Gen Z and the quest for fast fashion - an interview with Tommy Hilfiger

What makes NextGen tick, what do they look for in brands, and how has the (fr)agile reality defined these young consumers and the way they shop and interact with (fashion) brands? As part of our interview series for our frAGILE bookzine, we connected with Avery Baker, Chief Brand Officer at Tommy Hilfiger, to hear her take on how to deal with the increasing ‘I-want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it’ demand that defines this generation.


We had the pleasure to connect some years ago when we published How Cool Brands Stay Hot. Since then, a lot has changed: Millennials grew older and a new generation, Gen Z, is gaining in importance. Have you experienced a shift between these generations and marketing to them?

I think there still are a lot of similarities between the younger Millennials and Gen Z. Yet what we feel is becoming increasingly more important is authenticity. Their attitude towards, relationship to and outlook on brands and how they are being marketed to, has really changed because of technology and the transparency and immediacy that new digital developments have facilitated. Everything is immediate today; they are used to an incredible level of transparency, what they see of other people, of other brands, of other products, in other industries; the global borders have disappeared, in a sense. And this ability, where they instantly see what is going on and can even swipe it away within seconds, is changing their expectation levels across every aspect in life.

Tommy Hilfiger Runway Atmosphere of the TommyNow Drive Spring 2018 Runway Show

How does this affect the fashion industry?

I think what’s happening in their daily life is naturally influencing their expectations across every product category they might purchase. The typical time-to-market in fashion and retail, with the exception of the real true vertical players, the true fast fashion, is very long. The entire way of how we have done things in fashion, namely presenting the collections, the lead times for designing a collection, shooting a campaign, the entire supply chain, everything takes extremely long. Living in this world of instant gratification, Gen Z is not willing to wait six months for a shirt they saw on social media yesterday.

So, the fashion and retail industry is in the middle of a very disruptive time. This is why we launched this big initiative, Tommy Now, where we basically reinvented the classic approach to the runway and shifted that entire process to a consumer-driven ‘see-now-buy-now’ model. This we believe really reflects and will reflect what consumers will be looking for in the future. While completely shifting the model of how we do the runway, it’s really changing the industry. And it’s changing how consumers can engage with fashion brands.

What is the role of physical stores in this new reality, where consumers see a fashion item on social media and can immediately buy it within a few clicks?

We see that younger customers, in particular Gens Y and Z, love to shop in a store if it’s a real experience. These are becoming really important social moments, moments to connect with others; and it’s not a moment that is only about shopping, it’s about socializing, about , and having that real-world experience to complement the convenience and the immediacy of mobile or online purchasing. We think it’s going to be increasingly important, because today, experiences are the most valuable thing for these younger generations. And if shops, functioning as brand platforms, offer a unique experience that they want to talk about or share with their friends, it’s a really important component that has to work in tandem with everything else.

How do you create these experiences?

We recently did a few relaunches of some of our favorite pieces from the ‘90s, Tommy Jeans capital collection, and we opened pop-up shops with our main retail partners for the younger customers. And even though the products were also available online, theses launch events had an amazing turn-out since people really wanted to be there in person. It was kind of a special exclusive moment, something aspirational for them. There still exists that sense of exclusivity amidst the accessibility of everything online. There still is a kind of exclusivity counterbalance and that is important. Someone is for example one of the 200 people that are let in or can purchase a customized limited-edition sweatshirt that you can’t find online. So, we found that the combination of the two has been really effective; there is something about an actual physical event or a physical shop with exciting things happening that makes it real.

As a closing question, apart from creating an experience, what else is important when wanting to connect with these young consumers?

I think brands should really live up to their values and purpose. For us, for example, what that means is in addition to having a very useful spirit, we have a history of really pioneering as a company, if you look at the way the brand was founded and the way we positioned ourselves from day one with the ad in Times Square. That’s a key value, to keep pushing forward, to take risks, to keep pioneering, finding new ways to do things and rewriting the rule book. I believe that when brands are really able to do things, create experiences and moments that are true to their values and overall purpose, that this is truly meaningful to the young generation. Gen Z responds to something that feels honest. Brands should never pretend to be something they are not.

Want to know more about Gen Z? Discover what our Gen Z thought leadership and expertise can do for your brand.

Ready for the Zoomers - Gen Z report

Ready for the Zoomers?

Gen Z are the digitally native generation: social-media-literate, always-on and hyper-informed. With many Gen Zers coming of age during the pandemic, the past two years put a mark on their lives and outlook on the future. In this report, we shed a light on what makes Gen Z different from the generations before them and what they expect from brands.

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