TGL trends: Why you need to know about Gen Z and sustainable fashion

Damian Clarke

Rothy's shoes
Rothy’s shoes

The recent Gen Z Report produced by Afterpay in partnership with The Future Laboratory shows that the environment and sustainability are an important part of Gen Z purchasing decisions. Gen Z wants retailers to think and act like circular economy brands, and brands that promote civic and social values and play their part in combatting waste pollution have a competitive edge.

Gen Z shops for substance alongside style

Gen Z is the cohort of young people who watched their parents go through the 2008 global financial crisis and are now eschewing flamboyant consumption in favour of boutique, direct to consumer brands focused on quality and, at the same time, delivering on a purpose.

It’s not that Gen Z doesn’t spend, it’s just that it includes the externalities of the purchase as part of its value for money assessment.

Why is this important to the built environment? Because Gen Z is now renting property and saving to buy.

Gen Z’s sustainable focus is impacting fashion…

This Gen Z focus on sustainability and purpose is reflected in numbers from the sustainable fashion directory Good On You – imagine The Green List for clothing.

Good On You, established in 2015, reports an increase of 30 per cent in people searching and browsing for sustainable fashion choices from April to June this year. Good On You lists and ranks the sustainability of around 100 fashion brands and retailers each week against their impact on the planet, people and animals.

It also includes useful guides to materials such as eucalyptus fabric, leather and citrus fabric and synthetic spider silk alongside more standard fashion content such as 13 ways to wear linen or Our top 15 favourite sustainable wallets and purses, and is a good litmus test for Gen Z spending.

…and new car design

The impact of sustainable fashion is already being made in the fast-moving but long lead-time world of automotive interior design.

In October we reported on First Base’s one-off Toyota Yaris interior. But mainstream manufacturer Polestar – already ahead of the game with electric vehicles – has created WeaveTech, a 100 per cent vegan interior material for its Polestar 2, expected here in 2021.

WeaveTech is a deliberate effort to differentiate Polestar as the sustainable option against its stablemates, Volvo and Geely, so we can expect to see it in Polestar’s more affordable vehicles as they become available.

Property will be next

All this is not to say that interior design doesn’t have its fair share of sustainable options.

Interface’s carbon-neutral floor coverings are well regarded in the industry, Zenith Interior’s Edo range of furniture uses sustainable timber, GECA certified foams and low VOC fabrics, and Winya is focused on creating employment opportunities and recycling old furniture into its new products.

This sustainable approach to buildings and their interiors will be increasingly important as Millennials and Gen Z assert their buying power on the property market. Although both groups desire home ownership, they are realistic about renting for an extended period of time and are open to alternative methods of home ownership.

These factors – particularly renting – create a highly mobile property market. In short, young renters today will move to a more sustainable property if their current one’s sustainable credentials don’t measure-up.

And, Millennials and Gen Z will factor sustainability – including sustainable interiors – into their purchasing and pricing decisions when they finally buy a property.

For investors, developers, architects and interior designers, these attitudes among the cohort of new buyers make sustainability a key ingredient for future success in the property market.