Winning the title of “cool” from European Gen Zs isn’t easy. We checked out our brand tracker to find out the fashion brands they consider worthy of the accolade…
Like everything else in their lives, the pandemic has changed fashion for young consumers. While 2020 was rightfully deemed the year of the sweatpants, young Europeans are adapting to the new reality of life under COVID, and they’re ready to get dressed again—and do it loudly. Gen Z and Millennials have been bringing back Y2K-era fashion for a while now, but they’re also fueling a new fashion trend dubbed “dopamine dressing,” which sees fashion used as an antidote to more than a year of being stuck indoors. Capsule wardrobes and all-black apparel have ceded favor to experimentation, mixing-and-matching, vibrant clothing, and vintage wares. While comfort and loungewear are still top priorities among young Europeans, brightly colored clothes, fashionable going-out clothes, and DIY fashion are some of the top fashion trends they’re interested in right now. What’s more, data from our forthcoming WE The In-Between trend report (being posted soon) shows that 26% of 13-20-year-olds say they’ve changed their style during COVID, and 47% say they are committed to or going to try to dress more boldly / more experimentally this year.
With uniqueness, personal comfort, mold-breaking, and creativity hallmarks of Gen Z’s current definition of cool style today, what brands are capturing this ethos? YPulse’s brand data tracker, which is available to Pro subscribers, measures 13-39-year-olds’ affinity for over 800 brands in Western Europe (and 400 in North America) across 20 distinct youth-specific diagnostics, including which they think are cool. Today, we dug into the data to determine which fashion brands have the highest “cool” ratings among European Gen Z. Here are their top 15:
European Gen Z’s Favorite Fashion Brands
Among 13-20-year-olds in Western Europe
- Calvin Klein
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Urban Outfitters
- The North Face
- Christian Dior
- Polo Ralph Lauren
First, let’s start with a quick overview: for 13-20-year-olds in Western Europe, the coolest fashion brands are a mix of American and European brands, as well as fast and luxe, underscoring their somewhat divided shopping priorities. Fifty-two percent of Gen Z females say they’d rather buy a lot of less expensive, lower quality clothes than fewer more expensive, higher quality clothes, according to our WE Fashion Preferences and Style behavioral report. But at the same time, 62% of 13-20-year-olds agree with the statement, “Luxury items are back in style”—and nearly half have already purchased a luxury item, with clothing by far the top luxury product they report purchasing. This division could help explain their top “coolest” brand: Lacoste. The French label has been elevated to the status of iconic—most can identify it by the logo alone—and has been popular with young consumers for years, partially because it is considered a “bridge-to-luxury brand”—and accessibility is what many young consumers today want out of luxury. In fact, 67% of Gen Z say luxury brands should make some affordable items so more people could own them. Lacoste fits into this, with its shirts and watches, in particular, considered status symbol items with more affordable price tags—and therefore cool by Gen Z standards.
To provide this accessibility, at least through marketing if not price point, other luxury clothing brands are infiltrating the metaverse, with Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and more creating digital fits wearable by young consumers’ avatars in video games and other virtual spaces. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger—two of the brands on European Gen Z’s list of coolest fashion brands—have also hosted virtual events and livestreams to release new collections and provide interactive ways for young consumers to shop. Tommy Hilfiger also released a line with Zendaya while Christian Dior (also on their list of coolest fashion brands) recently teamed up with Travis Scott for its Spring/Summer 2022 collection, which features Pop Smoke t-shirts and various pieces “mixed with Cactus Jack motifs.”
Beyond luxury, though, European Gen Z’s list of coolest brands is full of some fast-fashion heavy hitters, including Spanish retailers Pull&Bear and Zara, British brands boo hoo and ASOS, and Chinese mega e-tailer, SHEIN, which exploded in popularity during the pandemic and is now ruling the fast fashion game. While the COVID-fueled digital shopping acceleration undoubtedly helped SHEIN rise to the top (not to mention $5 crop tops and $15 dresses), one of the main reasons they keep coming back to Shein is the online retailer’s (incredibly fast) ability to keep up with today’s trends. Now, Shein is one of young Europeans’ (and North Americans’) top three favorite places to buy clothing. Shein has also gamified its mobile shopping experience by incorporating in-app rewards that consumers can earn for frequently logging into the platform, writing reviews, and playing its in-app minigames. Last year, Shein also strengthened its commitment to young designers by launching a fashion design incubator program and hosting a Shein X 100K challenge where designers can participate in a Project Runway-like competition series. In other words, the brand hits on many Gen Z style, shopping, and media trends, earning a top place on their list of coolest fashion brands.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full Brand Data Dashboard, and diagnostics on over 800 brands in Western Europe here.
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