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When it Comes to Fashion, Young People Value Freedom

Polimoda surveyed 300 Gen-Z and Millennial students from 54 countries on what they care about when it comes to brands.
Polimoda and Fashionista

In the current moment, it's becoming increasingly clear that what worked for fashion brands a decade ago — from the exclusivity of luxury companies to the unethical practices of fast-fashion ones — isn't working anymore. 

So this past spring, Polimoda — one of the world's top fashion schools — tasked a group of Fashion Marketing Management and Business of Fashion students with a research project to determine what values students consider to be the most relevant to the future of fashion. They went on to survey over 300 of their fellow students — about a 50/50 split between Gen-Z and millennials from 54 countries — because who better to ask than the people on whom the future of fashion depends?

"The research is qualitative," said Danilo Venturi, Director of Polimoda, in a statement. "What I mean by that is we asked students to establish the parameters and values of the research itself. We didn’t just ask them questions or we would have already known the answers. If you want to do something for young people, you have to let them do it." 

Read on for the most interesting takeaways from The Truth About Fashion.


Authenticity, inclusivity and sustainability are top of mind.

In addition to freedom, authenticity was deemed the most relevant value among the young cohort. They don't trust the media — including social media — due to a perceived lack thereof. And authenticity seems to be the lens through which young people judge brands' approach to other important values like inclusivity and sustainability.

"They are looking for concrete changes and actions: the elimination of wasteful production practices, a true reorganization of production methods and most of all, brands that focus on meaningful and durable products with environment-friendly practices," reads the report. 

They are also looking for an authentic approach to the inclusivity brands preach.

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"Young people would like to eliminate discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, race and religion. Some brands must do the work within their companies on the inside and start practicing what they preach on the outside."

Marketing is too aggressive and anxiety-driven.

Respondents seem to not like being marketed to, largely condemning "push-to-purchase" strategies that are designed to trigger anxiety in consumers. "Young generations are starting to notice this trend and believe communication that creates anxiety must be eliminated and brands — including their ambassadors — must start educating themselves and acting responsibly with their storytelling."

Gucci is doing just about everything right.

When asked to select brands that embody their most important values, Gucci received the most votes in just about every category: It's seen as authentic and inclusive, and makes people feel a sense of belonging. Jacquemus, whose French founder is himself a millennial, also received significant praise as representing freedom and authenticity.

Luxury as we know it is over.

Of all the values millennials and Gen Z hold dear, "luxury" is clearly not one of them. Respondents didn't seem to segregate brands into traditional levels or categories. "Brands, just like media, have become a fluid category and — while the magazine covers have become works of art — young people are looking at pixelated images on peer-to-peer platforms and content shared by their friends." 

A brand should feel like a community.

Respondents said a "sense of belonging" is one of their most important values, and that translates into searching for a sense of community in fashion brands. "Young people want brands to focus on what we all have in common instead of our differences."

See the full Truth About Fashion 2020 report here.