May 31, 2021
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Gen Z inspired by conscious consumption, sustainability and self-expression

May 31, 2021

A new report from Gen Z-focused marketplace app Depop and consultancy firm Bain & Company, highlights the values and perspectives behind Gen Z’s shopping behavior, revealing that members of this community are conscious consumers that are concerned about sustainability and eager to express their individuality.

Depop's interest in sustainability means that the secondhand fashion trend is particularly strong with the demographic - Photo: Depop

Based on a survey of more than 2,000 Depop buyers and sellers in the U.S., UK and Australia, the “Futureproof: How Gen Z’s empathy, awareness and fluidity are transforming business as usual” report shows that Gen-Z shoppers are concerned about brands’ sustainability credentials, in terms of both social and environmental issues.
70% of survey respondents said that they are influenced to make purchases or not by fashion companies’ stances on fair wages and safety, while 60% said the same for issues of diversity and inclusion, and another 60% mentioned brands’ efforts to reduce their environmental footprint.

50% of those surveyed said that they were influenced by a company’s participation in social activism, while 45% mentioned brands’ use of eco-friendly materials.
These concerns reflect Gen Z’s wider commitment to sustainability, as shown by the fact that 90% of surveyed Depop users have made changes in order to be more sustainable in their daily lives. These changes include recycling more, mentioned by 75% of survey respondents, reducing fashion consumption (70%), and repairing clothing (60%).
55% of respondents said that they have begun consuming environmentally friendly food, while 35% claimed to be minimizing their plastic use and 45% said that they now only buy secondhand clothing.
Indeed, although the popularity of secondhand clothing has been growing steadily across different age demographics in recent years, the trend is particularly strong among Gen-Z shoppers, largely due to the fact that it is seen as a more sustainable alternative.
According to Depop’s study, 75% of the platform’s Gen-Z users buy secondhand so as to reduce their consumption. Other top motivations cited for purchasing secondhand clothing included lower prices, cited by 65% of survey respondents, and the fact that shopping in this way can lead to finding one-of-a-kind items, mentioned by 55% of survey respondents.
This desire for unique pieces is no doubt related to the fact that individuality and self-expression are also key values for Gen Z. However, in line with the generation’s broader rejection of binary oppositions, this vision of individuality is based on a strong sense of community, which is, in turn, supported by the openness of digital media.
According to the report, members of Gen Z “tend to define and refine their individuality through conversations with others. Within this mindset, community does not quench but amplifies individual self-expression. In an open and secure digital landscape (which safeguards privacy), communities endow users with a sense of belonging through connection based on shared interests.”
In light of this focus on digital communities, it seems natural that 80% of those surveyed by Depop cited social media as a source of inspiration, while 60% mentioned friends. Both figures are significantly higher than those achieved by more traditional media, such as TV – cited as a source of inspiration by 30% of survey respondents, magazines (20%) and billboards and radio (less than 5%). Interestingly, Google search ads were only cited as a source of inspiration by 10% of Depop users, the same percentage as those who mentioned family.
In any case, Depop’s report suggests that brands looking to capitalize on Gen Z’s increased interest in secondhand fashion should reconsider how they approach the idea of newness, a change that can be achieved through a renewed focus on storytelling and community.
“The concept of fashion newness in the digital platform economy has begun to extend beyond product to include content and experience,” explains the report. “Fashion newness can be embedded in the storytelling surrounding the items. Fluid newness can mean the excitement of product discovery. For Gen Z, the emotions associated with newness can emerge through conversation and connection with peers.”
Founded in 2011, Depop is a community-driven digital fashion marketplace that currently boasts more than 21 million users.

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