Brand Strategy

As consumers demand more for their money, some clothing brands shift their messaging to quality

In the age of quiet luxury and conscious consumerism, brands like Quince and Italic are emphasizing their use of natural materials that last.
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Screenshots via @_maddieminla/TikTok, @hannahganshaw/TikTok, @meredithmlynch/TikTok

· 5 min read

The quality of clothes—particularly women’s clothes—ain’t what it used to be. Items made from 100% natural fibers are hard to find, even at luxury prices. Many garments feel like they begin to deteriorate after a few wears, and somehow, prices still seem to keep rising.

It’s become a point of passionate discussion on social media, where consumers vent, deinfluence, look back at what some brands used to sell, and share tips on how to find higher-quality clothes via thrifting, mindful purchasing, and…going to Brandy Melville? Some TikTok creators, like Jennifer Wang and Andrea Cheong, have even dedicated their platforms to offering opinions on which items from certain brands are worth the money.


“All we have been seeing for the last 15 years is an acceleration of how shopping happens,” Thomai Serdari, clinical associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, told us. “Now I’ve been seeing that that trend is being reversed, with people being willing to spend time researching things before they acquire them, making sure that both materials and the promises that the brands make are actually authentic and reliable.”

It’s only natural, then, that some brands have begun focusing their marketing messages on conveying the quality of their garments. Artizia has sent items to influencers like Wang to review, and Gap is advertising its clothes as “affordable quiet luxury.” Anthropologie seemed to push back on the trend, boasting in an email marketing message that its sweaters are “less itchy than vintage” finds. Meanwhile, other brands that have built their reputations on the luxury-for-less concept, like Quince and Italic, have also adjusted their marketing to address customers’ shifting expectations.

“It seems like quality is at the forefront of consumers’ minds,” Antonieta Moreland, head of brand at Quince, told Marketing Brew.

Quality over quantity?

Quince began gearing its marketing toward quality in the second half of 2023, Moreland said. “Toward the end of Q2, we started realizing that there was additional market share to get with the quality-led consumers,” she explained. “Even in small tests and Meta-type advertising, we started seeing a lot better conversion and incrementality coming with that messaging.”

Once the idea of quality in Quince’s products has been conveyed to customers, she said the brand’s price point can help “push them over the edge” to purchase.

That messaging is evident in some of the brand’s social creative. On TikTok, ads from Quince position it as a lower-cost alternative to established brands like J.Crew, Everlane, and Jenni Kayne, some of which are known for their garment quality and use of natural materials.

Moreland said YouTube creator partnerships have also been working well for the brand, particularly long-form videos where creators talk about item quality and show items after washing or wearing them multiple times.

While Quince’s target demo tends to be older millennial women, Moreland said the brand is testing ways to appeal to men as well as younger millennials and Gen Z in 2024. Minimalism and buying “timeless pieces,” along with the quiet luxury trend that began taking over social feeds last year, are concepts that she said the brand has found to resonate with younger shoppers.

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Jeremy Cai, CEO of the luxury online marketplace Italic, told us that Italic has also benefited from the quiet luxury trend. “We happened to be the right brand in the right place to ride the wave,” he told us via email.

Cai told us that Italic has seen a “meaningful increase” in customer interest in materials like cashmere, silk, linen, and wool, and has shifted its messaging to be “significantly more focused” on the technical qualities of its products made from those materials. As a result, those items now make up a larger percentage of the company’s sales, he said.

Cai said the brand’s emphasis on quality is designed to attract shoppers “who are starting to appreciate craftsmanship and luxury,” which he views as a natural progression in the consumer lifecycle.

“Many younger customers who may be attracted to fast fashion today may eventually graduate into more expensive, quality goods with time, as has been the case with many generations past,” he said.

Greenwash and wear?

Some consumers’ preference for natural materials over synthetics is intertwined with concerns around sustainability, specifically the use of fossil fuels in the manufacturing of fabrics like rayon or polyester, as well as the wastefulness that comes with the need to replace synthetic clothes more frequently than natural pieces.

Moreland said that when reviewing Quince’s brief, younger influencers tend to respond to the statistic that about 30% of fast fashion ends up in landfills. “It’s something that’s top of mind for everyone…but especially the younger consumers love the anti-fast-fashion hook,” she said.

Still, environmental impact isn’t as big of a focus in Quince’s marketing. “One thing that we have tried to do is not greenwash or lead with sustainability, so it almost feels like we’re exploiting it,” Moreland said. “But it’s part of the equation. It’s in the background.”

Brands that feature claims of sustainability and environmental friendliness are perhaps bound to attract attention over those claims, and Quince is one of several brands using natural fibers that has come under the microscope in recent years. NYU’s Serdari said that “it’s fantastic that the consumer is taking on the role of the watchdog,” an indicator of the power in two-way interactions between brands and consumers, especially in the absence of federal guidelines around sustainability. That same power can be seen in consumers’ calls for more natural materials.

“They’re not telling us what to wear,” she said. “We tell them what we want to wear.”

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