By Sabine Kühnl & Maria Cristina Pavarini — November 09, 2016
It was the premiere for “Share & Shake”, a series of denim workshops, happening during Denim Première Vision in Paris and organized by the denim trade show together with SPORTSWEAR INTERNATIONAL. During four sessions experts from the denim industry talked to SI’s editor-in-chief Sabine Kühnl and senior editor Maria Cristina Pavarini about the future of the denim business and tackled various aspects-from product innovations up to consumer preferences in jeans. Read here a ‘best of quotes’ review of Session 2:
“Generation Y and Z”
Ikeme Eshemokhai, denim design director at Guess, and Travis Rice, fashion brander and almost graduated from AMFI, talked about the interests and tastes of Generation Y and Z for jeans.
Eshemokhai explained the tastes of Generation Y, or Millenials, born between the early ‘80s and beginning of 2000s, while Rice commented on Generation Z, including young people aged 20-21 down to the very young who are being born now.
What counts in jeans for new generations
For Travis Rice, the Gen.Z don’t care so much for product for the product’s sake, nor for brands. “They mostly care about a brand’s position, about the stance they take on cultural issues – nothing to do with the product,” he explains. “For them what counts more is what a brand does.” In fact Gen.Z are those who trust the least of any generation in politics, government and mass media, they rather buy on brands that shape culture as, for instance, tech brands, car brands, cosmetic brands, because they are the ones shaping culture. Even if in the past fashion – and especially denim used to shape culture as a form of counterculture, but now that is not happening any more. The young are waiting and buying mostly brands willing to shape culture.
For Eshemokhai, Millenials think that the brand is important but until a certain extent. For them it is about a combination of everything….“The trend, the look, the brand, the fabric and similar aspects are important for Millenials and my generation even if now it’s all about experiences,” she comments. “People in my age would rather spend more for going out to dine rather than for buying a pair of jeans. As brands tend now to make always different collaborations in different fields with record brands, cosmetics for Gen.Y it is all about the story a brand can tell.
The importance of details of denim – be them stretch fabrics, new fibers or sustainability
For Gen.Z brands should communicate more about the practical aspects of a product as these young are very pragmatic. If they cannot find what they want from the market they can start creating it themselves. For instance in the US there are special services available through boxes helping in learning crafts like knitting, sewing, crochet or how to fix your denim. “This generation loves this sort of little skills. They also like to learn all the inspiration that is behind each brand or product, for this they will buy a product if they will be told how that was born and created.”
For Millennials it is also important to learn what secrets are behind a product. As they don’t know much, for instance, about a denim how it is made and similar aspects it is important for them to know about what secrets are behind them.
In addition price-quality ratio is very important: “Everyone is trying to compete with fast fashion retailers…If you retail your jeans at 200USD they cannot look like a pair of jeans you get at Zara. You have to convey consumers information on how that fabric is made, about how to wash it and how much sustainable it is – as sustainability should not just be a trend.”
How designers and consumers can get connected
Gen.Z are the most proactive generation willing to be part of the creative and design project. Thanks to the web they can be easily involved in creative processes, according to Rice. “When you are designing your product it should reflect your target customer. Gen.Z are on the web and they can be found via twitter and tumbl’r. “Co-creation is one of their most important passions. Gen.Z have grown up in this shitty world and wanna change it. They are optimistic and willing to help. And if you are not involving them in the creative process they are gonna do it themselves.”
For Millennials most important to them is the ethic of the industry and human life instead of the environment. Lots of movements were born recently showing how the consumers are really involved and informed.
For both sustainability is not negotiable but it has to become the norm.
For Rice, Gen. Z is not looking for genderless clothes, but they rather want to look for a genderless self. “It is more about identity and if they wake up and feel like females they are gonna wear more feminine clothes, but if they wake up and feel more masculine, they are going to wear boyish clothes. If the industry will offer only unisex clothes they are going to lose that opportunity as consumers really want to showcase who they are and their identity, but don’t want to have a uniform society.”
For Eshemokhai also Millennials want to look unique. “I buy whatever: I buy children’s clothes, men’s clothes…Women often look for xxs of men’s clothes.”
She also thinks that it’s also related to a hype of the moment. “Lots of brands are trying to release unisex collections, but it’s more as part of a revival of ’90s streetwear with oversize pieces and streetwear looks, but it’s mostly affecting the women’s market.”
Addressing different consumer types is still a hard target for the industry. Addressing curvy women, aged people or from different races – be them refugees or with different color skin – is still controversial. For Eshemokhai the market needs to target its consumers more democratically: “It is a shame we are not addressing most different types of consumers properly…”
For Rice placing ads and posters saying “For curvy women!” is not fair. “Consumers are smart enough and assume an ad is showing curvy models. If you add a label you just might make them turn away…Don’t make a gimmick but just go very natural.”
Eshemokhai thinks premium denim is dead as consumers look for price-quality ratio and there is a kind of blur between high and low by mixing Chanel jackets and Zara jeans. Though at the same time also many designers have entered the jeans market taking a position previously occupied by premium jeans brands. Despite this many new brands are popping up right now as, for instance, Girlfriend from LA.
Gen Z are very pragmatic and want to spend money. “If quality is there they will buy expensive jeans as they can keep such pieces in their wardrobe for years,” Rice says.