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Style that slays: Inside Macao’s Gen Z fashion scene

From Cottagecore to Y2K to streetwear, Gen Z fashion just hits different. Macao News caught up with local boutique owners and designers specialising in dressing the new generation.

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

With its viral aesthetics and sense of fearless individuality, Gen Z style certainly slaps. Indeed, these digital natives (born in the late 1990s to early 2010s) have been known to set new style trends before you can even say the word #slay. 

Driven by social media, some of the hottest trends, like Y2K, evoke nostalgia for more carefree times. Meanwhile, the earthy, timeless “coastal grandmother” aesthetic invites second-hand pieces and neutral capsule wardrobes that align with Gen Z’s sustainable values. And while some Gen Z fashion mavens strive to turn heads, others champion low-key, high-quality essentials that are made to last. 

But where does the new generation shop in Macao? For a quick dip into their favourite local fashion, Macao News spoke with local boutique owners and designers who know a thing or two about Gen Z style.

The Big Apple

The Big Apple streetwear boutique founders - Macao Gen Z fashion
Pinky Hong, Jeff Tang and Billy Kuok are the creative minds behind The Big Apple, known for its carefully curated streetwear collections – Photo by Macao News/António Sanmarful

With five boutiques across Macao, The Big Apple has come a long way since it opened a Facebook-based business in 2014. 

“There was nowhere Macao people could find streetwear at that time – they had to either shop online or go to Hong Kong,” says 33-year-old Billy Kouk, who co-founded The Big Apple alongside Pinky Hong and Jeff Tang. 

“All three of us are into pop and street culture, including fashion, movies, music like hip hop, rap and R&B, breakdance and skateboarding,” shares Kuok of their inspiration to bring streetwear to Macao. 

True connoisseurs, the co-founders are constantly travelling to Tokyo for the latest in Asian street fashion or to the French capital for Fashion Week. This careful curation takes centre stage at the brand’s flagship store on Rua do Campo. Inside the three-storey boutique, you’ll find walls panelled with vibrant trainers, meticulously displayed Japanese brands, and themed installations to highlight the latest aesthetics.

The Big Apple flagship store
The Big Apple counts five stores in Macao, including a three-storey flagship on Rua do Campo – Photo courtesy of The Big Apple

Among them, Kuok expects to see “blokecore” (fashion inspired by 1990s-era British football culture) and outdoorsy, glamping-inspired looks take off. “Big football events like the World Cup held last year, and the fact that celebrities were often seen attending matches in jerseys, triggered the trend,” he explains. Meanwhile, he adds that outdoorsy looks reflect Gen Z’s desire to spend time in nature – a luxury after living through pandemic lockdowns. 

The founders’ devotion to fashion has paid off. The Big Apple is the only retailer in Macao to stock Gen Z favourite On Running sneakers and Y2K darling Oakley apparel. Additionally, they exclusively carry the Sportstyle collection of Salomon sneakers, which you’ll often see on display at the flagship store.

Pure Zone

Pure Zone founders - Macao Gen Z fashion
Ryan Wong and Jack Tam, both 26, established Puro Zone in 2021 – Photo by Macao News/Cheong Kamka

As its name hints, Pure Zone’s apparel revolves around minimalist, logo-free essentials like monochromatic tees, hoodies, polos and button-downs. Tuned into Gen Z preferences, the brand creates many gender-neutral styles and oversized cuts that champion simplicity above all else. 

Wong and co-founder Jack Tam – both Gen Z themselves at 26 years old – met during secondary school at Yuet Wah College. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they chatted about omissions in the local fashion scene. ‘Why isn’t there a local version of Uniqlo,’ they wondered. And with that, an idea was born. “We wanted to show people that we can make something of that quality, or even better, locally,” says co-founder Ryan Wong.

They quickly launched a website selling clothes from different factories and designers. However, they needed more quality control. In a matter of months, they rejigged the business and started their product line.

Pure Zone boutique garments
Pure Zone’s clean, logo-free aesthetics emphasise quality and comfort – Photo by Macao News/Cheong Kamka

In April 2021, they opened a Pure Zone shop in the Barra area. As you enter the boutique, you can sense the brand’s focus on simple yet high-quality essentials. In addition to a loyal following in Macao, the entrepreneurs have also seen growing demand in mainland China after partnering with Chinese influencers on Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) – one of the most influential social media platforms driving Gen Z trends. 

While Tam and Wong keep close tabs on emerging trends, they don’t race to adopt every fleeting fashion moment. “Our oversized jackets, pants and faded washed tees can complement trends [such as Y2K], but that’s not our brand’s style,” says Tam, adding that they’re more concerned about making minimalist pieces that stand the test of time.

[See more: Treasure hunt: Where to shop for vintage fashion in Macao]

Atelier Estorninho

Hugo Estorninho founder of Atelier Estorninho - Macao Gen Z fashion
Textile craftsmanship is the centrepiece of Hugo Estorninho’s eponymous brand, Atelier Estorninho – Photo courtesy of Hugo Estorninho

Founded by 26-year-old Hugo Estorninho in 2022, Atelier Estorninho may be new to the fashion scene, yet the label has already mastered vintage-inspired looks that appeal to Gen Z. From the James Dean-inspired chino trousers to Heather tees and Ivy League cardigans, the online boutique brings together premium craftsmanship and clean-cut uniform aesthetics.

Born and raised in Macao, Estorninho studied global design at the IADE Faculty of Design, Technology and Communication in Lisbon, Portugal. A penchant for slow fashion inspired the Lisbon resident to develop an eponymous brand celebrating mid-1900s textile craftsmanship, which can be difficult for modern machinery to emulate. 

“The idea was not just about designing clothes but also leveraging the textile industry in Portugal, namely in northern Portugal, which is very advanced. I sought out the best artisans from the top workshops to materialise my vision to revive pieces lost in time,” he told Macao News.

Atelier Estorninho chino pants
Atelier Estorninho’s James Dean-inspired chino pants, which 8 months from concept to completion, represent the brand’s mission to create timeless pieces – Photo courtesy of Hugo Estorninho

In line with Gen Z’s sustainable values, Estorninho strives to be the antithesis of fast fashion. In fact, his process is very, very slow – a point of pride for the designer. Every detail in his pieces has been carefully considered and painstakingly assembled, taking months from concept to conception. He points to his chinos as an example: “These trousers are not something you throw away, but something you pass on,” he says. “They’re made to last.” 

What’s more, Estorninho also sources GOT-certified cotton from Spain, uses coroso fruit shells for buttons, and does not offer sales since they can promote overconsumption.

This festive season, spoil loved ones with Gen Z-approved fashion and support local creatives while you’re at it.

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