Consumers Use Commerce to Show They’re Global Citizens; Here’s How Brands are Responding

Today's consumers want to show their global citizenship and they're increasingly using their wallet to make an impact. Here's how brands are responding.
Photo credit: Freya -

“Global citizenship” refers to the social, political and economic actions of “globally minded individuals and communities,” according to the United Nations. While that definition doesn’t sound like it has much to do with commerce, millennial and Gen Z consumers are increasingly using their wallets to make an impact.

In response, emerging brands and designers seeking to embrace consumers’ heightened desire to be global citizens are not only prioritizing sustainable practices; they’re also embedding themselves into local cultures and communities.

During a panel in celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, representatives from fashion brands AKKI and Helena Magdalena, as well as discovery and commerce platform Arête, gathered to discuss how culture, community and sustainability all are driving the next generation of commerce. The panel was part of the Asian Culture Showcase, conceived, produced and sponsored by A Non-Agency, which is behind the Brand Closet Showroom Social concept, and co-sponsored by Spring Place in New York City.

Defining, and Re-Defining, What Global Citizenship Means

Panel participants exemplified different styles of global citizenship. “It’s really important to be open minded, as a human and as a creative,” said Akki Zhao, Founder and Creative Director of her eponymous brand. “That’s how we grow. If we don’t step outside of our comfort zone, we never really learn what it’s like to experience the world. We can take that experience and turn it into something useful for the rest of the world. I think that’s how we can push the culture forward.”

As an AI-powered platform designed to help consumers and stylists discover emerging brands, Arête also understands the importance of showing up. In fact, the company was created to give all players, consumers, stylists and brands a place to discover and connect. This is what drives the company’s purpose as a global citizen.

Our brand partners come from Asia, Denmark, Sweden, Paris, New York, so being a global citizen for me means amplifying the voices of all these cool creators that are just making the world so beautiful and creating something that we all want,” said Kotryna Jukneviciute, Co-founder of Arête. “It’s about serving as a tech-enabled solution that gives these designers [the ability] to be seen and heard, where maybe in traditional marketing systems their voice just wouldn’t have as much space.”

Brand and Personal Heritage: The Foundation of Global Citizenship

Brands need to have a powerful heritage if they want to achieve relevance and resonance. And this heritage needs to drive every strategic and tactical decision, especially along the product development lifecycle.

For designer Zhao, her Asian heritage is what drives her creative process as well as her approach to brand building. Designs are derived from Japan’s aesthetic philosophy of “wabi-sabi,” which “embraces the beauty of impermanence, reflecting the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual realm,” according to the AKKI website.

Zhao also strives to incorporate colors, materials and textures that serve as a tribute to her Asian roots, such as jade, which played an integral role in a recent collection. “We want to serve the heritage and make sure it really connects with the next generation as much as possible,” she explained.

However, at its core, the AKKI brand was developed based on the designer’s coming of age story as an Asian immigrant in the U.S., eager to reconnect with her heritage. “Every stitch, every line, every detail, we weave the intricate tapestry of emotions — hope, resilience, and the courage to embrace one’s heritage,” the site aptly states.

Helena Pasquier, the design mastermind behind Helena Magdalena, takes a different approach, tapping inspiration from various cultures. For example, one of her starring pieces is a long skirt with a high slit that’s inspired by traditional Chinese dress. “She works to really pay tribute to these cultures in her own way,” said Paul Pasquier, Helena’s brother and business Co-founder. “We always acknowledge where this inspiration comes from and how our designs are derived from traditional pieces.”


Showing Up Authentically to Drive Community

While Zhao’s strong heritage serves as the AKKI brand’s North Star, she is constantly seeking inspiration from new cultures and communities. For example, she has become entrenched in the music industry and constantly travels to unearth new creative inspiration.

Zhao referred to her experience in Puerto Rico as an eye-opening moment for her as a designer and global citizen: “When I was there, styling some of the largest Latin music artists, there were no other Asian Americans on set with me…there’s a sense of connection [that happens] when you show up in places and take that courage with you. That’s how you can do it in the most authentic way, so you can connect and represent yourself as the leader you want to be in your space. Others will follow and join in.”

Arête takes a somewhat different approach, by creating spaces where multiple communities can gather. While the platform itself is a gathering space in and of itself, Arête frequently hosts in-person events and activations designed to drive authentic connection with brand founders, designers and stylists.

“It’s really about fostering authentic relationships, whether it be with designers or people in the community,” Jukneviciute advised. “As your business grows larger, you really want to make sure you remind yourself every single day and bring yourself back to what you’re anchored to as a company.”

As a fashion tech company, Arête could easily focus on digital acquisition and related KPIs such as app visits and engagement rates. However, “fashion is an emotional and subjective experience,” Jukneviciute noted. “Authenticity is going to make a strong culture for the company and also transcend beyond the company, into the brands we’re working with, and really help build the future of fashion.”

How Sustainability Can Fuel Creativity

For some brands, sustainability is a core part of their creative purpose, connecting with consumers’ dedication to making more “green” decisions in every aspect of their lives.

Deloitte’s 2024 Gen Z and Millennial Survey found that both of these demographics feel strongly that businesses “have the most opportunity to drive change” by protecting the environment. Gen Z and millennials are willing to pay more to purchase environmentally sustainable products (64% and 63% respectively). Some have even stopped or lessened a relationship with a business due to unsustainable practices (25% and 24%).

Helena Magdalena is a brand rooted in sustainability, with a goal of creating elegant and unique products that “lead by example.” For the brand, that means sourcing most fabrics from French luxury brands and vintage pieces that can be transformed into new garments. Additionally, the brand crafts limited-edition micro-collections in its atelier in Brooklyn as well as in a small family-owned atelier in Paris.

“We always produce locally,” Pasquier explained. “The way we function is to only do timeless pieces. We really want people to have pieces that they’ll cherish and love for a long time.”

Featured Event

Join the retail community as we come together for three days of strategic sessions, meaningful off-site networking events and interactive learning experiences.



Access The Media Kit


Access Our Editorial Calendar

If you are downloading this on behalf of a client, please provide the company name and website information below: