Fashion brands vying for the attention of millennials and Gen Z may need to lighten up.
The appeal of elitist fashion brands and their moody advertising campaigns is waning as younger generations favor uplifting messages of friendship, love and happiness, according to Pascal Montfort, founder of Paris-based REC Trends Marketing, who spoke at Denim Première Vision in Paris Wednesday.
“Happiness and optimism reign in the world today. We believe that future changes are taking the right direction,” Montfort said. “There are so many examples that are showing us that we are improving in many ways and the future is going to be good.”
Even France, where Montfort said surliness has been widely accepted as national trait, is seeing a spike in optimism. The country’s young generations are buoyed by becoming the recipients of forward-thinking projects like École 42, a free teacher-less coding school in Paris. And creative sectors like France’s fashion industry are finally being recognized by politicians as a key driving force in the economy, boosting recent graduates’ morale about their careers. “Young people are key in this change. There’s a big wave of energy,” he said.
Technological advances are going in the right direction and will continue to make life better, Monfort added. Case in point, Levi’s digitization of its finishing process will speed up manufacturing and reduce waste. Likewise, some laser finishing technology firms believes they’re on the path to make denim 100 percent water free by 2025.
The optimistic feeling is reflected in the popular fashion and brands’ messaging geared toward young consumers. As a category intrinsically linked to youth culture, Montfort said denim brands should get on board. Fast fashion brand Monki has set the standard with its messages that preach happiness, acceptance and hedonism, he added. The brand’s “We Are Denim” campaign this spring depicts young people of all races, sizes and beauty enjoying themselves.
Similarly, director Larry Clark created a promotional video for JW Anderson’s collaboration with Converse, which shows Parisian teens simply hanging out. The music-less clip relies solely on the teens’ laughter and uplifting banter to grab the viewer’s attention.
“Hedonism is a big value. Enjoying life and being entertained is better than complaining,” Montfort explained. Fashion with positive messages are among the bestsellers of youth-centric brands this season. A T-shirt that reads, “It’s all good” is a bestseller for River Island. Weekday’s jacket with “Serenity” on the back is a popular pick item, too.
Messages of love and acceptance, like Farfetch’s recent denim editorial featuring models donning Dolce & Gabbana jeans with heart-shaped pockets, play a central role in fashion. “The young generation loves to love and they love to express that,” Montfort said.
Along with hearts, smiley faces add an instant zest of joy. The universal symbol of happiness is back in collections as small elements, like embroidery on a sweater and graphics tees. Bright colors also used to deliver an element of cheerfulness, especially in denim. Montfort pointed out that Gap and Levi’s are playing with pastels this spring, while Weekday is proposing yellow.
Even some of the most serious brands are embracing this child-like approach to design. Dior Homme Denim featured a male model carrying a boutique of balloons in its Spring/Summer ’18 campaign. Meanwhile, Opening Ceremony turned Disneyland’s Main Street into a catwalk to present its Disney collaboration for adults earlier this year.
That’s not to say that younger generations have their heads in the clouds. For every negative headline, Montfort said there are stories of young people, like Emma Gonzalez, the U.S. high school student advocating for gun control, who are speaking out and enforcing change.
Fashion, take note.
“These kids know how to use the new media and transform their personal vision into a global message,” Montfort said. “When they are concerned about something, they make sure their voice can be heard. They are fearless.”