Since the start of the pandemic, 33-year old Scottish fashion brand Walker Slater has seen more interest in its sustainable fabrics from younger consumers, based on its customer surveys. To further teach Gen Zers about sustainability, it’s launching a VR integration from October 12-19, available through Oculus Quest headsets in its stores and online through a dedicated platform.
Claire Pentony, head of partnerships and womenswear at Walker Slater said, “Younger people are interested in seeing where things are coming from, and the VR experience makes it tangible.” The brand partnered with trade organization British Wool and materials company Harris Tweed Hebrides on bringing the VR experience to Walker Slater stores. Through the immersive experience, customers are able to see the process of making wool, from sheep to material, as well as learn about the craftsmanship required.
According to consulting company PwC’s global consumer insights survey from June, a third of consumers have used VR in the last six months, and 32% of those consumers have bought products after first discovering them on VR platforms. Walker Slater saw firsthand how purchasing habits rapidly changed during the height of Covid-19, when most of its production and distribution had to stop. Now, the brand is using VR integration, as well as Instagram marketing, to target its younger shoppers, on top of its existing older customer base.
“Gen Z and young people get dismissed as not having the same fundamental information or knowledge that older consumers are assumed to have, but that thirst for knowledge is always there,” said Mark Hogarth, creative director for Harris Tweed Hebrides. Over the last 10 years, Hogarth has solidified collaborations with global streetwear companies including Stone Island, Supreme and Thom Browne, which have used its long-lasting, sustainable materials.
“You can get a young customer who may not be able to afford a Harris Tweed Stone Island jacket, but they do their research and buy something more affordable, like a [Harris Tweed] Supreme cap. And then they keep or resell that item on StockX,” he said.
Hogarth said that, as more fashion companies see younger generations’ growing interest in sustainable materials, long-term investments in local production will become more common. For its part, Harris Tweed is currently recruiting younger workers for its mills and to be cloth weavers, to future-proof its supply chain. It’s also shifted to digital-only sampling to reduce waste.
Graham Clark, director of marketing at British Wool, said blending the heritage and craftsmanship of a brand with a VR experience is an effective way to attract Gen Z. British Wool and Walker Slater are promoting the experience across their social channels. Meanwhile, store associates at Walker Slater’s London flagship are taking interested customers to a dedicated large area on the lower ground floor to partake in the VR experience.
“Certainly consumers [are] becoming more interested in asking where products are coming from,” he said. “It’s about getting that message to a younger generation: Buy once or buy less, and buy well.”