The Gen Z paradox: eco-warriors but fast fashion addicted

They love Edikted, Cider, Verge Girl, or Adika. But they claim to be more than just careful and sensitive to all the green causes around them. They promote upcycling and secondhand, but the most significant purchases they make (and the budgets of certain brands are there to prove it) are typically fast fashion. A paradox to all intents and purposes, that of Generation Z consumers, the cause of which is very trivial (and has been the same for years): the price…


Do you know Edikted, Cider, Verge Girl, or Adika? If the answer is “No”, you are over 25. The equation is simple: they are the top four trendy fashion brands among US Generation Z consumers. But you may be familiar with Shein, the world’s most popular “only online” fashion brand. It’s Chinese and from around $6.2 billion in sales in 2020, it grew to $15.7 billion last year, with the US as its biggest market. To whom does it owe its success? Almost exclusively to Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012. They are said to be very attentive to sustainability and have contributed to the popularity of upcycling and the second-hand market. But when it comes down to it, they are fast fashion addicts. Paradox? Yes, but only up to a certain point: when the price factor comes into play.

The Gen Z paradox 

A generation that speaks one way and acts the other? The most credible explanation is that there are two opposite poles at work within it. Fast fashion addicts represent one, the other by eco-warriors. Establishing which profile a young person belongs to is enough to give him a simple test. I was hoping you could put them in front of a choice between a dress by I Saw It First, a British online fast fashion brand that costs less than 20 dollars, and a Reformation outfit, one of the few sustainable brands to be successful with a broad audience, with receipts worth around 250 dollars. Which will they buy?

Price controls  

This shows that, beyond all the theories, the price drives Gen Z purchases. A Reformation suit is an impressive investment for a 17-year-old. He’ll have to wait until he’s working and has a paycheck to afford it. Green ethics and morality, in essence, are challenged by a lack of money. “Every survey shows that Gen Z cares about the environment above any other cause,” MaryLeigh Bliss, Chief Content Officer at YPulse (a youth consumption analysis company), says in the South China Morning Post. “But equally, it has grown up in the shadow of one recession and is about to experience another: the price is everything to them. So they either buy fast fashion or second hand.”

What a surprise…

The fact that the price was everything for Generation Z is nothing new. Evidently, the pandemic has not changed this metric of thinking. In an INTA (International Trademark Association) survey dating back to mid-2019, the price was so important that 79% of respondents (18-23-year-olds with income were involved) admitted to buying at least one counterfeit product in 2018. “I think things will change and soon,” says luxury analyst Mario Ortelli. Maybe because the Alpha Generation is on its way? It will be, maybe… (

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