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The “New Luxury” Sees Young Consumers Rewarding Brands That Stand for Something

It’s true: young consumers are judging the brands you wear. However, it is for reasons that are far less superficial than is historically the case in luxury fashion.

Highsnobiety’s first-ever white paper, “The New Luxury” reveals a new vanguard of consumers who are aligning luxury shopping with cause shopping.

Style, hype and the journey to acquire a luxury item—be it a designer back or Nike sneakers—influence millennial and Gen Z luxury consumers, but they’re also unwavering in the determination to put their money where their mouths are. That desire to shop “inspiring brands over aspirational products” is a bold step away from the traditional definition of luxury.

“The young luxury consumer is hungry for a deeper purpose in life over materialism,” Highsnobiety wrote. “With this comes a desire to establish deeper connections with the brands they patron.”

More than half of Highsnobiety readers aged 16-34 surveyed for the report said they have ditched a brand they believe supports causes or operates in a way that contradicts their own personal values.

Prada and Dolce & Gabbana can contest to that. In the past month, the two luxury houses faced widespread criticism for racially insensitive remarks and products. Both company issued apologies and in the case of Dolce & Gabbana, cancelled a runway event in China just as the country’s luxury sector booms, but it remains to be seen if consumers will respond with their purses (and how damaging that could be).

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Doing good business is also good for business, Highsnobiety pointed out.

Eighty-seven percent of the readers surveyed said they are willing to spend more on a brand that supports causes they believe in. And 65 percent said they have been influenced by their friends to buy brands that speak to their shared values.

The wide reaching ban of animal fur reflects those stats. Burberry, Coach, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Versace are among the luxury players that have recently nixed fur. “Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible,” Marco Gobbetti, CEO of Burberry, said in September.

Consumers responded to Nike’s multimedia “Just Do It” campaign with former NFL Colin Kaepernick campaign this fall with gusto. Despite Kaepernick being a decisive personality in sports, politics and pop culture, Nike, which ranked No. 3 on Highsnobiety’s list of “new luxury” brands, reportedly saw “record engagement” with consumers and double-digit revenue growth in Q1.

“We feel actually very good and very proud of the work that we’re doing with Just Do It, introducing Just Do It to the new generation of consumers on the 30th anniversary of the campaign,” Nike president and CEO Mark Parker said in September. “We know it’s resonated actually quite strongly with consumers.”

As elitism and a focus on monetary wealth wanes, Highsnobiety sees other factors like transparency and sustainability gaining value across young generations. That’s good news for luxury houses like LVMH and Kering, both of which have set their own targets for a more sustainable supply chain.

LVMH’s “Life 2020” roadmap is based on four pillars that involve the company’s activities and business sectors—products, supply chain, carbon dioxide and sites. For each pillar, LVMH has concrete objectives that will accelerate its brands’ sustainability efforts and promote a more eco-friendly supply chain.

Likewise, Kering’s 2025 strategy calls for products with reduced environmental impacts, a diverse and collaborative workplace and disruptive innovations.

Kering echoed young consumer’s values on its website by stating: “We see sustainability as a necessity, for sustainability and luxury are one and the same.”