USA and MENA based teens tell Curated ME about the Gen Z lifestyle fad, VSCO girls. What does this mean for GCC beauty brands?
According to The Intercept, “The Boomers had their hippies. Gen X had its unwashed, nihilistic slackers. Millennials have our phone-obsessed, narcissistic avocado toast munchers. Gen Z — it seems — has its VSCO Girls.”
So what are VSCO girls, you ask? Environmentally-conscious, fashionable, lovers of all- things-natural, teenage girls. They are not technically influencers, but yet still hold influence within their social circles. So technically, they’re undercover influencers, who when not recycling, can usually be found dancing on TikTok and applying face tree oil. And yes we know what you’re thinking, the term ‘VSCO’ was in fact contrived form the name of the photo-editing app: VSCO.
It’s no surprise that Gen Z may be considered the most targeted generation for global beauty brands due to make-up being what CME calls the 3A’s: attractive, accessible, aspirational. One would imagine that the eclectic cosmetic brands such as, Kylie, Smashbox, Too Faced, and MAC would be among teens’ top wish-lists; however, research shows that lately teens are swapping out contouring for an au naturelle look instead. To this end, a VSCO girl would add “I’d rather make my skin clear and pretty rather than wear a lot of makeup.”
To compare notes, CME asked teens from USA and MENA their thoughts towards the VSCO trend.
Sentiments by 13-year-old Iraqi-American based in California, Tessa*:
CME: What does VSCO girl mean?
Tessa: VSCO is a fashion trend that became popular in the summer of 2019. It refers to the photo editing app VSCO. To be a VSCO girl, is to have a very chill and laid back style. (You wear scrunchies, oversized shirts, you have a hydroflask, and you have a beach- related fashion).
CME: Are you considered a VSCO girl?
Tessa: Some of the stuff and accessories I wear are considered VSCO, like big t-shirts, and scrunchies, and I have a hydroflask.
CME: Is VSCO considered cool at school?
Tessa: VSCO was considered cool the first few months of school, but it kind of died out in November. So now everyone still has the same style but we don’t call it anything.
CME: Which influencers are considered VSCO?
Tessa: Emma chamberlain, Sadie Aldis, Addison Rae, and Charlie Damelio all have a very VSCO style (most of these are TiK ToK influencers because that’s where VSCO girls became popular.
So what does a 16-year old Syrian, born and raised in Dubai named Karen* think? She expresses “The VSCO girl trend is really new at my school. It probably only got known only in Jan 2020.” Although she doesn’t consider herself a VSCO girl or follow VSCO influencers, she thinks that “it’s just a passing fashion trend, where girls wear oversized t-shirts, post their pics on the photography app VSCO and wear crocs.” When asked which brands she imagines they shop at, she agrees “Brandy Melville and Urban Outfitters.” American-Syrian, 18-year-old Sam* above agrees, “a VSCO girl is someone who is Basic and says terms like ‘save the turtles’ wears scrunchies and has a hydro-flask who probably shops at Urban Outfitters, Vans or Brandy Melville.”
If VSCO isn’t all the rage in UAE (yet) then what influences a Gen Z’s shopping behavior in general when it comes to beauty brands? A Syrian-American, 18-year-old Gen Z-er in Dubai named Sam* admitted in a prior LFHM focus group, that influencers do in fact influence her affinity towards those beauty brands and therefore her likelihood of becoming a loyal customer. Specifically, she looks up to influencers who represent her ‘culture,’ who look and act similar to her and who seem genuine. In contrast, the other participants (aged 27+) said that influencers don’t directly affect their willingness to buy.
According to local beauty influencer and well-respected entrepreneur, Huda Beauty, sustainable fashion and clean beauty should be prioritized among young shoppers. To demonstrate her dedication to prioritizing clean skin, the Huda Beauty team launched a new simple skincare line called Wishful with the purpose of priming healthy skin before applying makeup.
This leaves Curated ME with the question: should GCC beauty brands take into account any of the VSCO trends in their upcoming marketing campaigns?
Curated ME’s Take:
Remember that younger consumers are mighty influential in their circles on and offline. This is the generation that are the ones who will contribute to future sales and continue to act as brand advocates.
For now, we recommend to forget the labels, and instead focus on fitting into the Gen Z lifestyles and priorities. VSCO or not, younger consumers want to recycle, better their skin and up their confidence. Get ‘real’ with consumers by using ‘real’ ingredients, working with ‘real’ people and endorsing ‘real’ beauty. Brands should consider appealing to the young, sustainable and clean-conscious shoppers via their favorite mediums such as TikTok (time to face the music) and develop new localized types of products targeted towards Middle Eastern skin types. Perhaps partner with a respected brand ambassador on a new blog that explains how to DIY. Or create a new cosmetic line directed at oily-prone, olive skin tones for instance.
*Names have been altered for the purpose of this article.
Image Source: Netbase