Target gets creative help from Gen Z in new apparel line

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Photo: Target
Jan 19, 2017
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Daphne Howland

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Dive, an e-newsletter and website providing a 60-second bird’s eye view of the latest retail news and trends.

With the help of 10 talented members of “Generation Z” — including bloggers, app developers, musicians, authors, surfers, athletes and artists aged 10 to 14 — Target has designed an apparel and accessories collection aimed at that demographic.

The overall collection, dubbed “Art Class,” will feature 100 or so clothing items and accessories. The Gen-Z “trendsetters” were brought to Target’s Minneapolis headquarters to provide feedback on some early Art Class looks and designed two of the collection’s final pieces in a limited edition set the retailer is calling “Class of 2017.”

The effort follows a new gender-neutral Pillowfort line of home decor goods for kids and its new Cat & Jack apparel line for younger kids and babies. Those lines were also developed with input from children (and their parents).

“Gen Z” includes kids born between 1995 and 2010 and their numbers are larger than the already massive Millennial generation. They’re seen as the first truly digitally native group and viewed as creative, eco- and fashion-conscious yet pragmatic types who view the world as always interconnected.

Gen Z-ers influence some $600 billion of household spending and they’ll account for some 40 percent of consumers by 2020, Farla Efros, president of retail strategy firm HRC Retail Advisory, told USA Today.

It’s no surprise that such an effort is coming from Target — the retailer innovated the mass-market designer collaboration in the Eighties, after realizing it wasn’t about to win a price war with Walmart. After straying from that model, the product differentiation that comes with such collaborations is back under CEO Brian Cornell, including a venture with modernist lifestyle company Dwell.

“Art Class provides kids, and their parents, another great reason to choose Target,” Michelle Wlazlo, Target senior vice president of apparel and accessories, said in a statement. “The line gives kids the ability to have fun with their fashion — creating looks that are truly their own and truly original — all while offering moms and dads with the value and convenience their busy lives demand.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are collaborative efforts and related feedback more important in designing products for Gen Z? Are such collaborations more beneficial to PR or social media efforts than in product development?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Generation Z is accustomed to being heard."
"This is a very smart move by Target — gaining direct input into the design and creating great PR at the same time. "
"The days of designers dictating what people/women/kids will wear are long behind us. There are no arbiters of taste anymore."

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14 Comments on "Target gets creative help from Gen Z in new apparel line"


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Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust
Jasmine Glasheen
Writer, influencer and content marketer
2 years 5 months ago

Generation Z is accustomed to being heard. The younger generation grew up with technology and is accustomed to having access to brands and celebrities right at their fingertips. As a result, Generation Z identifies with accessible, relatable product spearheads. Hiring “cool” Gen Z-ers to collaborate on accessories and apparel is a great (if not novel) way to appeal to the next generation. If Target wanted to take its collaborative efforts a step further, they could poll their young customers to crowdsource affordable designs.

Target excels at finding new ways to access younger demographics: Millennials are pumped for the in-store farms and Target’s already working for Generation Z loyalty. Target is doing what it takes to stick around by listening, renovating and staying on the pulse of the developing industry.

Anne Howe
BrainTrust

This is Target at its best, being right on point with the shopper base and the products. It was easier to do without the crowd-sourcing years ago, but today’s culture shift screams for inclusion and involvement, experience and stories. Target is delivering on those things again.

When I go, I’m intrigued enough to spend extra time exploring apparel. This time around I buy more in the 3T/4T sizes for Miss M (granddaughter) versus the former teen that is now her mother!

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
2 years 5 months ago

It may be a fine product line, but I get really tired of the gimmick of “collaborative design.” And Target is quite late jumping on the bandwagon so I doubt it will have much impact for them.

I suppose I’m old school. Individual insight and creative vision is what makes great product lines. Giving away the responsibility for creativity doesn’t achieve that greatness — sometimes these efforts seem to me a classic bureaucratic evasion of responsibility. (“It’s what the customer designed — wasn’t us!”)

Max Goldberg
Guest

Collaborative efforts and related feedback are important to designing products for any generation. The question is, can retailers turn that information into products quickly enough before the panelists either change their minds or move on to the next bright, shiny object?

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I think it’s always important to get input from the actual generation you are designing for. The days of designers dictating what people/women/kids will wear are long behind us. There are no arbiters of taste anymore.

Interestingly, we found in a soon-to-be-published survey that retailers don’t even have the right talent in place to merchandise to Millennials. Their merchandising organizations are run by Generation X and, apparently, they mostly expect that their end-consumer (not necessarily buyer) is also Generation X.

The net is retailers have a two-generation leap to make. That’s why fast fashion is doing so well with Millennials — those chains actually design for them. For everyone else, it’s time to change.

Scott Norris
Guest

As a Gen Xer in Minneapolis who finds himself shopping at T-1 several times per week, yes I do pay attention to and am inclined to buy what my 10-year old daughter is interested in, but *I’m* the one holding the REDCard for the next 5-8 years, and I’m the one keeping tabs of what YouTube videos she’s watching and other entertainment she’s consuming — and guiding her to quality entertainment, fashion, and design, so that she’ll make intelligent and tasteful and responsible choices when she does purchase with her own money.

Target does a solid job of helping me make sure she’s not walking out the door in clothing I don’t find acceptable, and I’m excited to see these new designs roll out. This Gen X is indeed an arbiter for one Gen Z!

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Younger customers value authenticity and this approach is a perfect way to appeal to them. If the approach is successful, younger customers across the country will weigh in as well.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

It is consumer engagement in retail … bring it on! Generation Z will be a tough demographic to capture as they move forward to a lifetime of being consumers, so I like he fact that a retailer is testing a new approach to being of value. Build-a -Bear and even quick-serve restaurants have moved forward with product customization, and perhaps we’ll see more traditional consumer services such as retail and insurance move in this direction of consumer design.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Generation Z is expecting a more deeply engaging and, yes, entertaining shopping experience than mom and dad. Collaboration, in the right context and dosage, is a value-adding process. Cruising the mall or Internet for cheaper “stuff” is hardly engaging. And “cheaper” in and of itself is not a reason to get in the car and head for the mall. I see collaboration as a 2 + 2 = 5 process. Target has been sometimes wildly successful with some of their collaborative initiatives. When a retailer offers a pleasant surprise, an unexpected offering that delights, it can only enhance how a customer FEELS about that retailer.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
The simple answer to both questions may be yes. The full answer is a bit more complicated. Generation Z’s motivations and behaviors are being interpreted by Millennials (for whom they are a direct rival for marketers’ affections) Generation Xers and even a stray Boomer or two. Except for the very oldest members, Generation Z hasn’t had a chance to speak for itself — unfiltered. So yes, it does seem they are more collaborative and clearly they are deeply involved in social networking. And no, they don’t seem as hung up on the notion of ownership as preceding generations so “product” will likely take on new meanings as they come of age and to market. And that may be my largest caveat here. A consumer cohort who views utility as a higher value than ownership is likely to be more concerned with how things work rather than how they look. After all, things like cars, etc. aren’t likely to be purchased, just rentals, so who cares? Also, early indications are that this will be a generation… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Collaboration to create proprietary fashionable products has been at the core of Target’s image. Collaborating with trendsetters in Generation Z is very smart. This group is significantly different so it needs to be understood. They are a large group so their voices will be heard. It will be interesting to see the collection and monitor its success.

Lesley Everett
Guest

This is a very smart move by Target — gaining direct input into the design and creating great PR at the same time. Feeling involved and heard as a generation will serve to engage this market in the way that matters to them, and the PR will of course be seen and experienced by them via digital marketing channels, driving more loyalty and desire.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

I have a Gen-Z daughter. She is 14. I spend a lot of time with Gen-Z. They think and see the world differently. Subtle, nuanced differences we older folks may not notice or understand how to interpret into apparel and other aesthetic products. So yes, I think it is a great idea for both the product and PR/social media efforts.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust
Mohamed Amer
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
2 years 5 months ago
A few years ago I had a heated conversation with a colleague about “customer engagement.” My argument was that the internet and social media were making it possible for anyone to speak their mind, to have a voice and that was going to change how retailers create and market products — creating the need for genuine engagement. The counter argument was that all customers care about is getting the best price discount — price embodies the full value equation. Collaboration in business is not a hokey, but a viable business concept. In consumer-facing industries, it’s even more important given customer expectations of super-personalization and co-creation. Customers — regardless of age cohort — don’t want a retailer to do things to them, but to do things with them. The more you can involve (engage) your core customer in design to how they experience the product, the more you’re able to give them an ownership stake in your brand’s future. This is a smart move by Target and captures the imagination of a very important generation by… Read more »
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Braintrust
"Generation Z is accustomed to being heard."
"This is a very smart move by Target — gaining direct input into the design and creating great PR at the same time. "
"The days of designers dictating what people/women/kids will wear are long behind us. There are no arbiters of taste anymore."

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