Back to top

This week, team YouthBeat presented at the MAGIC conference in Las Vegas. While fashion hasn’t always been our bag, so to speak, we have been engaged in some enlightening conversations with teens and tweens over the past few months regarding their closets, their clothes and the way that both of these reflect their emerging character. Our YouthBeat subscribers will see our qualitative panelists speak about fashion for themselves in an upcoming episode of “Time Capsule TV.” For our blog readers, we thought we’d share some of the emerging ideas related to today’s youth and fashion…

  1. Today’s teens are more cost-conscious than ever…And they reward retailers and brands who understand this. While getting the right style still matters more than getting something on sale, tweens and teens are savvier shoppers than we might think…In our recent round of qualitative, we heard about clothing swaps (friends exchanging the digs they’re too bored to don with each other), raiding mom’s closet, and comparing prices online before heading to the store. We also heard accolades for Target for bringing exclusive and elusive designers down to their level. And we’ve heard more and more about Marshall’s as a place to find magazine looks at practical prices.
  2. Online has become a more important tool than ever for clothes shopping. But, for most tweens and teens, browsing happens more than buying. Teen girls buy clothes online more than any other category of goods, but only 21% of them have bought clothing online in the past month. They’re still more likely to shop offline than online. But websites play an important role, as many browse for their look online before they ever get a ride to the mall. And sites that let them share potential purchases with friends, so they can crowd-source a point of view before putting something in their closet, might motivate them to visit that site’s brick and mortar locale over another.
  3. When it comes to style, play matters – almost as much as pretty. Kid-collectibles like Silly Bandz have actually sustained their appeal with the teen set, who might be craving a little levity in their look these days. Today’s fashionistas want fashion to be fun, and look for accessories to help them (inexpensively) customize their looks and make a statement all their own. And the message they send can include a little bit of humor as this generation takes fashion and themselves slightly less seriously than previous generations.   
  4. But speaking of pretty…Today’s tweens and teens might be aspiring to a little romance and even some control in their fashion. It’s not news that the cultural climate influences fashion choices, and at a time when so many tweens and teens feel immersed in chaos, structured looks and fitting fashions might be just the antidote. Think Lea Michele’s Golden Globes cotton candy pink number, or the tailored look of Taylor Swift.
  5. Finally, when it comes to marketing your clothing brand, social matters – but maybe not in the way you think. As our experience at this conference confirms, there is hardly a dearth of technologies and consultants looking to help retailers convert online hits to purchases. But if you’re thinking social and fashion, think back to basics. Word of mouth influences teens’ choices of clothing more than any other source, but don’t assume that having a presence on Facebook means you’ve got it covered. Not all social network strategies are created equal, so make sure your presence is more authentic than intrusive, and more subtle then sell-y.

We think these lessons extend beyond the fashion category to many other youth categories…In short, don’t take price for granted, understand that online presence doesn’t always translate into online purchases (and that’s okay!), prioritize play in your brand’s product and image, don’t assume all teens want looks and styles that live on the edge, and finally, pay attention to social networks, but don’t forget that they’re not all online.