The four fashion personas of China’s Gen Z

Gen Z represents the future of luxury fashion and they’re already maturing fast in China. Here, we summarise key findings based on an exclusive survey of more than 8000 Chinese consumers by Vogue Business in China.

By guest authors from Vogue Business in China.

Captions courtesy by Vogue Business

Such is the size and potential spending power of China’s Gen Z that the way this generation shops for luxury fashion will set the pace for the global luxury sector for years to come.

As in the West, they are digital native beings who don’t waste much time on making distinctions between real and virtual life. They also have an extraordinary passion for novelty, individuality and authenticity.

Born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s, Gen Z accounts for 15 %  of China’s population, according to McKinsey. That’s more than 210 million people. They have grown up during an exceptional era of rapid social and economic development in China. Most recently, Chinese brands have benefited from the country’s growing sense of confidence – and Gen Z are perhaps the most confident of all the generations in China.

That confidence also translates into a more critical and opinionated attitude to overseas fashion brands. This generation could, therefore, have a profound impact on the fashion and luxury landscape in the Chinese market.

A new report, based on both quantitative and qualitative research, released by Vogue Business in China, surveyed over 8600 Chinese consumers of all ages, with average annual spending on fashion and luxury in excess of 44000 RMB (USD 6800) in 2020.

The report explores key consumption behaviours of Gen Z, identifying four fashion personas. Here we give you an exclusive look at the report’s takeaways.

Key findings

  • Despite the youthfulness of Gen Z consumers, their understanding of fashion and luxury culture is as mature as older generations.
  • Gen Z believes that to qualify as true luxury, a brand needs more than high price points, heritage and craftsmanship. It must also convey an elevated sense of aesthetics, with unique qualities and character.
  • Male Gen Z shoppers are outspending women by 20 %  on fashion and luxury goods.
  • Not every Gen Z consumer in China is obsessed with celebrities and influencers. Interestingly, many Gen Z are critical of them and the culture that surrounds them.
  • More sophisticated marketing campaigns may, therefore, work effectively with Gen Z shoppers. For example, they appreciate exhibitions that mix brand stories with art and culture. They also like brands with creative crossover collaborations. Finally, they appreciate word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and families.
  • Among those celebrities who do impress Gen Z, the key names include Yibo Wang, Mi Yang, Wen Liu and Yangqianxi Yi (also known as Jackson Yee). Key opinion leaders (KOLs) include Mia Kong and Fil Xiaobai.

Four personas

The Vogue Business in China report identifies four types of fashion persona among Gen Z in China.

1. The Understated Classicists

They strive for an understated, composed look, with a particular interest in functional wear as well as sophisticated Chinese style. While their understanding of fashion and luxury brands is relatively undeveloped, they will invest in fashion-forward clothes to stand out on certain occasions.

2. The Avant-Garde Showmasters

Their style decisions are carefully made, with a strong streak of playfulness. They build on their deep knowledge of brands and style to exploit the freedom to play with style choices. They often look to leading edgy brands and bold designs, and are ready to explore gender-less looks and retro vibes to make an impact.

3. The Fashion Experimenters

These Gen Z consumers are always trying out different brands and products as they work out how to define their personal style. They also respond to the fashion choices of their friends and develop discussion points for conversation from their style choices. They have a strong eye for the latest trends.

4.The Artistic Expressionists

They opt for lesser-known designers, often with a minimalist aesthetic, as part of their desire to be unique and different. They see style as a statement of artistic refinement, opting for their own take on low-key but super-sophisticated elegance.

Key Takeaways:

Gen Z in China do not blindly follow Western luxury brands. They expect brands to deliver both materialistic satisfaction and emotional inspiration.

Sharing: Compared with other generations, Gen Z is more eager to participate in, and influence, the development of brands, helping to nurture the brands they love.

Cultural confidence: A fashion brand that comes from abroad is no longer the first choice. Many Gen Z now consciously choose domestic brands and take note of Chinese designers.

Individual self-expression: Gen Z wants to be different, which makes them proactive in seeking out smaller brands. They’re also meticulous in their research about brands’ culture and heritage.