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A trend toward labeling young shoppers The 17 year old has purple hair, heavy black eyeliner and a sparkling stud in her nose.She lives in new york and buys her clothes at an east village boutique called religious sex.She thinks teen fashion maverick tommy hilfiger and his ilk are vile. In ralph lauren online her mind, the frenzied fashion marketing toward generation y the group that made”Titanic”A box office legend, deifies actress jennifer love hewitt and turned up its nose ring at levi’s is”Really nauseating.It’s exploiting the whole teen generation. ” Caryl might be even more bitter if she knew that she’s been officially categorized as an”Edge”Teen by researchers who help manufacturers find their way into the wallets of her fertile, fragmented and fickle demographic. There are nearly 30 million gen y ers currently in their teens, making them the biggest group since the baby boomers. (Gen y encompasses 5 to 22 year olds. ) These hilfiger heads have more money than their adolescent predecessors.And they’re spending it.In 1998, they dished out $105.1 billion, according to the Rand Youth Poll, an opinion research firm. “The baton is being passed between boomers and youth,”Says irma zandl of the zandl group, a company that provides trend analysis for businesses including the coca cola co.And the gap. But trying to get inside the mind of these ultra informed adolescents can be a complex thing.Consider all that can influence purchases today from their affinity for style shaping celebrities to their cyber savvy to their own senses of individuality. The internet has certainly made gen y more sophisticated consumers.They can buy, browse and even find what people all over the world are wearing. “Word of mouth now is not just a telephone.Word of mouth is online,”Says jesse h.Jackson, associate publisher/marketing for teen people magazine. At the top of gen y fashion are names like hilfiger, polo and abercrombie and fitch.Then there are hip hop inspired fashions like fubu, phat farm and mecca;Levi’s replacements such as lei, jnco and mudd;And such hot, affordable standbys as gap, old navy and adidas. “In fashion, you obviously have to give them what they want,”Zandl says. “Levi’s didn’t get into that baggy thing when they should have.There was certainly a lot of time to get on the bandwagon. ” How do you hold teens’ often short, brand hopping attention spans?One way is to first divvy the demographic into specific groups the way teenage research unlimited, an illinois based research firm, does. The”Edge”Are alternative, rebellious teens into offbeat styles, including thrift store and vintage. The”Influencers”Are mostly urban, and largely into hip hop fashions. Thebrand conscious “Conformers” are Themost mainstream. They tend to rely on safeties such as Gap and Old Navy, and try to emulate TheEdge and TheInfluencers. Then you have The”Passives. ” Not nearly as concerned with fashion as Theother three, these supposedly shy outcast types are far from cutting Edge in their Lees and Levi’s. But no kid likes to be labeled.Marqueet jackson, 15, is walking proof.Rummaging through cds at mondawmin mall, where hundreds of kids have come to congregate after school, he’s clad in gap, polo and nike. “I just go with my own vision,”Says the frederick douglass high school student. “I’m loyal to my own style. ” Yet, he looks suspiciously like his buddies, likewise dressed in gap, with hints of south pole, hilfiger and mecca. In the food court at white marsh mall, a group of old navy clad girls carry a rainbow of motorola pagers.They look like walking polar fleece billboards with braces. How do they explain their nearly identical attire? “Everyone else is wearing it,”Says jo el karatzakislis, 14, a kenwood high school student. “Some of the clothes aren’t even comfortable. ” Brand conscious?Yes. “If they think it builds their image among their peers, they’ll go there,”Teen people’s jackson says. And few things bolster image better than high end labels previously out of http://www.ascoe.it/ their reach.Ralph lauren is introducing ralph, a line with price tags around $50.Todd oldham is aiming at gen y with a new line of jeans priced around $48.And donna karan and others are edging in as well. “Now, everyone wants a piece of their business,”Says hayley hill, fashion director for teen people. “The teens really have power in the fashion industry. ” She noted a gucci runway show last year featured cargo pants, a phenom originated by kids buying old military clothes at thrift stores.Many designers, including ralph lauren and prada, also picked up on the trend.