THIS WEEK IN HOT GEN Z TRENDS: “I’ll wear your grandad’s clothes, I look incredible” 📲 

New York Fashion Week is running from September 7 to 13 this month. With avant-garde (and above-pay grade) looks running our feeds right now, this edition is dedicated to Gen Z’s relationship with luxury fashion. 

Fashion is in flux. With Gen Z’s social media use revolutionizing the global clothing industry, some brands are rolling with the changes while others fall behind. Even legacy luxury brands are struggling to find footing with young people. Where is this coming from? The answer may surprise you … 

Dupes reign over social media. The Screenshot discussed dupes in this year’s February 28 edition, and the trend is still going strong. With current high costs of living and low wages compounded with the social media pressures of using the “right” items and brands, young people have found it hard to balance. This has accelerated the rise of dupe culture (i.e.: the use of cheaper off-brand alternatives to pricey products). In the social media world, this means “splurge versus dupe” guessing games and “baddie on a budget” videos across TikTok. Creators, like @classycleanchic, challenge users to guess the “splurge” product, with many even saying they prefer the cheaper option. With the rise of paid influencer partnerships, creators have even collaborated with the dupe brands to drive sales. 

$1.2 trillion is spent each year on counterfeit fashion, with young people taking up a large quantity of this price tag. A European Union report found that 37% of 15-24-year-olds surveyed intentionally bought a counterfeit item in 2022, up from 14% in 2019. Their impetus for purchase was mostly because of price — however, 24% believed there was no difference between the luxury item and its cheap counterpart. 

With 56% of luxury customers reporting a below-satisfactory experience, businesses must hone in on the customer experience, especially regarding our generation. Some brands are already taking inspiration from young people’s aesthetics, wants, and purchase options. For example, Coachtopia is Coach’s Gen Z-focused offshoot; their products are a piece of the circular economy, made of recycled materials while also made to last. TELFAR is focused on affordability in luxury and has even piloted LIVE collections, which drop at wholesale prices and increase in cost based on the time it takes to sell out. LOEWE hones in on unstated or “quiet” luxury and creative, high-quality goods. Miu Miu was an early embracer of balletcore and the “soft girl aesthetic,” which has paid off. Each brand has iconic ambassadors and models, avoids flamboyant branding, and focuses on quality and word-of-mouth rather than oversaturated ads. Minimalism is in — both in the aesthetic and consumption sense — and these companies know how to do it. 

Another Gen Z obsession luxury brands have been able to capitalize on is collaborations. MSCHF is king of collabs, producing the iconic Big Red Boots (and, now, a yellow Croc version), Hermés bags and Birkenstock soles deconstructed into Birkīnstocks, and a Tiffany and Co. “participation trophy.” OHTNYC, a genderless jewelry brand known for working with K-Pop stars, worked with Swarovski on four necklaces. And, of course, the countless “Barbie” designer collabs broke the internet. 

In line with Gen Z’s sustainability ethos and love of aesthetics, curated vintage stores have dominated markets. Creators like @curated_ellements, @xofashionica, and @vintagegraceny hand-select secondhand luxury for young fashionistas. Others vlog their experiences and encourage viewers to go out and thrift designer items. 

Some influencers have also leaned into the outward display of wealth, with “make an outfit worth” challenges. @wisdm8, for example, made a $52,769 outfit as part of this trend. This stemmed from videos like @christoosmoove’s asking, “How much does your outfit cost?” in street interviews. @ronhiree has a series of curated luxury outfits with captions like “pov: you married a rich man” and “pov: you are the rich aunt.” 

With 67% of one survey’s respondents satisfied with their counterfeit luxury products, designer brands need to innovate in the space. Like Emily Delius said at ZCON, “not taking those risks is actually riskier because you’re going to blend in.” Just like the brands listed earlier, lean into your differentiator — whether low price, sustainability, or iconic ambassadors. Luxury fashion may be in flux, but it’s up to companies to find a way to attract the Millennials, Gen Zers, and Gen Alphas that will make up 80% of their market by 2030. 

Harmonie Ramsden