5 Inspirational Attributes of Gen Z

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If you weren’t in awe of the strength, conviction and vision of the young people leading this past weekend’s March for Our Lives, then you weren’t paying attention.

No matter where your beliefs may fall on the political spectrum, designers eager to tap Generation Z as their audience must take notice of the characteristics this young demographic bring to the consumer table.

And maybe it’s not about looking at those born between 1996 and 2010 as “consumers.” Instead, given the  following traits of Gen Zers, how and why we design may take on an entirely new and inspirational direction.

Confidence

Generation Z is poised to put the efforts of the generations before it into real action—and with confidence. The fight for more diversity and representation on the runways and in print has given this generation a platform to say, “We are ready to take the torch and run with it.”

The definition of “beauty” has expanded and Gen Zers are confident standing in their own skin, knowing their voices make important contributions to the conversation. With role models like Ashley Graham, Winnie Harlow and online platforms like the What’s Underneath campaign, today’s youth see themselves represented and proceed with confidence.

Optimism

Despite the polarized nature of politics around the world today, Generation Z maintains its optimism. Young, vibrant and with energy for days, Gen Z looks forward with the belief that change is possible.

Unlike Millennials, who have a reputation for taking the backseat, Gen Zers move full speed ahead with a positive, “this WILL get done” attitude. In terms of fashion, this attribute translates into fearlessness and nonconformity—an inspirational spirit for designers to draw upon as they create.

Social Media Savvy

There’s no denying the power of social media. However, Generation Z has proved its ability to harness social media’s reach and influence and turn it into action. The March for Our Lives is a perfect example of how young people communicate, mobilize and make change.

For designers wishing to appeal to Generation Z, taking command over the possibilities social media has to offer is essential. And truly understanding how Gen Z communicates means letting go of some of the practices and traditions the fashion industry has a tendency to cling to—like cost prohibitive “on the ground” fashion shows. Gen Z is more likely to stream an online presentation or tweet digital lookbooks.

An Eye for Style

So get this. In a recent study of Generation Z, fashionable design matters to 67 percent of Generation Z shoppers (which is more than any other generation). In addition, the number one thing Gen Zers look for in the products they buy is aesthetic. That means that while their voices are loud and proud, and action is at the top of the list, Generation Zers are not willing to sacrifice style.

Authenticity

According to Refinery 29′s Hollywood Z List, there’s one thread that seems to connect Gen Zers.

Authenticity.

When asked about their social media accounts, Generation Z up-and-comers valued kindness, honesty and an awareness of the dangers of letting social media consume them. Noah Cyrus, Miley’s little sis, sums up the Gen Z sentiment on social media when she says, “”I just like being real on my account. I don’t worry about how many pictures I post a day or what the picture is. If I want to post a picture of a salad leaf on my pants, then why not.”

For designers, this desire for authenticity means getting to the core of why we do what we do.

It’s true that our youngest generation cares about sustainability and ethically made clothing, however, what is most attractive to Generation Zers is the authenticity behind the clothing they wear and purchase. If, as a designer, you decide to slap a sustainable label on your garments simply to garner the attention of Gen Zers, they are likely to see through your intentions. However, if at the core of your “why” is to reduce waste in the fashion industry, Gen Zers are more likely to take real notice.

The upcoming generation of movers and shakers are moving with intention and purpose and research and knowledge—an inspiring direction for designers of all ages. How do you think Millennials and Gen Zers compare? And what Generation Z attributes have we left out? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Kara Laricks is a regular contributor to the University of Fashion. She’s also a New York based women's wear and accessories designer. As the first winner of NBC's Fashion Star, Kara has designed collections for H&M, Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her masculine meets feminine line, Kara Laricks, debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2012 and her S/S 2013 collection sold exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. Kara's designs have been featured on the Today Show and HBO's True Blood as well as covered in Women's Wear Daily and on Style.com. Kara holds Master's degrees in both Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Kansas and in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. An educator turned designer, Kara is dedicated to supporting emerging designers and inspiring others to follow where dreams lead.

  • LevelHeaded

    I have a daughter that wanted to march. I asked her what the 2nd Amendment said and to site me some the Supreme Court Cases on Gun Laws. When she couldn’t answer either question I told her educate herself on the issue she was marching for before she participates. After she did as I suggested so she decided it was foolish to participate. The lesson learned here is to protest based on knowledge not emotion alone.