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As a member of Gen Z, I don’t think we get our due credit for the things that we do right. We are a generation of advocates and change makers who enjoy a good meme every once in a while. The older generations like to dismiss us as a group of kids glued to their screens, but IRL, we’re doing the work that matters. Despite silly Internet debates about middle parts and skinny jeans, Gen Z is leading the wave in sustainability by creating fashion trends that not only add a bit of fun to our closets but also have a positive impact on our planet.

Gen Z is taking a page out of their parents’ yearbooks for today’s fashion trends. Open your Instagram and find the latest Gen Z influencer profiles. What do you see? Chunky sneakers, tennis skirts, bowling shirts, and low-rise flare jeans. We also have seen the resurgence of a few throwback brands that we all know and love. Grab a pair of chunky sneakers from FILA to go with your Tommy Hilfiger crop top and low-rise jeans from GAP. Now you’re looking like one of the cool kids!

Gen Z clothing trends are largely a blast from the past that you never expected to see again, but why? What is the appeal now? A simple answer is the desire to stand out. Everybody wants to be unique in a world full of Forever 21s, Top Shops, and Zaras.

Thrift stores and vintage shops are becoming more valuable than ever with the younger generations’ hunt for individuality and uniqueness. These stores carry more affordable options for a group of teens and young adults with little to no income beyond their parents’ money. They can buy a lot of clothes at one time and have no problem cutting them up and redesigning clothes that don’t work out in their original state. As a generation that is constantly creating the new “do’s and don’t” of the Internet, it makes sense to see that same creativity in their fashion. 

Thrift stores and vintage shops have something that a generic teen clothing store can’t compete with. Imagine attending the hottest new restaurant opening and someone is wearing the same outfit as you. Hurts doesn’t it? When your clothes come from a thrift shop there’s only one of that exact same shirt, jacket, dress, or whatever, and if you redesign it, it’s basically a brand new clothing item from the most exclusive boutique: your imagination. Vintage shops work in the same way. Once you buy that item, that’s it! You’re the sole owner. There’s a level of FOMO in this shopping experience. The clothing seems exclusive to those not wearing them. Plus, there’s something so satisfying about saying “it’s vintage” or “it’s thrifted.”

Whether intentional or not, the rise of throwback trends and the importance of thrift shops to Gen Z clothing trends plays a major role in the age of sustainability and social responsibility. Think about what happens to clothes that are out of season and unpurchased.

They go straight to incinerators where everything is left to burn, like literally set aflame. That burning contributes to greenhouse gas that is currently tearing the ozone layer apart. A scary thought considering that we are already feeling the repercussions of climate change, and it will only continue to get worse. Gen Z clothing trends are all about holding companies and each other accountable for their contribution to society. Participating in a trend like this allows Gen Z to play a small role in the large job of caring for the planet. So then the question becomes: how can we all keep up with the latest trends while making a positive impact? 

New York and the Hamptons are home to some of the best upscale thrift and vintage shops. What Goes Around Comes Around is a curated vintage shop in East Hampton with the mindset that “luxury is timeless.” The Real Real is technically a consignment store but pretty much works in the same vein. Bring your old designer clothes and accessories to The Real Real to be resold and take a look at their extensive designer collection from Gucci to Burberry to Prada. A new addition to the NYC vintage game is Dora Maar, a luxury consignment store pulling pieces from “the most coveted closets.” Vintage and thrift doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxury and style. If anything, the luxury lifestyle is being elevated and made more accessible.

In the Hamptons, scenery is everything. There’s nothing like a lunch by the water or a bonfire on the beach with friends. However, that all fades away when we don’t take care of the planet in every way possible. Gen Z figured that out early on, and it’s time for everyone else to catch up. Take a page from Gen Z’s book and hop on the latest sustainable and trendy train.  

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