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InsideFMM | August 1, 2015

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Leveraging Digital Subculture To Track Gen Y Consumer Trends

Leveraging Digital Subculture To Track Gen Y Consumer Trends
Wendy Bendoni

Digital tracking is my job as a forecaster, as well as monitoring the movement of each subculture and the sources that influence them. I find that most of my time is spent analyzing the movement of these subcultures from a digital point-of-view. Understanding these digital subculture groups and focusing on every aspect of their lifestyle includes monitoring their digital engagement with music, brands, events and followers. Fashion is a form of identity; through digital tracking of the American subcultures we have found the trends-to-watch.

The impact of digital has sped up the consumer purchase cycle for all retailers. In order to be able to stay connected to a brand’s customer base and the retail trends that drive their purchases, buyers and marketers need to begin paying attention to how digital and social media are influencing the subcultures of their consumers – in particular, Gen Y and the urban American culture that’s a rapidly growing mixture of ethnicities.

Through the development of these subculture communities, there are new common interests in fashion, music and a wide variety of lifestyles traits. These interests ultimately translate into their purchase behavior for the brands and retailers that they wear. Understanding the lifestyle of each of these subculture groups maybe difficult to translate through their style alone,but with today’s new social platforms they leverage for status and self expression, (many of which provide real-time data) we can monitor and identify the trendstowatch.

Here Are Three Subcultures Worth Monitoring:

Digital Subculture #1: Festival-Gals

Consumers that fall into this group have now become season-less; her quest is for the perfect seasonal look, it’s for the perfect indie concert and the experience that goes with it. These girls attend music festivals are risk-takers, world travelers, are “indie driven” and out spoken in the way they live their lives.

  • Brands & Retailers of Interest: Nasty Gal, Wildfox, ASOS, Unif, One Teaspoon, Brandy Hearts Melville, Urban Outfitters, Gypsy Junkies, Free People
  • Events of Interest: Coachella, Burning Man, Stagecoach
  • In Their Closet: Statement T’s, classic wardrobe pieces, little black dress, cropped tops, cut off jeans, vintage boots, Toms shoes and combat boots.
  • Social Media Outlets: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare

Digital Subculture Girl #2: Retro-Chic

Female consumers that fall into this group feel need to channel past decades into everyday lifestyle. They support sustainability through up-cycling and recycling vintage fabrics and trims. These women often sell their own crafts on Etsy, are driven by DIY subculture and believe that giving back to their local communities is key; thus the brands they consumer must have similar interest.

  • Brands & Retailers of Interest: Vintage House, Wasteland, Goodwill, Modcloth, Etsy, Chictopia, Ebay, Betty Page, Local flea markets, Buffalo Exchange and Polyester.
  • In Their Closet: One-of-a-kind is important, typically knows how to sew and alter their wardrobe. Classic shift and fit-flare dresses in retro-inspired prints are also present.
  • Social Outles: Pinterest,, Instagram

Digital Subculture #3: Collegiate Driven

Nicknamed the “Ivy Kids”, for female consumers who fall into this group, belonging to a University is the key to the look. True prep has been referred to as “The Official Preppy Handbook,” this is an academic approach to dressing with a way of announcing you are serious about education.

  • Brands & Retailers of Interest: Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, J.Crew, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Burberry.
  • In Their Closet: Polo shirts or button down shirts; shirts must be crisp, tucked in and well tailored. Socks are worn and shoes are of fine leather in a traditional loafer, oxford or simple conservative wedge.
  • Social Outlets: Pinterest,, Instagram, “” is Harvard’s Facebook community that is still active for the Harvard class to be social on.

It’s important to note that these subculture communities not only influence trend direction but also influence purchasing power. For example, C&A has introduced special Facebook-integrated hangers across their stores in Brazil. The hangers have a digital-display of how many C&A Facebook fans have “Liked” a particular garment. These are updated in real-time and confirmation of popularity for each garment on display.

Moreover, each subculture group forms a certain style and follows a particular “dress code” that can be translated into a trend-to-watch as it spreads to the masses and creates a demand. Today, thanks to the digital age of sharing, these communities have found a new way to gather followers of similar interest and begin sharing opinions. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Polyvore, Lyst, Stylitics, personal blogs, bookmarking sites like Evernote and Pinterest, and mobile apps like Hispamatic and Instagram, have also enabled these subculture groups to create digital extensions of their lifestyles. As buyers and designers, marketers and forecasters, it’s important for us to monitor the expressions of their lives and leverage them in order to not only create products that sell, but also keep our brands relevant to their lives.

Photos: Festival Girls, Feel Desain, Chronically Vintage


  1. Wendy Winder

    Great analysis!

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