Europe’s fashion industry has long been synonymous with glitz and glam, but young Europeans’ top fashion priorities tell a different story…
It goes without saying that the fashion industry was turned upside down in 2020. With lockdowns forcing the majority of young consumers in Western Europe to stay inside for much of the year, Gen Z and Millennials’ fashion needs and wants shifted in ways we’re still seeing play out. Interest in at-home wear skyrocketed and 2020 was rightfully deemed the year of the sweatpants. Meanwhile, nearly half of young Europeans say COVID has changed the type of clothing they shop for, and the data backs that up: spending on loungewear skyrocketed in the U.K. by 146% year over year to £122 million last summer as lockdowns kept the country indoors. In response to the heightened demand—and lessening demand for regular street clothes— fashion brands across Europe pivoted to comfort. At the same time, brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to shut their doors and meet consumers online, making it even more important for brands to know young consumers’ fashion preferences—and how to reach them. Shopping on mobile has become the norm, and the majority of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they want to shop straight from their social feeds.With quarantine no longer a reality and young people increasingly getting out into the world again, 41% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they’re interested in buying more going-out clothes. But what are their fashion preferences now? Our recent fashion preferences and style behavioral report digs deeper into the types of clothing young consumers in Western Europe are currently buying, the fashion trends they are most interested in, and what that means for brands. Here are a few of their top fashion priorities (that might surprise you):
Fashion in Europe may have a reputation for being more glamorous than across the Atlantic, but the truth is, the rise of athleisure hasn’t left Western Europe untouched. Across gender and generation, young Europeans are first and foremost going for comfort: 80% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say this is their top fashion priority, and when we asked them to describe their style, “comfortable,” “basic,” and “casual” were their top three answers, highlighting Gen Z and Millennials’ preference for simplicity and ease when it comes to clothing—and debunking the myth that Europeans opt for heels over sneakers. Athleisure was big in Western Europe even before the pandemic, and this doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon: when asked the top fashion trend they’re interested in, loungewear takes the number one spot, and 44% are currently interested in purchasing comfortable lounging clothes. With so much focus on comfort, it’s imperative that fashion brands prioritize it, too—and those that already have are gaining young consumers’ attention. Popular
Danish cool-girl brand Ganni, for instance, debuted its first-ever loungewear line—titled Software—in October 2020, featuring classic silhouettes in neutral tones and sustainable fabrics. U.K. designer Alice Temperley, meanwhile, unveiled a collection of luxury silk kaftans and nightdresses in September 2020 for her label Temperley London, and cult German grocery store chain Aldi launched its first clothing line this year, opting for a line of on-trend hoodies, pajamas, underwear, and socks—all of which sold out instantly.
We’ve been tracking young consumers’ concerns about climate change for a while now and have found that, even during COVID, it has remained a top priority for them—and will continue to be one of their biggest concerns for a long time to come. In 2019, our surveys showed that for the first time both Gen Z and Millennials (in the U.S.) felt climate change was the biggest problem that their generations were facing, and research shows that Europeans take climate change even more seriously than Americans do. YPulse has found that 70% of 13-39-year-olds in the U.S have changed some element of their behavior or purchasing due to their concerns about it, though, and that young people have increasingly been going zero waste and finding ways to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. And one way they’re doing this is by prioritizing sustainable fashion lines. In our fashion preferences and style report, 64% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe agree with the statement, “I make an effort to buy clothing brands that are sustainable,” while more than one in 10 say they’re interested in buying clothing specifically made from recycled materials.
In an effort to appeal to this next generation of shoppers—and often in response to bad press around unsustainable practices—fashion brands have been getting increasingly serious about eco-initiatives. Irish fast-fashion retailer Primark (which for £1 in every £14 spent on clothing in the U.K.) recently promised to become more sustainable by 2027, vowing to make all of its clothes from recycled and sustainably sourced materials, as well as making all of its products more durable. Other major European fast-fashion retailers are also taking on the challenge, with Marks & Spencer, Gymshark, Boohoo, and ASOS recently signing on to a textile sustainability initiative. Luxury French fashion group LVMH, meanwhile, recently announced plans to build a research and development center to “develop sustainable luxury fashion solutions” for luxury labels such as Fendi and Marc Jacobs, as well as jewelry and beauty brands like Fenty. Sneaker brands are getting in on the action, too: Portuguese footwear brand WAYZ is making sneakers exclusively from local producers with eco-friendly materials at ethical factories; Italy’s Koio is aiming to be the “world’s first regenerative luxury footwear brand” by sourcing leather from regenerative farms, which slow—and even reverse—climate change; and the U.K.’s Clark’s has debuted vegan versions of its classic styles.
Interest in second-hand shopping has exploded among young consumers in recent years, in part due to their growing concerns around climate change, but also due to the rise of online marketplaces devoted to secondhand goods, including Depop, Thedup, Joom, Facebook Marketplace, and more. Now, 29% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they’re interested in buying either vintage or secondhand clothing, and 14% list secondhand clothing as the fashion trend they’re most interested in. Meanwhile, 27% say they’ve already bought from a secondhand clothing retailer—and 26% say they’ve sold an item on resale site. Gen Z and Millennials’ interest in secondhand clothing has even started to transform the luxury industry, and the secondhand market is estimated to be worth $21 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $39 billion by 2025, according to GlobalData’s 2021 Market Sizing and Growth Estimates for European Demand-Side Secondhand Market. Brands are starting to cash in on the boom, too. German fast-fashion retailer Zalando recently launched its pre-owned offerings, while popular U.K. supermarket chain Asda now sells second-hand clothes in 50 of its stores. Meanwhile, popular U.S. secondhand clothing marketplace ThredUP is making a big push into Europe, giving thrift-loving young Europeans even more options on the secondhand market.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the fashion preferences and style behavioral report and data here.
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