Generation Z is perceived as having little disposable income and 72% of them shop with cost in mind, but they still know all the hype no matter the cost. A low-margin group in the capitalist market of high-end fashion, 50% of this consumer group is more susceptible to brands with social causes. Ironically, it seems as if Gen Z is dictating the luxury market through its vivacious digital behaviors and the most innovative style. When Gen Z is into something it can take off.
Brands have noticed the power they possess and are creating ways to stay engaged and accessible for that consumer group. The Millennial dollar doesn’t stretch too far either but between the two groups, you have the most populist spenders. Millennials have had the dollars but Generation Z still holds court for what is cool and what is hyped. Millennials and Gen Z are soon to make up 60% of the luxury market by 2026, spending about half a trillion dollars, according to a Highsnobiety study.
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been flooded with a lot of high-end fashion brand designs on their digital platform since its latest installment back in March, and people are buying into the feature. Animal Crossing is a game that allows you to cultivate an island through agriculture and simple survival tactics. Though customizable features allow for skin, hair, and gender adjustments, additionally you are capable of recreating high-end streetwear designs in the clothing options window.
Gamers and fashion enthusiasts alike have been using the games customization features to recreate the notable designs from top brands and designers. Animal Crossing allowed for the recreation of designs from brands like Marc Jacob, Kirin, Sandy Liang, and Valentino. These brands have been available in the game’s digital store.
The customization options available to users are what is keeping the engagement up for high-end fashion brands. Even with access to high-end fashion in a digital space, brands are hoping to translate that to real spending.
The game itself can be addictive with its task-based objectives. Dressing up your character in the latest designs created a new platform just for outfits. Enough styling to go around among the Aminal Crossing gamers, one user chose to document the digital street style with the Instagram account @animalcrossingfashionarchive which is operated by visual artist and fashion photographer Kara Chung.
Recently, the Swedish shopping app Klarna got in the game and took over in a virtual pop-up. This pop-up was in collaboration with popular DJ Micah “Noodle” Mahinay who selected 10 of her favorite streetwear pieces that were recreated by Chung’s @animalcrossingfashionarchive. A limited number of gamers were chosen to win the pieces for their Animal Crossing characters.
Tapping into a younger market has seemingly been a success for luxury fashion brands. Burberry who went head-first into digital marketing through social media topped the digital commerce list made up of 82 different brands for L2’s 2015 Fashion Digital report. In 2017, Louis Vuitton went on to hire of hype genius, Virgil Abloh and Dior hired Kim Jones both in 2018, both having recognizable streetwear aesthetics.
Brands realized how consumers are wired to tech and receptive to familiarity; this was noted by Highsnobiety’s Editorial Director, Jian DeLeon, in an interview with Glossy. DeLeon says, “What Gucci really does well is that it exists in this paradigm where fashion and luxury pieces can be consumed in the same way that memes are.”
Gucci ran a meme campaign including satire around watch gifting which was reported to not have been received well but was still enough to assist the brand’s market takeover. In March of 2017, the watch campaign put Gucci in collaboration with meme artists and Instagram meme accounts like @beigecardigan. With Alessandro Michelle at the helm, Gucci reached a 20 year high in first-quarter organic sales of $1.44 billion while decreasing the average age of the buyer by over a decade.
Besides the normal channels to make high-end fashion more accessible, brands have opted to engage Gen Z and Millennials through gaming. Collaboration efforts with gaming have created capsules like Gucci x Fnatic esports team collection, inviting the members to the February 2020 Milan Fashion Week show.
Now Animal Crossing is taking over the digital brick-and-mortar space assisting in the reach of luxury brands. Gen Z and Millennials are responding to the accessibility as they flock to still post their outfits of the day, even if it’s virtual. Adjusting your skin color and gender is cool, but dressing your character in an MCM hat and Maison Margiela sweater makes the game even better.
What is considerable hype may be changing and luxury brands are adapting and finding ways to engage and remain accessible to consumers. Hype can bring in the consumer and ultimately create a loyal customer. High-end fashion brands have to be risk-takers in everything from designs to marketing and even in who is hired to represent the brand and the culture.
Not to mention the COVID crisis has forced us to shelter in place as much as possible while sparking heavier talks around sustainability. And the Black Lives Matter movement has since demanded equity for the employment of Black people within the fashion industry amid some cultural misinterpretations and following the Death of George Floyd among others who were fatally shot by police.
This kind of engagement is the battle other brands have faced in translating luxury through digital mediums which have not been easy for some high-end fashion brands. If brands keep on attacking the digital realm, they may find just as much success as they can expect. If all goes to digital though, I might as well join the matrix and hope to stay on-trend.