Thought Leadership

Lessons from fashion: Power to the people

A desire to play an active role is something brands beyond fashion should be leaning into. In their latest Selfhood report, ZAK asks, who are the brands ahead of the curve?

Dominic Weiss, ZAK

Head of Planning


Brands long to be in control. They spend months, sometimes years, in planning and strategy cycles designed to meticulously plot their futures. All this work is done in secret, behind closed doors and laden with NDAs. Enthusiastic marketeers then release their shiny new vision upon the world. Brands make, consumers take. Or so we think.

What if things were different? What if consuming a finished product was not enough for today’s self-starting side-hustlers? What if consumers weren’t there to simply consume? What if this passivity was an assault on their own creativity? This is no pipe-dream hypothetical scenario. It’s happening right now. We’ve spent the last few months speaking to young fashion pioneers to understand how power is being devolved from the brands to the people.

We’ve found that the top-down influence model is anathema to under 30s. It turns out they’re not so keen on being prescribed ideas or ways of living. Who knew!? The clothes they wear are statements about who they are. And the most precious commodity for young people is their own identity. For them, the high street has become too homogenous. Our research shows 64% of under 30s say they’re bored with high street fashion brands. The Zara dress phenomenon is a horrifying spectacle and this assault on their individualism is intolerable.

That’s why Depop and the reseller market has quickly progressed from having a bit of a moment, to full blown disruption. Currently it amounts to $24 billion and it’s due to rise to $64 billion by 2023. And that’s just in the US. To put that into context, fast fashion will be nearer $44 billion.

This desire for conscious choice is the principle disruptive force in the world of fashion; 87% of the under 30s we surveyed said they wanted more control over what they wear. Depop delivers that agency in a number of ways. For the moment at least, it’s an open and inclusive platform that’s void of the judgy toxicity of Instagram. That means it’s a safe space. Somewhere you can be yourself without the usual conformist filters.

The power is with them, the under30s, to curate their own style and identity. You are not confined to the SS20 collections of a handful of high street brands; as we know, this leaves everyone looking the same. The resale market gives them access to ALL the spring summer collections. Ever. The ability to be independent and individual is genuine and real when you are creating your look from such a wide array of styles and seasons. 

And they are empowering audiences to exercise their creative and entrepreneurial muscle. Some sellers on Depop use it casually to fund their fashion, while some are running profitable businesses out of bedrooms and studios.

The smarter brands are already taking note. Take Rihanna’s recent Fenty X Savage fashion show. It wasn’t launched in a cloistered runway to an audience of celebrities and industry folk. It went direct to the audience via a live stream on Amazon. She is bypassing the old guard and going direct to those with the real power. The people. In Rihanna’s own words “I’m a bad bitch, I want women to own their own beauty”. The pop music polymath is as prescient as ever.

The thing is, the young audiences tuning in to watch Rihanna’s show and the communities on the fashion reseller markets are the same as those setting up Monzo accounts and shopping on the high street. This desire to play an active role is something brands beyond fashion should be leaning into. So, who are the brands ahead of the curve?


Visit ZAK's showcase to view the launch video or their website to download the full report.

Guest Author

Dominic Weiss, ZAK

Head of Planning,


Dom is Head of Planning at ZAK, an under 30s specialist creative agency. ZAK believe in the power of ideas that resonate culturally. Understanding audiences, the things they love, and the things they hate, is our way of getting to those emotional ideas that run deep and make a difference. Dom has applied this thinking to a raft of ZAK clients' including Bloom Gin and New Balance Football. Dom has over 10 years’ experience working in creative agencies and the music business.

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