Understanding the Differences Between Millennials and Generation Z within the Fashion Industry 

Millennial Fashion – How Is It Different From Gen Z?

In today’s society, a few years can make boundless differences in regard to the fashion consumer decision-making process. The distinction between Generation Z (furthermore referred to as Gen Z) and Millennial fashion trends is a popular debate in the industry as many are caught between the two aesthetics. Understanding these two major demographic groups is crucial, as the set of shoppers represents the present and future of fashion consumerism. By understanding the differences in aesthetics between the two generations, brands can work to meet, and exceed the expectations of their target markets. 

Key Trend Differences: Millennials vs. Generation Z

In order to calculate the differences between the two demographic sectors, brands must first understand each individually. While the Millennial population is defined as people aged 24 to 40 (born between 1981 and 1997), Gen Zs are defined as people aged 6 to 24 (born between 1997 and 2017). Not only do these generations differ from one another in terms of age, but research shows that the two groups also differ vastly when looking at trend habits, brand interaction along with financial views. 

Fashion truly goes beyond just clothing or accessories. It is an artistic form of self-expression and a way to signify individuality through personal style. Trends transform over time and can differ based on many attributes. 

Millennials: Top Trends 

Skinny Jeans

Skinny Jeans are a popular Millennial fashion trend amongst men and women. Beginning in the 2000s, this particular trend has remained a core piece within the industry until this day. The trend seems to be loved by Millennials because it highlights their silhouettes while simultaneously improving overall mood and personal body image. Although Gen Z may attempt to declare the death of the skinny jean, this profile is continuously proving to be a top Millennial fashion trend!

Over-the-Knee Boots

Another fashion trend that the Millennials seem to prefer is the over-the-knee boot, a trend that has been widely accepted by many style icons. The versatile trend can be styled in a spectrum of ways such as with black leggings, sweatshirt dresses, skinny jeans, and more! 

Throwback Concert Tees

Throwback concert tees have won the hearts of many over the years, and Millenials are no different. Featuring 80s rock icons such as Def Leppard, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin (to name a few) the vintage vibes and washed-out aesthetic is definitely a go-to for this generation. 

Millennial Pink

If the world had to characterize Millennials with one particular color, it would be Pantone® USA’s 2016 color of the year: Millennial pink. Millennial Pink: a combination of Pantone 3-1520 Rose Quartz & Pantone 15-3919 Serenity, this ubiquitous hue duo challenges the traditional perception of color in a way that translates well with the generation. Millennials continue to wear it in many forms, and over the years the color has evolved to feature any hue that resembles a pale blush color. 

Gen Z: Top Trends 

Baguette Bags 

The baguette bag has made a huge comeback since the ‘90s and Gen Z is living for it! Originally designed by Italian powerhouse Fendi in 1997 (Forbes, 2020) the style became an iconic style after many appearances on Sex and the City, worn by Carrie Bradshaw herself. 

Scarf Tops 

As a returning trend from the early 2000s, the easy-to-achieve style is both practical and endlessly versatile. Worn using a silk scarf wrapped around the body as a top, the trend shows just enough skin to get widely accepted by the generation. 

Non-Skinny Jeans

In contrast to Millennials, there’s no fear of taking risks when it comes to Gen Z fashion. This demographic has unofficially rejected the skinny jean and replaced the trend with more diverse silhouettes like the mom jean, boyfriend, joggers, and more. 

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Brand Interactions

What Millenials are Looking for in Fashion Brands

The generations of today are empowered by the unlimited quantity and ease of access to information. In turn, the generations are becoming increasingly picky about the brands they choose to interact with, and therefore transparency is a crucial aspect driving today’s purchasing power. The generations want to know that brands are taking appropriate steps to ensure that brand values align with their own. 

Authentic Values and Clear Stands on Social Issues

One way that fashion brands can connect with Millennials is through a clear stand on social issues. By creating a unified purpose for a specific social issue, brands are learning to target the Millennial demographic. To take things a step further, Millennials expect brands to be clear about who they are, what they stand for, who they care about, and their purpose. In fact, “a majority of respondents (83%) believe that brands must align with their values, and 76% want CEOs to publicly speak out on issues that are important to them.”, according to 5WPR’s 2020 Consumer Culture Report. Most people who fall under this category often use their consumption to express their beliefs and believe that ethics should be part of a brand’s DNA. 

What Gen Z is Looking for in Fashion Brands

Gen Z widely agrees with this paradigm while putting more of an emphasis on physical action. Gen Z doesn’t stop paying attention when the cameras stop rolling, regardless of the topic this demographic wants to see plans, investments, and growth. So, yes this generation cares about values – but they care more about progress! 

Green is the New Black

With fast fashion’s effect on the environment and on the workers of the industry, Millennial fashion trends shift to brands with an ethical approach along with searching for brands that carry a rich heritage. Millennials are at the forefront of this stable trend as they want a long-lasting fashion brand that has a purpose. This  Generation comes from a time of global financial risk, therefore, shoppers tend to look for these core ethical and sustainability-focused values when spending. 

Generation Z is, by far, the most concerned about the planet’s well-being, and the group is extremely aware of a brand’s sustainable responsibility. This generation does not respond well to buzzwords, greenwashing, and other unethical marketing practices. In order to stay ahead of this shift, several companies are adjusting their strategies. The structure of the fashion industry is rapidly changing due to Gen Zs interest in the resale market along with the demand for green textiles, upcycling, and high-quality, long-lasting products. 

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Financial Views 

Millennials and Gen Z have different mindsets when making purchasing decisions; how they shop, interact with brands, and view their financial freedoms. Recent research by Salesforce found that inflation has affected both Millennials’ and Gen Z’s shopping behaviors drastically, with 30% of Gen Z and 27% of Millennials shopping much less. 

Although 27% of Millennials buy more private-label products in an attempt to save money, only 13% of Gen Z do the same. In addition, Millennials shop more at discount retailers. Given that most Gen Z’ers haven’t formed households yet, we see them saving money on non-discretionary items. Compared to Millennials, 22% of them buy more second-hand products due to inflation than new products. The Gen Z generation is also more likely to use buy-now-pay-later to make purchases than the Millennial generation, which uses this payment option less frequently. 

Final Thoughts

With the constant attempts to define the two ‘sibling’ demographics, brands are digging deep into core motivators for each respective target audience. Both of these groups are famous for experimentation with different styles; their moods and habits play a major role in their spending choices. 

By using data to truly understand the values that are most important to these groups, and implementing personalized offerings to meet their needs, brands can establish greater trust and build a strong, loyal relationship with the spending power of the now, and the future!

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Understanding the Differences Between Millennials and Generation Z within the Fashion Industry  Millennial fashion is very different from what Gen Zs are into. Learn how Millennial fashion differs from Gen Z in this article.
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