their trust. Luxury brands provide that double seal of approval – a high-quality item from a brand they’ve likely heard of their entire lives, for all the right reasons.

In a market where students can get their hands on any clothing item with the swipe of a smartphone, exclusivity holds a lot of weight. Owning a limited edition piece within a luxury capsule collection is increasingly appealing for Gen Z.

#2 Driven by China

The luxury market is making waves among students across the globe – but there’s one territory in particular that started it all. China’s luxury shopping trend was born when consumers grew tired of sifting through imitation designer goods. Now, Chinese consumers are recognized the world over for their love of luxury; the trend has consolidated and is clearly here to stay.

As is often the case, the youth market has been instrumental in taking the trend to the global market. Nearly one-third of high-income Chinese parents choose to educate their children in the US, and Chinese students make up the largest segment of international students in Australia. As these students develop their own spending power, they, in turn, are focusing their attention on the luxury fashion market.

A woman holds a luxury fashion bag from the brand Chanel.

Even COVID-19 couldn’t chip away at China’s love affair with the luxury market. In fact, as shops reopened, Chinese shoppers increased their appetite for designer goods, making up for lost time – the revenge spending phenomenon was born. With Chinese students represented at universities across the world, it’s no surprise that their classmates are following in their footsteps by getting into luxury fashion.

#3 Accessible luxury

There’s no denying that luxury goods are more accessible than ever before. The likes of Vestiaire Collective and Stock X are Gen Z go-tos, giving them the chance to track down luxury fashion items in a thriving second-hand marketplace. As well as presenting affordable and accessible options, this has given rise to a whole new luxury lifestyle – students have bucket lists of luxury items and these apps are key in crossing off items.


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A post shared by Supreme (@supremenewyork)

Gen Z loves athleisure, and some of the biggest streetwear brands in the world are their wardrobe staples. Some of the most forward-thinking fashion houses have successfully brought the 16-24-year-old demographic on board with savvy collabs with streetwear brands. See Louis Vuitton x Supreme, or Nike x Off White, for example – the collection is still highly sought after across Gen Z luxury platforms.

#4 The ethics

There’s another reason why Gen Zs are drawn to luxury fashion. With more ethical conscience than any other generation, the 16-24-year-old demographic are ensuring their values to determine what they buy – and how often. Luxury fashion isn’t perfect in the most ethical of Gen Zs’ eyes – but spending big on one high-quality purchase is preferable compared to buying multiple garments to throw away within a few months. And by buying second-hand, they can rest assured that their values and their bank balances are aligned.


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A post shared by Diet Prada ™ (@diet_prada)

It’s not as simple as affordable fashion being bad and luxury being good, though – Gen Z are charged by ethics, with 97% of UK 16-24s changing their behaviour to protect the environment within the last year. Animal cruelty, discrimination and poor treatment of workers are the most likely behaviours to put Gen Z off buying from a brand. It’s not surprising, given how much this cohort values authenticity. One only has to look through Instagram accounts like Diet Prada – which holds luxury fashion brands to account and has a thriving audience of digital natives – to see how seriously Gen Z takes ethics at every level.

#5 The irony

Gen Z are known for their ironic, eccentric humor – and what’s more ironic than wearing a thrift store dress with $1,000 dollar shoes? Today, students draw their fashion inspiration from a much more eclectic mix of sources. Fluidly mixing and matching high fashion with affordable clothes is subversive – you won’t catch today’s fashionistas dressed head-to-toe in the same brand.

For luxury fashion brands, Gen Z is the future – and we’re the experts in helping you you to reach them. Contact us to find out more.

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