Gen Zers are emerging from lockdown as bosses and business owners are determined to maintain their core values of community, authenticity, and sustainability while building their brands.
In a bind at home and deprived of work amid the epidemic Gen Zs have planted the seeds of a brand new fashion system. Their fundamental values? Collaboration, sustainability, and individuality.
Take the London-based creator Olivia Blakeman, who started creating jewelry from broken necklaces and antique charms in 2020. She was in an unfulfilling job market and wanted to make donations to Black Lives Matter. She has continued to give 10% of her earnings to charities. However, she has now turned her passion into a business, Planet B, by cooperating with other Gen Zs. Her long-term aim is to create a market for ethical and sustainable products produced by a collective of independent creatives.
The majority of Gen Z entrepreneurs started small on Depop, Instagram, and TikTok and shared with millions of users their product offerings and their changing fortunes as small-business owners. As the planet begins to emerge from the restrictions and lockdowns, some have managed to transform their side hustles into full-time businesses that have implications for the larger fashion world. It’s a massive business. According to the company, on Depop alone, the seller community raked in more than $650 million from original and secondhand products in 2020.
Many have started businesses to fill in the gaps they consider to be consumer-driven and help people similar to them. Their strategies raise all kinds of issues, not to mention whether the current fashion industry isn’t doing enough to keep up with the needs of the future generation.
Mira Al-Momani, who handles the social media and content creation for the jewelry and lifestyle company Anissa Kermiche, has revealed that her Instagram and TikTok followings have grown exponentially since her style videos showcase independent designers gained traction. She is now planning to launch a multi-brand online store, Nima Store, selling exclusive items created in collaboration with new brands. Instead of dropping shipping and imposing commissions, Al-Momani intends to purchase the inventory in bulk, allowing designers to enjoy the benefits immediately. “The most crucial thing to Generation Z is thoughtfulness,” she says about this business plan.
Shopping at Gen Z-owned brands for Al-Momani was typically an entry point into the broader sustainable fashion market. In the group of Depop users, 90 percent have implemented changes to become greener in their everyday lives, like fixing their clothing (60 percent) or reducing their fashion consumption (70 percent) as well as recycling their waste more (75 percent) According to a Bain & Company report on Gen Z Depop users by the company’s partner Federica Levato. Her interest was aroused when she purchased a custom corset made from deadstock from a fellow Gen Z seller at the time of lockdown. She also posted about the collaboration on Instagram.
Commerce first, community second.
Social media is a crucial component of Gen Z businesses, but business owners aren’t always using it to increase sales. A small percentage of them opt for paid advertising, and instead, they build an authentic and relatable social media profile that later forms the basis of a brand’s image. This can help build trust and loyalty from customers as per Isabella Vrana, a Depop top seller with three full-time workers and an office situated in East London, and says the company’s profits have increased by more than a third every year. On Instagram, she mixes branding imagery and vintage previews of drops personal photos and behid-the-scenes business content. “People like it when they aren’t always being sold something,” she says.
Sorcha Mondon, who launched her jewelry business that was secondhand called The Phat Cherub during the time between her masters and undergraduate degrees, manages her business exclusively on Instagram. Every week, she goes to Instagram Stories to host a QVC-style show, dubbed Sorcha’s Sunday Service, and is joined by the help of one of her customers (they’re called “Cherubini’s”). “It started in lockdown when I think people were craving structure and connection,” she says. “My sales on those days are significantly better than standard photo uploads, and it’s allowed me to build great relationships with my customers,” Mondon states that the business has been profitable since the start and can cover the London rent.
Some are not as comfortable with the founder-centric model expected of them. Keziah Acquaye has changed her business’s brand name to Kez Made It to KMI Studios to ease some stress. Asal Tehrani, whose label Susamusa is worn by models Bella Hadid and social media celebrity Addison Rae, says her photographs are more prevalent when she’s in them. However, she does not take criticisms as personal when she chooses models to serve as the face of Susamusa.
Digital discovery paired with IRL experiences.
With the end of lockdowns, pop-ups have emerged as a staple for fashion’s Gen Z fashion scene. The adaptable retailer Sook Spaces hosts Gen Zs throughout the UK from London through Manchester and Edinburgh. They can schedule pop-ups on a timer with its modular and customizable stores. Many have had an instant and significant impact and have brought to standstill areas of the most popular shopping destinations like Oxford Street in London. Oxford Street, with long lines and the need for police surveillance. “The big brands we work with plan months ahead, but Gen Zs work on a super-fast turnaround, then move on,” says the founder John Hoyle. “Where older clients might struggle with the technology, Gen Zs grasp it straight away.”
Musician Mya Nicole is the owner of 2o2st, the bimonthly pop-up located in London’s Soho offering Gen Z entrepreneurs — such as Planet B and Senja by Maddie — low-cost slots in a space her family owned for more than 70 years. Certain brands choose to have one-off pop-ups. Suki Gems offered tooth gemming stations, while Octavia Banks hosts marbling workshops that transform customers’ creations into her distinctive printed tops. Pop-ups are promoted entirely via the social media pages of the vendors, and the footfall is typically 350-500 per pop-up. Depop also holds pop-ups for certain sellers, such as one at Selfridges in 2019.
Artists and Fleas — an online marketplace chain been operating across the US since 2003 extended its offer in April 2021 to feature a specific Gen Z version known as Regeneration. For a weekly, rolling fee of $280, vendors can rent a booth in Brooklyn and be equipped with all the equipment they require to market their upcycled and vintage wares on weekends. An Instagram-based entrepreneur Emma Rogue is a Regeneration graduate and has since launched an ongoing New York store for her brand, Rogue. Macey Hall, the creative producer of Instagram’s @shop account, thinks that Rogue is an excellent illustration of how Gen Z entrepreneurs evolve their offerings beyond social media and employ IRL pop-ups to build sales and community in conjunction with Instagram’s Shop features.
In New York, Funny Pretty Nice founder Natalia Spotts secured a cheap storefront amid the epidemic that now sells her retro 1990s and 2000s collection and hosts regular sales for closets of influencers every weekend. Spotts states that her company made $1.2 million of sales in just ten months. “People want to try on vintage because the sizing is different, and Gen Z value experience,” she says. Spotts states that the biggest issue is finding vintage promptly enough to provide the customers with high-churn and personalized service.
Bowery Showroom founder Matthew Choon has adopted a flexible approach to business that embodies many of the characteristics characteristic of Gen Z entrepreneurship. Since its opening in April in his New York concept store, it has integrated wholesale and consignment with its merchandise, an in-house content studio, influencer marketing agency, and an incubator for talent. The store can also be rented as a pop-up shop.
Choon. Choon anticipates an e-commerce service to contribute 25% of the revenue. “The model is all over, but it works,” Choon explains. Instead of shopping and browsing, customers can also appear in podcasts and videos with the creative team of the store, who often work on their ideas simultaneously. “It’s owned, operated, and run by Gen Z, for Gen Z,” Choon says. “People can smell something that isn’t authentic.”