Kate Spade New York is one brand chasing Gen Z fashion fans
Gen Z is making its maiden voyage into New York Fashion Week, bringing their passion for TikTok-inspired trends and a newly laid-back style. Her Campus Media is leading the charge, hosting GenZology, a Gen Z marketing summit, and Creators Loft, where young fashion adventurers can indulge in sponsor-supported experiences.
While the Big Apple’s main style event never entirely disappeared, the pandemic vaulted many of its events into digital mode. Insiders say this year’s version, kicking off this week, feels more like the good old days.
This is Her Campus Media’s first in-person tentpole experience since acquiring College Fashionista in 2019, says Windsor Western, one of Her Campus Media's co-founders; the company also owns Spoon University, which focuses on food.
She says that a survey of the College Fashionista crowd, a launch pad for aspiring fashion and beauty writers, editors, creators and influencers, revealed that their number one wish was a chance to drink in some of New York Fashion Week.
“The communities we’ve created help young women get their feet wet in the influencer industry, social media, marketing, PR and journalism – a pre-professional development program. And we help brands break through to this highly coveted demographic,” she tells Marketing Daily. “This demo is highly elusive and hard to get in front of.”
Brand sponsors include Kate Spade New York, which will help young creators-in-training swap out a handbag at a rental bar, TRESemmé, offering hair advice, and CeraVe, with skin consultations.
Western, who launched the company with two classmates out of Harvard dorm rooms 14 years ago, says the hybrid digital media and influencer marketing company focuses on women between 18 and 24.
In research leading up to the event, Western says key differences emerge between these students and the millennials who preceded them.
Some of them boil down to a different appetite for search and content.
Just over half – 51% – of Gen Z chooses TikTok over Google as their preferred search engine, for instance. They’re more apt to look to influencers to discover new products, at 71%, than they are to look for brands on social media, at 62%.
TikTok reigns supreme, with 62% saying it is the platform that most influence them, and three-quarters say they’ve purchased something they discovered there.
She was surprised by YouTube’s weakness. “Only 6% of our survey said their preferred video format was YouTube Shorts,” she says. “YouTube is a much more thoughtful, long-form edited format,” she said. “TikTok videos are more like tweets, with these super casual videos, and this group overwhelmingly prefers them. YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels and Snapchat Discover just can't hold a candle to TikTok.”
And while Instagram may not be named as a favorite, it is the most frequently used, with 95% of respondents saying they use it daily, up from 85% last year. About 80% say they check TikTok daily, compared to 65% in last year’s survey.
This group’s style differs not just from slightly older young adults but from what they chased last year. In 2022, they described their style with words like cottagecore, clean girl, Y2K and business casual. This year’s words include basic, simple and comfy.
“Last year, there was this evolution of the micro-trends, often following micro-influencers, whether they were wearing long flowy skirts or Y2K vintage,” she says. “TikTok helped everyone find these micro-communities. It wasn’t about what was cool. It was about what was unique in these special niches.”
This year’s aesthetic is much simpler. “I don't know if that's a reaction to economic insecurity or just exhaustion from trying so hard last year, but things are much more straightforward. We’re seeing plenty of white t-shirts and jeans.”
She thinks being back on campus full-time after pandemic interruptions is part of it. “They have to remember to go to class in-person. They don't have time to press pansies.”