In today’s episode, our guest is Katie Irving. A leading expert on youth culture and the founder of Moonshot, an insight agency that propels youth brands by uncovering the culture, trend and mindset of Gen Z + Gen Alpha consumers. She uncovers the ideas of fashion and the center of youth culture that drive 8-figure growth for the world’s leading brands.
[3:09] Why should I listen to you?
I think everybody has an interesting story. I’m a trend forecaster. That’s what I’ve done for so many years. And what I love about that is just people are fascinating. I think it’s interesting to understand what people gravitate towards what they love and what they don’t love. And I’ve done a lot of focus groups and a lot of one-on-one interviewing as part of my job over the years. And everybody has an incredible story to tell. I think that’s what it is for me is. I’m happy to ask anybody about their story and hear about their journey cause it’s always interesting.
[4:22] Trend Forecasting & Futurist
On my website, I call myself a fashion futurist. I feel like I’m always dwelling on the future and trying to think five years ahead. But that’s a good way to describe it.
[4:50] What do you do that helps you be credible in terms of what you do like to forecast the future?
I love talking to people. I love traveling, getting connected with customers in different ways like that. So that’s been a little bit trickier. I’ve had to find ways to do that digitally and through social media. I read constantly. I carve out time in my week to do a lot of research every week and keep in touch with what’s happening, but also a big part of it is the fact that I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. And once you’ve been in an industry that long and you’ve tracked trends and customer behavior over that amount of time, it starts to become not easy, but more innate that you can see changes coming way far ahead.
[6:18] The realm of Gen Z and Gen alpha
I’ve spent most of my career working with youth brands. That has changed over time because obviously, generations are moving in and out of that youth space as they grow.
[6:52] So gen Z’s are born 1995 to 2009. And then next, we have gen alpha. These are the youngest guys born from 2010 to 2025. We have a whole new generation coming into the teen market, super disruptive. They’re going to bring a lot of positive, amazing changes with them.
[8:05] How do we in the rest of the world prepare for this?
The biggest thing is that the youth customers are increasingly values driven. So that’s one of the big changes. Ten years ago, that was not even a conversation for team brands. It was all about fast fashion, and it was all about who could get to the trend first and who could get it into the store the fastest. That was not a lot of fun to design into. It’s much more challenging and more fun to develop more responsive trends to the customer, responding to what they need to build their identities and what they need to show their identities to the world. Values-driven is the biggest thing, and just embracing sustainability and circularity, more ethical ways of operating.
[9:55] Moments that allowed you to jump into new realm of work.
I spent about 17 years climbing the corporate ladder, working for different teen retailers, and that was honestly for a lot of my career. It was important to me to get the next promotion in that world, growing my team, growing my title, making it a few levels, and got to a leadership position and just realized that I was really unhappy, and I didn’t enjoy it.
[11:09] I left that cushy, steady corporate salary and jumped out on my own and took a few months off to hang out with my daughter, which I had never had the opportunity to do. And then I jumped back in, and that was a huge identity shift, which honestly, I didn’t anticipate. I didn’t expect the fact that it would change the dynamic of my marriage and me as a mother and as a professional and creative and all these different hats that I wear.
[12:03] Battle with new space
I questioned who I was and kind of how to craft that new identity. It was a big process of learning about myself, but I just had to get comfortable with doubling down on my abilities and trusting myself and doing that at the end of the day.
[16:44] How do you make a living doing that?
Consultancy is probably a great way to describe what our agency does. I was a solo consultant for about a year after I left the full-time corporate world. And then I grew it into more of an agency model, which was all about positioning for bigger projects. And also, because I love working with a team.
[17:17] One of the things with the agency is pulling in people from my network that I’ve built over 20 years and people who are experts at just great niche topics, and we can tailor to different projects. We can kind of like shapeshift and come in to help companies when they need it. And then sort of flex back when they don’t.
[18:07] Consulting is the heart of what we do.
[19:02] What do you first see happening?
I’m definitely in the roaring twenties camp. I think we’re in for a wild and crazy year, which is great because we need that. I think we’re going to see the economy is going to get a boom. That’s going to continue and especially in the team market. They’re selling a ton of everything right now, anybody that’s selling to youth brands, and that’s a good thing.
[20:22] Many opportunities to connect with customers and really to engage with them, especially because we were in this digital realm for so long. I think it’s important for brands and companies to understand, even though you’re reemerging into this more IRL world, that digital component is huge, and it’s not going anywhere. Don’t walk away from it and continue to invest in it. It will still be a large piece of your company.
[21:55] Fashion industry and the teen market were trickled down, so trends would sort of start at this top high-level runway, and it would trickle down to these different markets. What I love about how youth culture has changed that over the last five to 10 years is that they have created such strong identities among themselves. That they are not looking for anyone to tell them what the trends are, or they’re not trying to follow any specific guidelines for how they should look or what they should be buying. They’re all about individualism and co-creation and supporting each other.
[24:18] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
You can be true to yourself and do what you enjoy and trust yourself.
[20:22-20:41] “There’s a lot of opportunities to connect with customers and really to engage with them, especially because we were in this digital realm for so long. So, I think it’s important for brands and companies to kind of understand, even though you’re reemerging into this more IRL world that digital component is huge and it’s not going anywhere.”
[20:57-21:01] “Invest in knowing who your customer is and what their priorities and values are.”