University of Fashion Blog

Category "Current Topics in Fashion"

THE NEW REIGNING GENERATION – GEN Z

Courtesy of Elle

(Courtesy of Elle)

Let’s face it, the focus of the last decade has been mostly all about Millennials (the group also known as Gen Y and Echo Boomers/the children of Baby Boomers). Millennials being the demographic cohort born between 1980 – 1994, who came of age (10 – 22 years old) between 1990 to 2004 and who represent approximately 71 million in the United States alone. Fashion brands and marketers got to know them well over the years and they expended lots of time and money understanding their shopping patterns.

But now…a new generation is taking center stage, Generation Z (also known as post-Millennials and the digital generation). Gen Z is defined as those born between the years 1995 to 2009 and who are coming of age between 2005 – 2020. Their current population is 21 million, but according to the U.S. Census, that number is projected to grow to 80 million, with spending power estimated at $200 billion annually and over $1 trillion globally in indirect spending power when you factor in their influence on parental or household purchases. Gen Zers are mega influencers and you can believe that fashion brands and retailers have been working overtime, trying to understand and cater to this new demographic.

Never mind the fact that some of this new cohort are not even old enough to vote, they are for sure driving the present and future of the fashion industry. According to a report by Barclays, “by 2020 Generation Z will be the largest group of consumers globally. They will account for 40% of consumers in the U.S., Europe and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and 10% of the rest of the world.” This generation has huge spending power.

Gen Zers are the first generation to be connected to social media from birth. They have the capacity to share events, opinions and experiences, and are changing society at lightning speed. In addition, they are empowered on how they view life and are simultaneously setting the stage for common attitudes within their own tribe. Gen Z are living in an exceptional world, one that is very different from previous generations. Let’s explore what Gen Zers are all about.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images, Payton Hartsell

(Photo Courtesy: Getty Images, Payton Hartsell)

Digital Natives

Millennials were introduced to the rise of social media, tablets, smart devices and the mobility/connection that the digital revolution created as they were growing up. Gen Zers, on the other hand, were born digital and therefore have no idea that this is something new. Being digital is part of their DNA and as a result they are extremely tech-savvy and are self-learners. They have never known a world whereby they couldn’t instantly get connected or find the answer to any question that crosses their mind. They literally are growing up online and are connected more than 90% of their free time.

Courtesy of Getty Images

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Economically Conservative

Another fact about Gen Z, is that they have only known turbulence and instability, having lived through the aftermath of 9/11 and experienced war and economic recession. They may have older siblings who struggled to find work during the recession, and this has now driven them to focus on self-awareness, personal reliance, financial conservatism and hard work. Therefore, they are more conscious on how they spend their money. They are aware of volatility within the market. And although the economy is currently strong, they are very careful where they invest and spend their money, should the economy slow. This also leads them to analyze brands more carefully. Contrary to Millennials, Gen Z are less idealistic and more realistic and for that reason fashion is less about ‘fitting in’ and more about making choices that reflect their identity. They are not spending less, they are just making smarter choices that reflect who they really are.

 

Social Activists

Gen Z is the first generation that has grown up in a world that is more openly diverse than in the past. They are much more conscious about their future. Globalization has allowed the mix and migration of cultures. Most of this generation grew up having an African American president in the U.S. – Barack Obama – and a woman Chancellor in Germany – Angela Merkle, phenomena that was not even thinkable in the past. The increased attention on the LGBT and environmental movements have forced impressive changes in history, making marriage equality a reality in places such as the U.S. and India, as well as the banning of plastic bags from different places, like China and the U.K. These and other related events have shaped Generation Z. Therefore, it is no surprise that this demographic cohort looks for brands that are conscious of the environment, diversely-inclusive and that offer non-gendered products.

Courtesy Time magazine

(Courtesy Time magazine)

A Generation Empowered

Contrary to Millennials, Gen Zers didn’t grow up over protected. They have not been given trophies just for participating. This generation has not been sheltered from the evils of the world. On the other hand, parents of this generation have taught their kids how to defend themselves in a world, where there is easy access to everything. They have been educating their kids and preparing them to deal with life’s difficulties, such as internet bullies, predators, school violence, economic setbacks and career challenges. Parents of Generation Z tend to have more open and consultative relationships with their children. They are pushing stronger to prepare them for life and this has created individuals with higher expectations. This unique social environment has made them a generation that is intuitively innovative, goal-oriented and realistic.

All the social characteristics and traits discussed above, can be seen in their preferences for fashion, entertainment and advertisement. And that is why they are so interesting. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and we need to see the world through their eyes in order to cater to them correctly.

 

So, what are Gen Zers looking for?

Generation Z may be perceived as impatient with short attention spans, but they are not superficial, they are quite hungry for authenticity. They want brands that meet their real needs, and they are always looking for the better, faster and more fun option in a brand. They are looking for brands with a realistic storytelling, something that connects with their individuality and their tribe. They are not obsessing with stereotypes, or images of beauty standards that have been created so far. Instead they actually challenge those old standards, because they want to relate with brands that resembles themselves. This generation doesn’t feel the need to change to fit in, in this world. They simply want to be their own true self and they are choosing brands that honestly reflect this inclusivity and diversity.

Generation Z is highly educated, technologically savvy and naturally creative. Even if they are immersed in social media, which may seem to some as trivial, they best use it to create a positive impact in the world. Therefore, you see them more likely pointing out injustice, racism and inequality. They only want to be associated with brands that are social and environmentally responsible, or which have a greater purpose than just “selling a shirt.” They are not to be fooled, they do not fall for beautiful things without content. They may be young, but they are way advanced for their time.

 

Courtesy of Business of Fashion

(Courtesy of Business of Fashion)

How can brands and retailers connect to these savvy consumers?

Thanks to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, Gen Zers get to share everything they do, buy, and experience with their friends – real time. Because of this, they expect shopping to also be experiential. They don’t want to only buy “stuff,” they also want to buy the “experience,” with the product becoming an added bonus. For retailers, it’s as simple as encouraging a consumer to upload to their new outfit to Instagram, to personalize a bag with their initials, or, as complex as what some stores in N.Y.’s Soho have done, adding interactive technology, a meditation studio, or in-store basketball court among others. Retail stores are now realizing that they need to offer more than just a ‘transaction.’ A great example of this is Farfetch. Last year they launched their pop-up “Store of the Future,” where they provided a screen for customers to sign in and search for their bucket list or purchase history. They also have smart mirrors, so customers can request different sizes, alternative products or even pay without leaving the dressing room. Another example is the House of Vans London Skatepark, a location where art, music, BMX, street culture and fashion all meet up.

 

Farfetch’s  pop-up Store of the Future (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

Farfetch’s pop-up Store of the Future (Courtesy of Bloomberg)

 

House of Vans   Deep Bowl    London Skatepark                                            (Courtesy of Skateparks)

House of Vans Deep Bowl London Skatepark (Courtesy of Skateparks)

What experimental shopping tells us about Generation Z is that they care about things that connect them to other people. They are constantly looking for something that is going to stay with them, that is going to feel authentic and not robotic. Also, they are looking to ‘connect’ to the brand and the retailer. So today, smart brands realize that they must sell an experience along with their product. This experience doesn’t necessarily mean having to have complex in-store technology to ensure a remarkable customer experience, but they will need to offer a memorable interaction with the consumer. It has to be original, meaning it has to be close to the brand’s values and authenticity. The interaction needs to connect with the personality of the consumer and it needs to be unexpected and unique. It is all about personalizing the shopping experience and providing more than just a product.

As the fashion industry continues to decode the likes and preferences for Gen Z, others like futurist/demographer Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to him, 2.5 million Alphas are born around the globe every week.

 

Care to share a favorite Gen Z story of this group is helping to change the world?

Learning fashion design just got easier, thanks to UoF founder and author, Francesca Sterlacci

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Helen Ronan & Anastasia Scott (Laurence King Publishing), Francesca Sterlacci (University of Fashion), Dr. Jennifer Harmon (winner) and Jane Hegland (ITAA President)

In the fashion industry, so many of us can get swept up in the shiny end result presented on the runway during fashion week or the most viewed Instagram story of the day or perhaps, the must-have It Bag of the season.

And sometimes, the work of the dedicated, behind-the-scenes professionals who make It Bags and Instagram-worthy content possible in the first place, can go unnoticed. In this post, I’m not talking about hard-working designers, pattern makers and sewers—I’m going one step further behind the scenes to feature someone who works tirelessly to support designers in every which way she can—University of Fashion founder, Francesca Sterlacci. Read More

Marc my words, Jacobs was the best NYFW had to offer

I know I am late to this party, but I finally had the chance to see the Alexander McQueen documentary. If you’ve been under the same rock I have, check out the trailer here. Then, make sure to stream the full length version.

The reason I bring up the McQueen documentary is that it reminds me of a time when fashion shows told tales, the viewer was taken on a visceral journey, and when fashion felt like art, not necessarily commerce. As I sat down to write yet another NYFW review, I realized that I have been covering fashion weeks for over a decade. Whether as a wanna-be fashion student, actual fashion student, designer or blogger, I’ve clicked through countless slides, attended umpteen shows and shown my own collection at NYFW.

While I identify most with the “little guy/gal,” I have big expectations from well-established designers with financial resources and substantial backing. With very few exceptions (especially since Thom Browne packed up for Paris), I rarely see the likes of a McQueen-worthy vision on New York runways. So with McQueen as my guide, I’ve selected the most exhilarating, tale-telling collection (in my humble opinion, of course) by an established player in the NY fashion scene to cover this NYFW. And the honor goes to…none other than Marc Jacobs.

This is not to say that Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary collection or Raf Simons showing for Calvin Klein shouldn’t receive a mention, but three elements push Marc Jacobs S/S 2019 collection to the top.

A response to the cultural/societal/political landscape

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Trans Model Finn Buchanan Image: Vogue.com

Much like movies were an escape during the Great Depression, I think Marc Jacobs’ confectionary creations for S/S 2019 offered us a bit of an escape from negative news, a growing division between people and an impending and intense political cycle.  But just because Jacobs’ larger-than-life ensembles were bright, well-crafted eye candy, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a serious stance embedded in the fluff. Models of all races graced the inclusive Jacobs’ runway, as did trans models, Finn Buchanan and Dara Allen.

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Trans Model Dara Allen Image: Vogue.com

An inspired story

Sometimes I play a little game with myself, just to keep things interesting. I do my best to study a collection, feel the feels and then give my best stab at the designer’s inspiration before reading a word of a review. Marc Jacobs sited a 1960s Barbara Streisand as inspiration for S/S 2019, but a more detailed story played out in my head. So whether my story has anything to do with Jacobs original inspiration or not, the fact that his collection inspired such a tale means it was a collection that sparked imagination—a “Marc” of an exquisite collection.

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Image: Vogue.com

The 60s reference was clear in hair and makeup, but the volume and silhouettes were a far cry from the mini dresses popularized in the 60s. I imagined vivid scenes from the 1967 cult classic Valley of the Dolls in which three girls found their way into showbiz, became famous and depended on “uppers,” sleeping pills, and diet pills (which they called “dolls”) to sustain a life in Hollywood.

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The top hats, the ruffled collars, the oversized bows and rosettes felt doll-like and the voluminous cloud confections felt like “doll”-induced hazes in which the models were floating down the runway. And then there’s the pastel heavy color palette…call me “on dolls,” but I couldn’t help draw a few parallels.

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Images: Vogue.com

Artistry fulfilling both fantasy and function

Yes, the Pierrot collars may have been over the top, but look underneath. Jackets with the kind of purpose and wearability any power player would be proud to don. Pleats and wide leg trousers gave new meaning to “power suit.”

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Image: Vogue.com

Take away some of the styling and take a look at the phenomenal cut of Jacobs’ garments. The drape on the jacket below alone…

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As Vogue’s Nicole Phelps claims, and this blogger seconds, Marc Jacobs “is New York’s keeper of the fashion flame.” Bravo. Again, bravo.

Your turn. Which S/S NYFW collections inspired you? And more importantly, why? Comment below!

Rare Kicks Auctioned to Kick Slave Labor in the Fashion Industry

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Pictured above: Kith X Nike LeBron James XV, Long Live the King Part II, 2018

This summer, the rarest, most coveted sneaker collaborations were on view on Park Avenue at the Tongue + Chic, Sneakers  X Artists exhibition. The exhibition ran for only about a month and a half, and we were lucky to make it in before the closing date of August 31. Sneakerheads came from near and far (and formed lines around the block) just to get a glimpse of famous collaborations between Nike, Converse, Puma, Reebok and various artists and influencers. Read More

Using Tech to Take Steps Toward a Smaller Fashion Footprint

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve had technology on the mind—and on the blog—for the last few weeks. Showcasing what’s possible in fashion with advancing technology is one thing, but using advanced technology for the betterment of people and our environment is what most scientists and designers have on their minds as they find newer and better ways of redesigning the old. Read More

Machine Made Masterpieces

A look by Machine Maven, Iris van Herpen Photo courtesy of

A look by Machine Maven, Iris van Herpen Photo courtesy of scostumista.com

What if you were told to “think outside of the fabric store and a dress form” when creating a garment?

And we’re not talking “you’ve got one hour in the grocery store and a budget of $25 to create a red carpet look” Project Runway challenge.

If a trip to the fabric store was not an option, where would your creative mind go? Read More

Is this a wrap on immigrant designers in America?

Diane von Fürstenberg, Immigrant from Belgium Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Diane von Fürstenberg, Immigrant from Belgium
Photo courtesy of Variety.com

Stop for a moment and imagine—what if the wrap dress didn’t exist?

You know the one.

The looks-good-on-every-body-shape, waist-slimming, made-in-every-color-and-pattern, made-popular-the-world-over-by-Diane von Fürstenberg wrap dress, also known as a staple in the vast majority of American women’s closets. The wrap dress has even earned it’s own Wikipedia page due to its longevity and popularity. Read More

Ball Culture: Inspiration from the LGBTQ Underground Scene

Pride month – there’s no more colorful month of the year. And what better opportunity to acknowledge a part of LGBTQ history that has influenced fashion, music, dance and culture for almost four decades?

Attention, legendary children!

We are about to give you the basics of ball culture.

Since the early 1920s (and possibly even earlier), LGBTQ people have been coming together, often in underground secret spaces, to celebrate the art of dressing a part, dance and creating a safe space for creative expression. In the 1980s, these gatherings, or balls, were where those often cast out from society (many black and Latino) could be whoever they wanted for a night.

And while many equate balls with drag shows, there is much more to ball culture than sequins and feathers. Runway competitions included categories like “Executive Realness” allowing LGBTQ people of color the opportunity to dress the part of a Wall Street executive—an option not available to minorities during the day. And for young LGBTQ kids kicked out of their homes, ball culture offered a family, shelter and safety.

Thanks to the summer’s breakout hit show Pose on FX, a new generation is getting schooled on what life was like for a segment of the LGBTQ community in the early 80s in NYC. Severe shoulder pads and all.

Pose is ground-breaking in that it stars/employs more transgender actors and extras than any other scripted show currently on the air, however, Pose is hardly the first show to document ball culture. In fact, any in-the-know designer should immediately move the documentary Paris is Burning to the top of their must watch Netflix list.

In addition to a primer on late 80s/early 90s fashion, Paris is Burning reveals the roots of voguing as a dance and art form, so named from the model poses seen on the actual pages of Vogue magazine. And as an emerging designer, the deeper your understanding of history, the bigger pool of inspiration you have to draw from for your future collections.

So sit back, children, and learn your ball culture. If you are a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race (anyone else #TeamAquaria this season?), Mama Ru’s catch phrases are about to make much more sense.

Houses and Families

At a ball, participants walked as houses. Houses were often named after fashion houses or beauty icons, for example, House of Saint Laurent. Each house has a mother who sets the tone/rules for the house and takes in new family members. Family members often adopt the last name of their house, not only showing their loyalty, but also creating a sense of belonging not provided by a biological family. And house mothers refer to their children as legendary.

Walking in a Category

Balls are made up of runway competitions and each competition fits into a theme or category. The emcee of the ball will call out, “Category is….” and all those who are participating will prepare to show off their best super model, evening wear, military, school girl, uptown/downtown, etc. garb.

Serving (Category) Realness

In order to win a runway competition, participants are judged on realness, or how likely they are to actually pass in real life as the individual they are representing on the runway. Serving Park Avenue realness means the participant could fit right in strolling down Park Avenue with the ladies who lunch.

Mopping

Because the ball participants of the 80s had very few resources, some mopped or stole the materials they needed to create their runway looks. We don’t advocate stealing at U of F, however, we know many designers are operating on a shoestring budget and therefore, studying ball culture can be pretty inspiring to see what those who had nothing can create on no budget at all.

Reading and Throwing Shade

To read another participant in ball culture is to ruthlessly insult another’s outfit, look, walk or presentation without breaking a sweat. Reading is in good fun, and thus, the phrase “the library is open,” often clears the floor for a good read. Throwing shade is a more subtle form of reading, saved for the most clever and witty of readers. The library doesn’t necessarily have to be open for shade to be thrown.

From Marc Jacobs to Alexander McQueen to Jeremy Scott to Vivienne Westwood to…the list goes on and on… designers have drawn inspiration from underground club scenes over the course of history. You can, too. Just make sure to learn your history before attempting to throw shade, darling.