Gen-Z consumers are getting comfortable with buying luxury dupes, according to BoF’s research and analysis think tank.
In the age of BeReal when authenticity reigns supreme, Gen-Z has surprisingly few qualms about buying fake goods — especially when others are doing it. In a proprietary study of US Gen-Z consumers aged 13-25 fielded by Juv Consulting, BoF Insights found that a majority think it’s acceptable for others to buy counterfeits. Meanwhile, over a third are personally willing to wear dupes. Estimates of the size of the overall counterfeit and pirated goods market vary, ranging from $1.7 trillion and $4.5 trillion a year, making it the largest criminal enterprise in the world.
To learn more about US Gen-Z fashion preferences and behaviour, purchase your copy of ‘Gen-Z and Fashion in the Age of Realism’ by BoF Insights.
Consumers are embracing their individuality — and increasingly, so are a number of forward-looking brands, who are creating a new approach to conventional beauty standards.
It’s the perfect word to describe how the beauty industry has functioned for decades when it comes to casting models for campaign imagery and influencers to create content.
Yes, there’s been some improvement along the lines of racial diversity, but beyond showcasing a wider breadth of skin tones, brands tend to spotlight people with similar facial features, body types and skin types. Identity and sexuality are rarely taken into consideration, and disability and those of a certain age are almost nonexistent.
Increasingly, though, as consumers are actively engaging their individuality across social media platforms, an increase number of brands, like Dieux, Topicals, Starface, Saltair, MAC and Tood, are reflecting it back.
“This is a really powerful time where we’re not resting on a singular type of beauty,” said Linda Wells, beauty and wellness columnist and founding editor in chief of Allure. “We’re in this time of the triumph of the individual, fueled in much part by social media. Even posting a selfie is an individualistic statement of identity and a way to say I’m here.”
Whether in magazines, social media or even the metaverse, representation is becoming increasingly considered. “We’ve been trained to believe what is considered beautiful,” said Sharareh Siadat, founder of Tood Beauty, “but the Tood customers desire to see my unibrow, my silver hair, my armpit hair, my COVID-19 curves.”
Siadat brought up the idea of curated diversity within beauty, someone considered beautiful who is spread across every brand. But she is always pushing to do the opposite. During Pride Month last year, for example, Tood launched a nail polish collection and each shade was named after an activist. “For us, Pride wasn’t about picking cool kids who are queer and putting them in makeup,” she said. “It was about who is doing the work to create inclusive spaces.”
Siadat researched LGBTQ activists, which included a 13-year-old who lives in Connecticut and does a lot of political work to create more diverse spaces to an Iranian who’s created a rainbow railroad initiative to bring queer people into safety in countries where you die for being queer. “We were promoting and selling a new product, but we honored it with people who were doing work, and giving them the platform for that awareness,” Siadat said. “An integrated, holistic approach to diversity, storytelling, community building and connection is the way to always approach the topic of representation.”
Since its inception 40 years ago, MAC has representation a core brand value, an effort that goes far beyond the models in an ad. “It’s not just in front of the camera; it’s behind the camera, too, because the storytellers change the story and bring it to life,” said Drew Elliott, global creative director of MAC Cosmetics.
Beyond skin tone, MAC is focused on diversity among gender and identity, specifically, the representation of trans people. Elliott is also expanding its casts included in campaigns and bringing people together who know each other and have a relationship. For example, MAC did a campaign for Studio Radiant Face and Body. It was shot during quarantine, so Elliott had to rely on people to self-shoot and self-submit. “We had some amazing photographers capturing different groups of people and what we got back was unbelievable,” he said. “The relationship the cast had with one another to celebrate each other was super MAC because one of our pillars is about community.”
Creating community around people who have experienced shame from showcasing one beauty standard is more important than ever. Starface, the acne-forward company, has created a community who openly share their acne from the beginning. Its Hydro-Star Pimple Patches have become a social phenomenon with even Justin Bieber and Charlie D’Amelio sporting stars. “What’s unifying about acne and pimples is that experience doesn’t discriminate,” said Julie Schott, cofounder of Starface. “When you see someone like Justin Bieber wearing the patches, it’s so validating. There’s no amount of influence or access that changes the way the body works. And that’s really comforting.”
Similarly, Topicals is on a mission to change how people feel about themselves and their skin by erasing negative connotations around skin conditions. For decades, a flawless complexion was always deemed ideal and known as “good skin.”
However, Topicals showcase complexions and bodies with scars, eczema, texture and autoimmune conditions, among other skin syndromes that have been unfavorable in beauty campaigns. “Our audience resonates most with honest yet playful messaging,” said Olamide Olowe, founder and chief executive officer. “Overall, our messaging encourages our customers to want healthy skin and understand that, in every instance, that does not necessarily equate to clear skin. We’ve taken a stand against the stigmatization of “bad skin” and made it less harsh.”
This expansion of representation also brings about the expansion of problem, solution products. “Thigh chafe, butt acne and boob sweat are the problems that we’re talking about,” said Katie Sturino, founder of Megababe, author of “Body Talk,” and body acceptance advocate. “It’s not; how do I get rid of cellulite? The products we’re creating help people feel less ashamed and more included.”
In 2022, Sturino was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder characterized by facial weakness or paralysis of the facial nerve. It can also result in a rash affecting the ear or mouth. During that time, she started thinking of products that would help those with different mobility challenges. “I heard from a lot of people with invisible illnesses and there are several who are unable to take daily showers, so they use our shower sheets as refreshers,” she said. “So looking at our products through the lens of being able to help people who have different mobility challenges is something that I want to include more on our social and site. We’ll continue to show up in places where there might be shame or isolation and where we’re able to help people feel more comfortable about normal body functions.”
The debate is also being played out in the metaverse. Neha Singh, founder and CEO of Obsess, noted that the overarching promise of the metaverse is that it is a place where all communities are welcome and represented. Obsess’ branded avatar technology allows beauty brands to preselect a range of skin tones, facial features, hairstyles, colors, body shapes, clothing options and makeup looks.
“On the branded avatars front, we are going to continue to add more customization options that enable users to create personalized avatars that represent exactly who they want to be in each brand’s metaverse,” said Singh, who noted that brands like Bakeup Beauty are utilizing virtual experiences to showcase its approach to inclusivity. “Many of the products Bakeup Beauty has released don’t fit into the traditional definition of beauty products, such as face gems or an eye veil adornment with micro-crystals,” she said.
But according to Ziad Ahmed, cofounder and CEO of Juv Consulting, a purpose-driven Gen Z consultancy, Gen Z is wary of the metaverse. “The advent of the metaverse is quite troubling from the perspective that you can customize identity and pretend and posture that you are anything,” he said. “That can be really damaging and actually roll some of our progress back. People have fought really hard to be able to show up as themselves in physical spaces. For too long, the things that have been seen as beautiful are actually the things that make us feel most ugly.”
When it comes to content, Ahmed noted that first-person anecdotes reflect Gen Z’s larger mindset, which is that the expert is the person closest to reality. For example, the quick rise to fame of TikTok phenom Alix Earle is not only based on her nonchalant, I don’t take myself too serious attitude, but the idea that she shared her complexion when it was covered in cystic acne and she spoke about how her antidepressants make her feel.
Highsnobiety, which launched its beauty vertical in January, hopes to further the conversation by examining how beauty choices reflect the evolving cultural landscape. “We see beauty as so much more than ‘pretty.’ It’s self-expression, it’s art, it’s subversion, it’s politics,” said Willa Bennett, editor in chief of Highsnobiety. “We see beauty as a medium to express identity, subvert stereotypes, create art, build community and feel good — and our visuals represent that.”
Like “quiet quitting” in 2022, “rage applying” is the latest TikTok workplace trend, and many Gen Z employees are swearing by it. Find out what it entails, why it’s resonating with Gen Z, and if it’s beneficial.
Move over, quiet quitting. Rage applying is the new Gen Z corporate trend taking over TikTok.
“Essentially [rage quitting is when] you have individuals working at companies, they get frustrated and use some of that anger and rage to go on a mass [job application spree],” said Trndsttr founder Jake Bjorseth. “New roles, new jobs, you name it.
“I think it’s a derivative of this generation that sometimes wants to prove that, ‘Hey, I don’t really need this job. There are other job opportunities for me.’”
The term “rage applying” may be new, but the concept has been around for quite some time.
You work at a job that you loathe. You want to leave as soon as possible to pursue a better opportunity, a higher salary, an improved work-life balance, etc. So, you apply to as many jobs as you can to make your exit pronto.
Rage applying has resonated the most with Gen Z, and some people have hit TikTok to share their success doing it.
TikTok user @redweez told followers in a video in December 2022, “I got mad at work and rage applied to like 15 jobs. Then I got a job that gave me a $25,000 raise and it’s a great place to work. So keep rage applying. It’ll happen.” One TikTokker replied, “Me toooo! 35K and got it in six weeks. Keep going!” The video has over 360,000 likes to date.
Gen Z Is the Drive of Rage Applying
Why is rage applying resonating with Gen Z? The short answer is the pandemic’s effects on how they (and we all) look at work.
“The pandemic was a pivotal and really dramatic recalibration of society, writ large,” said JUV Consulting CEO Ziad Ahmed. JUV Consulting works with brands to help them reach young people in an effective way. “[It] was a profound moment of reflection. I think many people [and Gen Zers] were on a metaphorical hamster wheel. And we have been taught since we were young that there was a way to live a life and you did X, Y, and Z, and that’s how life was meant to be.
“During the pandemic, we got to see well that if the circumstances change, an entirely different world is possible. I think many people began to question, ‘Could I live my life entirely differently than the way that I’ve been living? Am I happy with the way that I’ve been living it?’ I think for a lot of people the answer was no.”
As a result, a lot of Gen Zers came out of the pandemic with totally different lifestyles, career trajectories, even new friend groups, Ahmed said, adding that rage applying is a manifestation of that.
“It’s this idea that we can change, and we get to, and we shouldn’t have to accept the way that things are,” Ahmed said. “Also, as a lot of companies are engaging in layoffs. Given the economic condition and really poor decision-making practices in a lot of cases, a lot of folks are reckoning with this reality that oftentimes companies ask a great deal of employees only to not treat [them] the way they deserve to be treated.
“And so I think a lot of folks are reckoning with that. For a lot of Gen Zers, we’ve grown up in a world where almost every major institution has let us down, whether that’s government or financial institutions, brands or the economy. And so I think there is this general feeling that if we can’t really trust anyone or anything, we might as well shoot our shot to get the best that we can get.”
The career side of TikTok is also providing GenZers information they otherwise might not see, Ahmed said. People are taking their followers on a journey, showing them how they got to where they are in their careers, and sharing information they hope will be useful, like rage applying.
Can Rage Applying Be Beneficial?
Rage applying can work in your favor if you try it and land a job you want. But, it may be better to take a moment to calm down before applying nonstop.
“I don’t think doing anything out of rage or intensity is ever the right way to do things, and that’s speaking from someone who loves to use rage and anger as an entrepreneur to work harder,” Bjorseth said. “But I always encourage young people that you should be applying to as many opportunities as you can and for even jobs that you don’t think you’re going to get.
“The worst thing that you can get is no, but you’re not going to get yes if you don’t potentially go ask for it. If you’re in a job that you don’t absolutely love, you should always be spending extra time going applying for and looking for new roles.”
Companies can’t always tell if you are rage applying though, Ahmed said, so your resume can hit the right company at the right time and land you an interview.
“If someone were to rage apply to [my company] JUV consulting, it’d probably look like the other applications,” Ahmed said. “I might find my best applicant that way because somebody who is motivated to get out of the current situation that they are in to look for better is probably a decent applicant.
“Somebody who is really looking for something new and different and willing to just find and stumble upon something new and exciting is probably someone worth talking to. There is a benefit to optimizing your chances towards getting the thing that you want, and I always think the intersection of that strategy and effort can get you quite far.”
Rage applying might work for some people, and others might do better targeting a few companies. You have to determine what you feel comfortable with and what works best for you, Ahmed said.
“We’re all on our own journey to craft a life that works for us and our communities,” Ahmed said. “If that looks like rage applying, go off, live your best life. And if that looks like staying at your current job, awesome. And if that looks like being really coordinated in your strategic outreach to a few different places, [do it]. I don’t think that there is one right way.”
What You Can Do Instead of Rage Applying
You can revamp your job search strategy instead of rage applying.
Educational leadership and development expert Marchem Pfeiffer said it’s important to consider whether rage applying is worth the return on investment. Strategize to find a new opportunity if you are unhappy with your current role.
“I’m pretty sure we’ve all been in a specific environment where we’re like, ‘This place is terrible. I don’t want to be here. I am not valued in any way,’” Pfeiffer said. “But take a step back and start to formulate a plan for how you can make this work for you, either in the current environment you’re in or in a different environment.”
Research the work culture of the companies you are applying to so you don’t end up in the same situation again, Pfeiffer said. He also suggested not rage applying to several positions at one company. It can be indicative to HR of rage applying, and they may not take you seriously.
Also, network. Reach out to the hiring manager for the companies you want to work for, find out what they need, and how you can solve their issues, Pfiferr said.
“Nine out of 10, they will at least bring you in for an interview,” Pfeiffer said. “So be strategic, figure out what will work best for your life. Understand that yes, we all need money, we all need a job, but that there are things outside of that. If rage applying coupled with your current toxic environment is hindering your ability to truly live life, then you need to make some kind of big change.”
What is Rage Applying? What to Know About TikTok’s Latest Trend
- Rage applying is applying to as many jobs as possible in a short period to leave a job situation as quickly as possible.
- Before you rage apply, take a breath. Apply to companies you want to work for instead of every role in your field.
- Avoid rage applying to multiple roles at one company.
- Instead of rage applying, strategize. Research work cultures at companies you want to apply to make sure it is a fit.