Thrifting is a popular way to get affordable designer items. Picture: Instagram
Thrifting is a popular way to get affordable designer items. Picture: Instagram

How Gen Z is redefining luxury

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Oct 2, 2021

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Luxury is no longer about the price – it’s about the value it brings to your life. From gourmet food experiences to travel itineraries devoid of tourist traps, when it comes to luxury, Gen Zers view things quite differently from the generations before them.

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z is the post-millennial generation. The oldest in this group are just about graduating from college and are already joining the workforce.

Although they are young, they are a massively diverse generation and a rapidly expanding group of employees, consumers, and voters set to spread their influence in all sectors ranging from film and television to fashion, politics and everything in between.

Gen Z is steadily moving into a position of having significant buying power, making brands and businesses very willing to hear them out and cater for their every need and demand.

The powerful generation is gradually redefining luxury and, as a result, what luxury businesses and brands need to do to appeal to them.

Technology and gadgets

Gen Zers are known for occasionally splurging on technology that enhances how much fun they have, for example, VR headsets. Picture: Instagram

Having grown up with the internet, laptops, mobile phones and the seemingly innate ability to type faster with two thumbs on a touch screen than 10 fingers on keyboard, Generation Z is often appropriately referred to as “Digital Natives” or the “iGeneration”.

Naturally, technology is one of their greatest splurges. According to FOW Media, “A good percentage of Gen Z is replacing traditional toys with tech gadgets.” Whether it’s an iPad, tablet, gaming console, or smart home device, when it comes to streamlining their lives with gadgets and tech, Gen Z is always on board.

Aside from technological essentials, Gen Z is also prone to occasionally splurging on technological experiences that enhance how much fun they have, such as video games, augmented reality and fancy accessories for their smartphones. So whether it’s playing games at a LAN, filming a TikTok with professional lighting and mics or simply spending extra for exclusive features on an app, this age group puts extra emphasis on having the best tech has to offer.

Second-hand designer items

Thrifting is a popular way to get affordable designer items. Picture: Instagram

Gen Z is an Earth-loving group aware that the future of our planet is in their hands. As they begin moving into a position of having greater buying power, businesses are starting to realise the pull they have when it comes to deciding what is trendy.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, fast fashion produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year and is also responsible for polluting landfills. As a result, thrifting, antiquing and online marketplaces have become goldmines for this group to explore, discover vintage brands, new styles and aesthetics from previous decades and, most importantly, bring an end to fast fashion.

As the younger generation continues to support slow fashion by buying pre-loved designer items, the reputation second-hand luxury fashion once held of being “cheap” and undesirable is being replaced by one that is far more elegant. Thrifting has entered the online realm in a big way with more and more businesses expanding on the business model.

The RealReal, ThreadUp, Rebag and Vestiaire Collective are just a few examples of some of the leading online brands whose websites boast the likes of pre-loved Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace and more. A second reason why this industry has become so popular within this age group is social media.

Influencers like popular YouTuber Emma Chamberlain (10.2 million subscribers) and Claudia Sulewski (2 million subscribers) have done brand deals with many of these sites by posting videos of themselves thrifting throughout Los Angeles, as well as filming their hauls and flaunting their finds from these websites, always making sure to offer their loyal followers discount codes to use.

Additionally, celebrities including Lena Dunham and the Jenner sisters, Kendall and Kylie, are major supporters of these companies, teaming up with them to fluff up their own closets or trim them down. Kendall and her sisters, Khloe and Kylie, once teamed up with The Real Real to sell more than 200 items from their own wardrobes.

Travel

Having grown up in a world where technological innovations defied distance, allowing people to traverse land and sea from behind a screen, Gen Z, more than any previous generation, have an unrivalled sense of global awareness and a strong will to travel.

While Covid-19 has caused many would-be jet-setters to postpone their travel plans, the industry’s return is eagerly awaited. After the easing of travel restrictions, this group of youngsters will play a vital part in reviving the tourism and hospitality industries.

A poll by Contiki, a tour company that caters exclusively to 18- to 35-year-olds, supports this fact, revealing that 63% of Gen Zers and millennials hoped to have major travel plans in 2021, while 58% said they were willing to take on the implications of travel now even if it meant paying for quarantine upon their return.

Their yearning for foreign lands is undeniable, but it may not be in the same lavish manner we’re used to seeing on the Instagram pages of influencers and celebrities. Instead, Gen Z wants to experience the world as authentically as possible.

From the infamous Instagram swing in Bali to Times Square in New York City, these popular sites are considered tourists traps – ones they may like to breeze through, but that definitely will not be the main reasons for their travels.

Their aim is to live as the locals do as far as possible. Visiting places of worship, museums, quaint restaurants, missioning on foot, by bicycle or public transport and opting for gritty home rentals over hotels is all part of creating authenticity while abroad.

Dining experiences

Hot pasta tossed in a cheese wheel. Picture: Instagram.

What generation has $29 billion (R436bn) to $143bn worth of buying power and accounts for a quarter of all diners? Of course, it would be Gen Z.

Diners in this group have never been to a restaurant without a phone in hand, so if the food is worthy of being photographed, put on Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram Stories, it is definitely worth Gen Z’s time. According to Barkley US, “Experiences are important to this generation, which might be why they spend more money on dining experiences than any other category, including clothing, concerts and electronics.”

While these dining experiences may not be extravagant in the same manner as fine dining is, there’s most certainly a wow factor involved. As Barkley Us put it, “This generation enjoys experimenting with creative food fusions, flavours and health options.

Additionally, many Gen Zers enjoy experimenting with new styles of diets. They test out different fads, such as gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo or dairy-free. The food exploration that Gen Z seeks provides experiential currency and there are few things Gen Z values more than shareable experiences.”

These young people want to be trendsetters among their peers, and a distinctive environment or food that makes eating an experience can help them achieve that goal. Gen Z doesn’t mind splurging on immersive dining experiences that allow them to interact with food in new and exciting ways.

A prime example of this is a dalla forma preparation, in which piping-hot pasta is dumped into a hollowed-out wheel of cheese and tossed until every strand is coated in cheesy goodness. Videos of restaurants serving guests in this manner have been popular online, garnering the attention of Gen Zers eager to experience food in a new and exciting way.

However, above all Generation Z, much like millennials, are enticed by restaurants that use farm-fresh, locally sourced, sustainable, and organic produce. To them, being able to support local and eat clean is a form of luxury that surpasses the convenience of fast food.

Self-care

With the pandemic raging on, cleanliness and hygiene have been pushed to the forefront, causing Gen Z buying habits and objectives to be centred around living a healthy lifestyle.

During the pandemic, Gen-Z was particularly overwhelmed with emotions. A survey conducted by The American Psychological Association revealed that mental health is very important to Gen Zers who are significantly more likely (27%) than other generations, including millennials, to report their mental health as fair or poor with money and work stress being major contributing factors. Thus, the rise of the self-care movement has boomed across industries.

Data from the Klarna app, which allows people to shop at any online store, reflects this. “Consumers have been spending on wellness across three top categories: personal care, athleisure, and sleep.

“The top wish-listed items in the personal care category included facial masks, primers and concealer, the top item in athleisure was sneakers (where the category saw a 105% spike in April), and in the sleep category, Gen Z increased their spending by 68% compared to pre-Covid times, with the top wish-listed item being luxury pyjamas,” the website says.

This article was first published in Saturday Insider, Oct 2, 2021

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