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‘Woke’ Fashion Trends & Gen Z

What does this next generation really think of fashion’s hottest topics?

Gen Z is often seen as an open-minded, more fluid generation, especially when it comes to sexuality, gender, and self-expression. They are in other words perceived as ‘woke’ – a word that evokes strong feelings in many people. But today, we’re not focusing on a word, we’re highlighting fashion, and what Gen Z actually thinks.

As most people know, this is a generation aware of social injustices that wants to be taken seriously. The majority will boycott a brand if it’s perceived as discriminatory, as Knit mentioned earlier when writing about inclusive beauty products. Knit also brought up that Gen Z wants authenticity and shared values with brands they give their money to. Indeed, there’s even a word for brands jumping on woke trends to make a profit without addressing underlying problematic structures in their own business: ‘woke-washing’. And no, we didn’t come up with the term. It already exists.

So, how does Gen Z really feel about fast fashion and gender-neutral clothing?

Gen Z and Fast Fashion

First of all, how do you define ‘fast fashion’? This buzzy term is making headlines worldwide, but most recently across Europe with new rules being proposed by the European Commission to ensure sure that imported clothing is more environmentally friendly. The term ‘fast fashion’ refers to fashion that is created, produced, and marketed to consumers quickly. This trendy clothing has new items appearing in stores continuously. There is always something new to buy –– FOMO anyone? And it’s cheap. This business model, and the problems it creates, are what a portion of Gen Z takes note of. That’s because fast fashion isn’t sustainable and is usually made with underpaid labor.
We found that 20% of Gen Z males and 23.4% of Gen Z females view fast fashion as either somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable. Notably, Millennials are much more likely to think of it favorably. In fact, they are less than half as likely to view fast fashion as something unfavorable.

Interestingly, the differences are biggest when comparing Gen Z females to Millennial females. Only 10.6% of Gen Z females see fast fashion as very favorable. The number almost doubles (19.6%) for Millennial females. So, the trend appears to be moving away from fast fashion for female zoomers. Male zoomers are in the middle and view fast fashion as very favorable at 15.6%.

But we don’t just have numbers. Here are Gen Z’s thoughts on fast fashion in their own words:

“It’s bad for the environment and bad for body image as well, but I understand for some people it’s the only thing they can really afford.”

“I think we can each do our best to minimize fast fashion. However, there are people that rely on it due to pricing and we can’t expect everyone to make the shift away.”

It goes in line with what we have reported before –– Gen Z doesn’t solely care about the environment, all kinds of inclusivity matter, which is why they understand the need of fast fashion for financial reasons.

Gen Z and Gender-Neutral Clothing

The meaning of gender in society is shifting, and Gen Z is at the forefront of that shift. In fact, 70% of Gen Z thinks that gender defines a person less than it did in the past. And the fashion industry is taking notice. There is a growing idea that fashion should be –– or at the very least, could be –– free from the binary construct of gender. Studies have found that 33% of Gen Z identifies as more than just heterosexual. So, how does that knowledge stack up with what we found when we spoke to our panel of Gen Z?

Females are generally more positive and less resistant to gender-neutral clothing. As much as 55.4% of female Gen Z see it as very favorable or somewhat favorable. And as little as 21.3% of them view it as very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable. For Gen Z males 44.5% have a positive response to gender-neutral clothes.

We also talked to Millennials. And male Millennials are the group most likely to view gender-neutral clothing as very unfavorable (13.8%). They are also the least likely to consider wearing gender-neutral clothes or clothes made for the opposite sex. It’s interesting in relation to Gen Z males where just 4.4% think gender-neutral clothing is very unfavorable. Times are definitely changing.

Male Gen z is indeed very open to wearing gender-neutral clothing (57.8%), even more so than Gen Z females (42.6%). However, that evens out when you consider that 42.6% of Gen Z females are open to wearing clothing made for the opposite sex. Only 15.6% of male Gen Z feel comfortable with doing that. The amount of Gen Z that would consider neither of those options is small for females (14.9%) and a little higher for males (26.7%).

Knit also found that Gen Z doesn’t view wearing gender-neutral clothing as necessarily adventurous. Indeed, of the big group we spoke with, 61.9% referred to themselves as only moderately adventurous in regards to fashion.

Gen Z females in their own words:

“I love the idea of gender neutral clothing. Clothing doesn’t belong to any specific gender.”

“I think most of what I wear could be classified as gender neutral.”

Gen Z males in their own words:

“Boys and girls should be able to rock each other’s clothes.”

“It’s great! So many clothes that are patterned for women I’d like to wear, but skirts make me dysphoric.”

The world of fashion can seem like a whirlwind, and so can the minds of Gen Z if you don’t have the right insight. But no worries, Knit has the insight for you, and it’s available with a simple click. If you want all the ins and knowledge of Gen Z and fashion trends, you can download the Gen Z vs Millennial Apparel & Fashion 2022 Report here. 

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