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Top Brands Gen Y Trends: The end of conspicuous branding?

Millennials are increasingly less interested in logo-centric clothes and want unbranded goods more and more. This growing trend for unbranded goods fits, in turn, in another broader trend among Millennials; the increasing trend to create their own personal style. If you let me, me and the hip hop artist Macklemore – both Gen Yers in heart and mind, we will show you how these different future trends fit together in one broad story.

Own Personal Style

As I already mentioned, there is a decline in demand for clothing with big brand logos among Millennials.  The reason why is that it’s harder to be unique when hundreds of people wear the same logo-centric T-shirt. And Millennials increasingly want to be unique. Research by Ypulse has shown that for Millennials, and young Millennials in particular, expressing their individuality is really important. Another study by Ypulse showed that 55% of people between 13 and 34 years old say: ‘I don’t follow trends; I like to think I have my own personal style’. Or as Freya Bromley, a 17 year old MTV blogger, puts it: ‘After all, no one wants to hear the words: “Oh yeah, I have that top too”’.

When you look back in history, you’ll notice that people in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s all had the same style. Back then, dressing like everyone else was seen as a way to fit in. But because of globalization and digitalization, Millennials have grown up surrounded by differences. The result has been a change in mindset among Millennials; instead of fitting in, they want to stand out. Millennials want their fashion to express their own identity. Take a look at Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj for example. They are Millennials.

Own personal style

Unbranded Goods

They be like “Oh, that Gucci, that’s hella tight” I’m like “Yo, that’s 50 dollars for a T-shirt”…
…I call that getting tricked by a business
(Thrift Shop, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz)

Research by Viacom shows that 60% of Millennials worldwide feel personally influenced by the economic crisis. Because of this, Millennials not only want to create their own style, but they also want to save money while doing so. And as most A-branded clothes like Abercrombie & Fitch are expensive and not unique, Millennials increasingly buy B-branded clothes from stores like Wal-Mart, JCPenney and Target. Additionally, Millennials are progressively going to swapping parties and thrift shops to get clothes. Research by Ypulse shows that 36% of Millennials find thrift shopping cool and 56% of Millennials say that thrift shopping is a great way to find cheap and unique clothes.

Unbranded goods

This trend towards B-branded clothes might mean a decrease in conspicuous branding, but it does definitely not mean a decrease in conspicuous behavior among Millennials. What we’re seeing is that Millennials still want to see and be seen, but more and more with their personally created outfit and less and less with 50 dollar logo-centric Gucci T-shirts. Take a look at music festivals for example. Every year, a lot of Millennial girls show their own, personally assembled outfits at festivals around the world. Like you could already read in a previous blogpost, there are always 2 shows going on simultaneously at festivals: “the performers’ shows on stage and…the fashion show in the audience”.

Personalized Goods

And having the same shirt as six other people in this club is a hello don’t.
(Thrift Shop, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz)

Because Millennials want to create their own style, they increasingly want hyper-personalized goods from brands that match their personal style. The future challenge for retailers will therefore be to not only identify broad patterns of behavior, but individual patterns of behavior as well. Some retailers are already tapping into this challenge. For example, e-commerce giant eBay recently launched a shopping app, called eBay Exact, that lets users customize and 3D print items such as watches and iPhone cases. Not only eBay, but also luxury brand Burberry is tapping into this challenge. Burberry recently launched Burberry Smart Personalization, a service through which customers can add a personalized engraving to their clothing and afterwards watch a film showing their garment’s construction.

Nostalgic Admiration

I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible.
(Thrift Shop, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz)

In relation to the trend of creating their personal style, Millennials are progressively wearing vintage clothing and buying vintage goods. The result is that vintage fashion is one of the fastest growing categories in fashion. Gill Linton, founder of Byronesque (a website focused on vintage fashion), says that the reason why vintage is so popular among Millennials, is because it’s more unique and better made than most fashion today.

Nostalgic admiration

Another, less obvious, reason for this nostalgic admiration by Millennials might have something to do with stress. Research by the American Psychological Association has shown that Millennials are the most stressed demographic there is. Because of this, Millennials admire goods and brands that remind them of times they were younger and can offer them an escape from their daily stressful lives.


I could take some Prowings, make them cool, sell those. The sneaker heads would be like “Ah, he got the velcros”.
(Thrift Shop, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat Wanz)

A final trend that is part of Millennials creating their own personal style, is the trend to increasingly make and adapt clothing themselves. Research by Ypulse has shown that 22% of Millennials say they often modify, cut up or embellish their clothing.

There are multiple reasons why Millennials are increasingly making and adapting their own clothes. As Viacom’s worldwide study shows that 60% of Millennials personally feel influenced by the economic crisis and 71% of Millennials worry about money, one reason why the DIY trend is so popular among Millennials is simply because it saves them money. Another reason, proposed by Freya Bromley, our 17 year old MTV blogger, might have something to do with the decreasing demand for branded goods. She says that: ‘Sewing, knitting, cutting, tying and dying are all simple skills that can easily be employed  to keep up-to-date with ever changing fashions and free us from being chained to high street brands and styles’.


Hopefully, me and hip hop artist Macklemore succeeded in showing you how recent news articles about drops in sales are related to broad, future Millennial trends that will have an impact on clothing brands.

The success of clothing brands will thus increasingly be defined by how well they know and adapt to these new consumer trends. To do this, clothing brands need to ask themselves how much they already know about Millennials’ new trends. Or as Macklemore puts it: “What you knowin’ about wearin’ a fur fox skin?”

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5 Responses to “Gen Y Trends: The end of conspicuous branding?”

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