Millennials, who used to be hailed as tastemakers in the world of fashion, are finding themselves gradually edged out of the spotlight as Gen Z takes center stage. This shift in the dynamics of fashion marketing can be attributed to several factors that highlight Gen Z’s increasing influence in shaping industry trends and consumer preferences. First and foremost, Gen Z is characterized by their innate digital fluency and social media savviness. They have grown up in the age of Instagram and TikTok, platforms that thrive on visuals and instant gratification. This generation’s ability to create and consume content at lightning speed has allowed them to dictate fashion trends in real time, effectively sidelining millennials, who were the pioneers of the early social media era.
New York-based fashion writer, Cortne Bonilla’s style can be described as chic, and minimal, quite different from the colorful and often changing at lightning-speed styles of Gen Z. However, Bonilla, 30, thinks Gen Z and millennials are much more alike than we think. “We’re all wildly online now, whether younger or closer to 35, and social media’s presence has undoubtedly caused a shift in dressing similarly for all,” she tells ESSENCE.com.
She adds, “However, Gen Z tends to buy more into the ‘core-core’ aesthetics that are constantly shifting and seem to be more experimental, which we often are at that age.” Bonilla notes that she’s less interested in fleeting trends, instead, she focuses on buying pieces that are sentimental and will last her for the years ahead. “I am building a wardrobe of pieces that feel like me, truly, with a touch of trends that speak to me added in occasionally.”
Gen Z is the new generation with disposable income, $360 million to be exact per Forbes–and in an age where social media dictates everything they do down to what they wear it’s no wonder they’re buying more. “I have learned to enjoy trends from afar, but I’m constantly asking myself: does this fit into how I want to dress, portray myself and show up? If not, I skip it. ” Bonilla said.
Fashion influencer and content creator Pierrah Hilaire, 28, is known for highlighting Black brands and predicting trends on TikTok. Hilaire, who is based in Brooklyn sees the parallels of what millennials loved in the ’10s to what Gen Z is currently fixated on. These trends like prep school looks, Hilaire says, are back and both generations are into it. The contrast just lies in the age gap. Hilaire says millennials just dress it up a bit with dress shirts for going out, and the business casual club chic that was really popular in the late aughts.
She’s even seeing a resurgence in maximalist aesthetics specifically in the millennial fashion sphere. On this topic, she shares, “This idea of ‘the tumblr aesthetic’ has also resurfaced with the new wave of maximalist fashion girls. Back then, blogger girls like Tavi Gevison would mix patterns.” Pilaire goes on to add: “Now it’s leaned into a more maximalist street style [thing] with girls subverting feminine and masculine looks with oversized bottoms, jackets, and hats. The same styling rules apply just with a different silhouette.”
Ciara Chyanne, a 30-year-old millennial designer who has been creating clothing since she was 15, notices that she and others in her generation focus on what they love rather than what they like. She tells ESSENCE.com that Gen Z shops for the trends they like in contrast to millennials who are looking to invest in pieces that will last and surpass a trend cycle. “Millennials are always up to date with what’s hot and what’s not.”
In conversation with other designer friends, Chyanne says the topic is always about pulling inspiration from the past or future but overall, as a designer, she finds it most important for her brand to stay true to its DNA ahead of staying relevant. She also believes that personal style as a millennial should take little to no effort. “If you think about a Latto or Ice Spice they are heavily wearing super mini skirts, the low rise jeans and the whole wife beater tank, and Ed Hardy or Von Dutch.” Chyanne says she’s not into it because she’s already “lived those days already.”
In total, millennials are making trends but not following them, at least not wholeheartedly. We’re seeing resurgences such as soccer jerseys or low-rise pants come back but more importantly to this generation in particular is timelessness. Rather than chasing what’s next as often as Gen Z does, millennials are walking at their own pace with pieces like a chic all-black leather coat or even non-trendy basic jewelry that are meant to stay with them long enough to pass down.
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