Gen Z shop­pers want cheap and cute

Orlando Sentinel - - EXTRA FASHION & SHOPPING - By El­iz­a­beth Pa­ton and Taylor Lorenz

For ev­ery Greta Thun­berg and school-skip­ping cli­mate change pro­tester, there is an­other mem­ber of Gen­er­a­tion Z buy­ing in­ex­pen­sive clothes on a smart­phone.

Their pur­chas­ing choices — fu­eled by in­flu­encer cul­ture and catered to by a new wave of ul­tra­fast-fash­ion re­tail­ers such as Fash­ion Nova, Pret­tyLit­tleThing and Miss­guided — are as much about how an out­fit will look on so­cial me­dia as in the real world.

Two Gen Z shop­pers, one in Amer­ica and one in Bri­tain, in­vited us into their homes to talk about what they buy, and why. All of them work af­ter school or save money to pay for their own pur­chases.

Mia Gran­tham is a 16year-old Bri­tish high school stu­dent. She lives with her fa­ther and her younger sis­ter in Wilm­slow, Eng­land. Her be­d­room is small but im­mac­u­lately kept, with a pil­low shaped like a speech bub­ble read­ing “You’ve Got This” on her bed.

Mia’s in­ter­est in clothes ramped up about 18 months ago, when she started get­ting an al­lowance and at­tract­ing fol­low­ers on her so­cial me­dia ac­counts. She has more than 1,500 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, gets around 500 views per story on Snapchat and spends three hours per day on her iPhone XR (about five hours on week­ends).

Her fa­vorite go­ing-out look is a red dress. She owns 14 of them.

Q: How of­ten do you shop?

A: I browse ev­ery sin­gle day — at least once — on the Pret­tyLit­tleThing phone app. It’s my fa­vorite, and I don’t look any­where else, ex­cept if I see some­thing on an In­sta­gram in­flu­encer I like. Nor­mally I look at shop­ping apps at the end of the day be­fore bed for about 10 to 15 min­utes. But if there is an event com­ing up that I want a new out­fit for, then I could browse for more than an hour. I don’t re­ally go to bricks-and­mor­tar stores.

Q: Why is Pret­tyLit­tleThing your fa­vorite fash­ion brand?

A: I pay 8.99 pounds as part of a yearly sub­scrip­tion, which gives me un­lim­ited next-day de­liv­ery on any­thing I buy. I know all the de­liv­ery peo­ple re­ally well now — they al­ways know when I have plans on a Fri­day or Satur­day night. I buy some­thing at least once a week. Seventy per­cent of the time I send some or­dered items back.

Q: How many pieces of cloth­ing do you think you’ve bought in 2019?

A: Eighty? One hun­dred? Those are pieces I’ve kept.

Q: What is your fa­vorite piece that you’ve bought?

A: The ones I prob­a­bly wear the most are gray leg­gings that cost 2.50 pounds. For go­ing out, I bought a silky red dress with a cutout for a house party. I’ve worn it out three times, which is a lot for me.

Q: What else do you look for?

A: So­cial me­dia is a big con­sid­er­a­tion. I’m on Snapchat and In­sta­gram, and oc­ca­sion­ally Face­book. I take self­ies for so­cial me­dia ev­ery sin­gle time I go out. I’m on Snapchat the most be­cause of its mes­sen­ger func­tion, then In­sta­gram, where I have both a pub­lic and a pri­vate ac­count and spend an hour per day.

Q: What do you think of sus­tain­able fash­ion?

A: I am hear­ing more and more about it be­cause a lot of brands are now bring­ing out sus­tain­able fash­ion cap­sule col­lec­tions, where clothes are made out of re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als, for ex­am­ple. A lot look the same as the nor­mal col­lec­tion but cost a few pounds more. But if I’m hon­est, I do think: Why would I pay more, when I can get the same for less?

An­drea Vargas, an 18year-old fresh­man at Hofstra Uni­ver­sity, loves hunt­ing for sales. She looks for them on web­sites such as Pret­tyLit­tleThings and Boohoo, as well as phys­i­cal stores like H&M.

“I go shop­ping when the sea­son sales are on,” she said one Satur­day night at her fam­ily’s home in Farm­ing­dale, New York. She com­mutes to school and spends most week­end nights out with friends. Her plan for this par­tic­u­lar evening was to go to P.F. Chang’s with three girl­friends.

Her ab­so­lute fa­vorite piece of cloth­ing is a red plush jacket. “It’s just so cute,” Vargas said. “I feel like it dresses up an out­fit.”

Vargas pays for her clothes her­self, us­ing money she earns by work­ing at Tar­get. The red jacket cost her around $40, and she said it was worth ev­ery penny.

But, she said, “I feel like there’s no point in spend­ing $40 on a T-shirt. Es­pe­cially since I’m in col­lege, I need to buy all these books.”

Vargas guessed she had pur­chased be­tween 100 and 200 items this year, in­clud­ing shoes and jew­elry, and that her wardrobe com­prises 500 or 600 to­tal pieces.

She doesn’t gen­er­ally check where her cloth­ing is made, and she doesn’t feel guilty about how much of it she has. Af­ter she’s done wear­ing some­thing, it can have a sec­ond life.

“My mom is from El Sal­vador and my dad is from Nicaragua,” she said. “They’re not wealthy coun­tries, so I like to give back to peo­ple who don’t have a lot.”

She es­ti­mates she wears each piece 15 times be­fore ul­ti­mately do­nat­ing it or sell­ing it on De­pop — but she also doesn’t want to be seen wear­ing the same thing ev­ery day on In­sta­gram.

“If I have a shirt in one of my pre­vi­ous pic­tures, I try not to take a pic­ture again in it,” she said. “I don’t like to re­peat.”

ROSIE MATHE­SON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Mia Gran­tham’s in­ter­est in clothes sky­rock­eted about 18 months ago, when she started get­ting an al­lowance.

KRISTA SCHLUETER/THE NEW YORK TIMES

“If I have a shirt in one of my pre­vi­ous pic­tures, I try not to take a pic­ture again in it,” An­drea Vargas says.

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