What will Gen Z want next? More than you can imagine seemed to be the consensus among a panel of creatives at Friday’s Fashion Culture Design event.

Hearst Digital’s senior vice president and editorial director Kate Lewis led the discussion with Staple Design’s creative director Jeff Staple, Man Repeller’s founder and author Leandra Medine, Tobe’s executive vice president Leslie Ghize and BPCM’s social media and digital project manager Maria Al-Sadek (who also has more than 360,000 Instagram followers.)

Lewis ran through a few facts — Gen Z-ers were born between 1995 and 2010 and the 61-million strong Gen Z has one million more people than Millennials. She also noted that Gen Z accounts for one-quarter of the population but by 2020 they will represent one-third. That’s important because they’ll really be driving culture. Ninety two percent of them go online daily.

“What are the other eight percent doing?” Medine asked.

More apt to rent than own, they agreed Gen Z will only further fuel the sharing economy, pointing to Spotify, Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Rent the Runway and other fashion rental options. As creative director of a creative consulting firm that also has its own e-commerce, Staple said the biggest difference between Gen Z and Millennials is they want full transparency. “Now with IG Live and Snapchat it’s much more about ‘I want you to see everything raw’…I think it kind of came from reality television. This made everyone a reality television star,” he said, agreeing with Lewis that Gen Z is a backlash to Millennials. “If you post a picture on Instagram that’s too nice, you get backlash for it. I took this great sunset, the perspective was perfect and people were like ‘Bor-ing.’”

Discussing the lineup culture, as in the lines Gen Zers are willing to wait in sometimes for days to buy limited-edition items, Staples said they would rather line up than do Amazon 1-Click or use eBay. “It’s now the community center to hang out in front of your favorite store for five days with your cohorts to talk.”

Medine noted that is an age-old concept, saying that the only reason women are obsessive about Hermès Birkin bags was because they had to put their names on a waiting list.

Disinterested in influencers, Gen Z “just moves through the day and the world as they do” and it is more about originality and uniqueness, Ghize said. Given that, marketing strategies rooted in making a finite amount of product have become so prevalent that “it’s almost corny,” Staple said.

He also talked about how “a kid can be a semi-expert about everything from A to Z. He can do it all. But I don’t think we’re developing a culture. Imagine growing up with all these interests — I want to be a chef, a stylist, a DJ, an entrepreneur. You can be 20 percent good at everything versus 100 percent good at one thing. Fast forward 50 years — what does that do when our whole society is built on non experts? That worries me a little.”

Much to his disbelief, Gen Z doesn’t idolize Ralph Lauren and Jay-Z, Staple said. They are more into Anti Social Social Club’s Neek Lurk, who “makes T-shirts on Photoshop, puts them on Instagram, does about $7 million to $8 million in sales and then he makes all the shirts, then he goes out and buys a McLaren. He’s like everyone’s hero. He doesn’t give an ‘eff’ about anything. That’s why he’s cool. He’s not trying,” Staple said.

Talking about how she is trying to simplify everything to try to work smarter, not harder, Medine said, “No one would have thought of that — make the money first and then produce.” She later questioned whether one-hit wonder brands run the risk of burnout. Staple said the one-hit wonder phenomenon comes down to “too much content going into the same funnel,” noting Nike tries to release 100 shoes a year and musical artists are going in the other direction: “I made a ringtone — I’m rich.”

Speakers agreed that postgenderism, like technology and diversity, is a nonissue for Gen Z. Al-Sadek said, “The newer generations are becoming so much more diverse that it’s harder to put them all into one group.”
Ghize added, “The better thing to do is to understand them.”

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