How the lingerie sector must evolve for Gen Z

category - fashion
category - generation z
sector - youth
type - opinion
Once considered aspirational, sculpted bodies clad in skimpy lingerie no longer cut it for Generation Z. How can brands shift the narrative and win their spending?

Polished aesthetics have dominated the lingerie market in previous decades, in some ways defining what it meant to be sexually desirable. For a long time, women felt compelled to please others, particularly heteronormative men. But while the world is progressing beyond such binaries, the underwear sector is still largely playing catch-up.

Such unrealistic beauty standards were captured in lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret’s infamous The Perfect Body campaign in 2014, which led to a backlash from the general public. While Victoria’s Secret has changed its strategy since then, recent research reveals that the brand has experienced a decline in net sales of 4.5% year on year versus 2021 (source: Forbes).

This figure may explain the brand’s motives for its Love Cloud Collection, which focuses on greater inclusivity through diverse models and comfortable underwear. But without making wider changes, the brand risks being considered as performative. Victoria’s Secret’s glossy aesthetic may have once provided an escape from reality, but Generation Z are at the forefront of the industry’s journey away from tiny thongs towards inclusivity. Now, a new generation of brands are working to implement change to help customers feel more confident in their own skin, regardless of race, body size or shape.

Published by:

26 July 2022

Author: Toyosi Badejo-Okusanya

Image: New:Cotton by Parade, US


The Love Cloud Collection by Victoria’s Secret, US

Savage x Fenty by Rihanna, for example, is catering for broad consumer groups with its diverse size ranges, lingerie styles and models. According to Forbes, the brand was worth £224m ($270m, €264m) as of March 2022, with a possible IPO valued at a £2.5bn ($3bn, 2.9bn)This additional growth, combined with plans to open physical stores in the US, could soon propel it to the top of the global lingerie market. While brands such as Victoria’s Secret have promoted perfect models and strict diet eating, Savage x Fenty has taken the opposite approach – as demonstrated in its playful, powerful yet relatable Amazon Prime show.

Others are forging the future of lingerie as community-focused brands that value purpose and authenticity. Beyond marketing campaigns, the most successful brands in this space are also investing heavily in their internal culture. Lingerie brand The Underargument is one example, with its anti-casting concept that focuses on raw, human storytelling over tokenistic campaigns. ‘You are more than a body, and your story is valuable,’ states Maïna Cissé, founder of The Underargument.

Elsewhere, Parade, a socially responsible and sustainable underwear brand, is responding to Gen Z’s desire to reframe and subvert outdated societal tropes – as well as promote sustainable behaviours. Parade has established the Parade Friends network that champions self-expression and sustainability in the underwear sector. Having launched in 2019, the brand already boasts a value of £116m ($140m, €137m).

With youth-led lingerie brands setting a high standard for the sector, traditional players must invest in their internal culture – and develop their hiring and marketing – to attract new audiences and rebuild loyalties. As a group that largely defines itself by values, Gen Z is shifting the dial on inclusivity and placing pressure on brands to expose their inner workings.

Toyosi Badejo-Okusanya is working with The Future Laboratory as part of the 10,000 Black Interns programme.

‘Traditional players must invest in their internal culture to regain loyalty and attract new audiences.’
Toyosi Badejo-Okusanya, Intern, The Future Laboratory

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