Learning from Collusion: The Gen Z Darling Brand

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Want to see a brand that embodies every single facet of the next-gen purchasing ethos? Look no further than Collusion, the most successful brand in ASOS’ catalog. Collusion came onto the market with a bang in 2018, launching with six diverse, body and gender-positive collaborators. A new batch of creatives come on board each season to help design the clothing and promote Collusion as a whole.

The brand is currently sold exclusively on ASOS, joining ASOS’ own private label line, ASOS Design, and over 850 other brands on the fashion marketplace. Let’s take a look at how this revolutionary brand is breaking boundaries and how others are following suit.

Collusion’s success has shown us that Gen Z is putting its dollars behind its values. Until we find a way to offer sustainable goods at fast-fashion prices, Collusion still manages to get most of it right. But I maintain the hope that the brand will release an eco-conscious line that woke shoppers can shop with a clear conscience.

Saying “Yes” to Difficult Conversations

For years, I’ve been warning brands and retailers that, when it comes to social issues, the old “stay out of it” mentality does not resonate with next-gen consumers. In fact, it actively alienates them. This is hard for many legacy retailers to wrap their heads around. As is the fact is that 42 percent of millennial and Gen Z consumers said that “purpose” is the driving force when they change brands.

Millennial and Gen Z consumers are very interested in how brands address underserved communities. Collusion puts emphasis on the difficult conversations that many legacy brands still shy away from, including race, gender, ethnicity, and body positivity. The next-gen collaborators that come on each season stress the importance of having these conversations to create every single piece for the line.

Collusion has one of the strongest mission statements to appeal to next-gen consumers that I’ve ever seen, “We are driven by inclusivity, committed to collaboration, and passionate about experimentation. We champion unisex design; all our products are animal-free, and our sizing runs from 2X to 4XL. Above all, we make clothes that celebrate the people who wear them.”

With a mission statement like this, and by bringing on outspoken young advocates for the values the above statement embodies, Collusion creates the illusion of total transparency. Although ASOS’ website is still divided by gender, Collusion is not. Instead, the brand offers a bevy of affordable goods for men, women, and everyone in between. The brand is so groundbreaking in this regard that many consumers are willing to overlook the fact that Collusion has not really taken part in the ongoing sustainability dialogue.

Reconstructing the “Value” Conversation

When we say the word “value,” most retailers think about price. Collusion’s prices are definitely an asset, the brand rivals fast-fashion giants like SHEIN and Zara with prices starting at $4.03 and up to $110. This is a particularly big deal in menswear, where there are fewer fast-fashion giants to compete with on the scene. Collusion’s unisex designs are rarely figure-flattering, which is perfect for the vast majority of Gen Z-ers that care more about subverting social norms in a compelling way than showing off their pandemic bods.

Collusion hits on every almost single touchpoint that’s necessary to get next gens to convert:

  • Boundary-breaking influencers
  • Fashions that defy gender constructs
  • Body positive/inclusive sizing
  • Willingness to tackle topics that other brands shy away from
  • Affordable price points
  • Sustainable manufacturing
  • Free of animal products
  • Bright, Korean streetwear-inspired design

However, there’s one area where Collusion is falling short: ethical manufacturing. While Collusion competes with the fast-fashion bigwigs in terms of pricing, it doesn’t adequately compete when it comes to humanitarian production practices. The products are “animal-free,” which is certainly a draw for the vegan and vegetarian sector. It was even listed on a roundup by TheTrendSpotter on sustainable brands. But “animal-free materials and ethically sourced cotton” don’t give consumers any insights into the brand’s manufacturing practices.

The Bangladesh Factory collapse could just as easily have happened to workers manufacturing with sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and “animal-free” pleather. The humanitarian element, reflected in Collusion’s public face, also needs to be present for factory workers. And the company’s lack of transparency around its production processes is exactly why Good on You gives Collusion a sustainability rating of “Not Good Enough.”

To be clear: the brand is an incredible contender for the title of Next Fast-Fashion Giant but woke consumers also want to see their brands espouse living wages, tolerable working conditions, and equal opportunity employment in factories. It’s the singular arena in which Collusion has yet to step up to the plate, and it matters to consumers who want a 360-degree feel-good shopping experience. The sustainability modern consumers are seeking doesn’t end at renewable manufacturing materials –– it includes creating sustainable conditions for garment workers. Creating a production process that offers livable wages, safe working conditions, and a harassment-free environment. That’s the missing part of the Collusion equation.

A New Direction for the Retail Industry

Collusion is obviously foregoing transparent humanitarian production reports to keep prices low. But does a brand-new garment really justify a $4 price tag for young consumers to buy it? Taking this a step further, will naturally skeptical next-gen consumers become wary of price points so low that they point to anti-humanitarian manufacturing processes? These questions can’t be answered definitively with the data that is currently available. But the present-day ethos points to the fact that it’s just a matter of time before the answer to the latter to becomes a strong affirmative.

The recent surge in inclusive brands with slightly higher price points, but transparent manufacturing practices may not answer these questions, but they do point to a surge in alternative demand. Collusion’s success has shown us that Gen Z is putting its dollars behind its values. Until we find a way to offer sustainable goods at fast-fashion prices, Collusion still manages to get most of it right. But I maintain the hope that the brand will release an eco-conscious line with transparent manufacturing processes that woke shoppers can buy from with a clear conscience.

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