The Keep on Return case and an inner conflict to be resolved

Thirty percent of the purchases of Gen Z, the largest generation of consumers ever to enter the market (so they say…), are driven by price. The Keep on Return case on TikTok proves this, along with the speculative game they have been playing: that of being privately resellers. How, then, can they be as green as they claim?


Keep or Return is a viral hashtag on TikTok: it has recorded over 140 million views. Here, fashion bloggers order mountains of clothes to try on, and invite followers to decide which items deserve a place in the wardrobe and which do not. And, thanks to free returns, they send back most (if not all) of their purchases. Warning: the vast majority of Keep or Return followers belong to Gen Z.

This is the richest purchasing demographic that has ever entered the market and is the first fully digital native. But it sees things very differently from its predecessors. It is sensitive to sustainability and is driving changes in that direction. But then, as we have also written here, she has to come to terms with her buying habits, fuelled by a compulsive desire for novelty. So it bounces between fast fashion and second-hand, proving not at all sustainable.

From Keep on Return to a legitimate question

With these assumptions, the legitimate question Vogue Business asks is: can Gen Z ever be sustainable? “Although many young people are aware of the overproduction of fashion and its impact on the planet, they have an inner conflict to resolve between how they say they want to consume and their actual behaviour,” says Julia Peterson, of the US youth culture agency Archrival. ‘Despite their desire to shop responsibly,’ she continues, ‘I believe there is also another part of them that craves style, products that make them feel good and are affordable.

Being sustainable costs

Thomas Robertson, director of Baker Retailing Center in Wharton, tells Forbes that Gen Z may be armed with a desire for sustainability, but they are also very price-conscious. In fact, he says, ‘our data indicates that 30 percent of their purchases are price-driven’. But there’s more. To hedge against inflation, young people use the resale market to cash in. In other words: they buy luxury goods exclusively to resell them at a higher price. It is difficult, under these conditions, to resolve that inner conflict mentioned in the previous lines. Although Holly Harrison (head of the luxury, fashion, and retail brand partnerships at TikTok), referring to Gen Z, notes that ‘their purchases are now more thoughtful, more reflective‘. A long journey always begins with the first metre.