Wearing the cost of inflation


Are Gen Z really conscious consumers?

I’m a Gen Z. Or a “Zillennial” if we really must do the label thing. In for a penny, right? Anyway, I’ve been noticing lately that many of my generation are buckling under the weight of being expected to shop ethically.

To me, it seems us Gen Zs are looked to first for all things social and environmental justice. In a way this makes sense, given our track record of social activism and how we’ve been branded (and branded ourselves) as a more “progressive” generation.

But the expectation that we therefore also shop as paragons of ethicality falls a little short when it crashes up against a different facet of the Gen Z brand: the cost-of-living crisis.

Of course we get that slow fashion is a better way of doing things. You’d have to be delusional not to.

Would we like to buy slow every time? Who wouldn’t.
Can we always afford to? Unfortunately not.


Research shows that young adults like me are the ones fuelling the growth of mainstream giants like Amazon, Shein, and other fast fashion companies whose ethical and sustainability credentials are questionable at best.

As our client Baptist World Aid’s 2023 Ethical Fashion Report highlights, most fashion brands are not doing enough to up their ethical standing. And the average Aussie on the other side buys 56 items of new clothing per year, while as a nation we send 227,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill.

Market research agency Mintel has reported that Gen Z buys more clothes than their older counterparts, with the average Zoomer owning hundreds of dollars worth of outfits they never wear. Can confirm.

Analysts say it’s a trend fuelled both by a social media culture that tells us we can never wear the same outfit twice, and an industry that’s made impulse buying and returning items far easier than is good for us.

It may also very well be because it seems cheaper in the moment to buy a low-quality item. We put a lot of pressure on younger Australians to be champions of green consumerism, but ignore the fact that they’re still green when it comes to navigating financial life.

What we’re seeing is that it’s becoming very difficult to buy “slow” – with its sky-high price tag – when things like rent and groceries are already eye-wateringly expensive.

They say “fashion shouldn’t cost the earth.” And while the mind naturally goes to fast fashion, it’s just as true for slow fashion. It’s time we empower Gen Z, who are often the ones living below the Aesop line, to follow their values – without having to forget their wallets.