What Playboy wants to look like for the Gen Z consumer (hint: not a magazine)

With a new Valentine's Day collection, the brand once known for its racy photographs and imagery continues to reinvent itself for Gen Z.
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· 4 min read

Playboy is not playing around with its Valentine’s Day lingerie collection (yes, we’re talking about the Playboy that you’re thinking of). Inspired by the iconic Pamela Anderson cover of the February 1991 issue of Playboy magazine, the Miss February collection—which came out last month—comes adorned with lace and hearts.

While the brand already sold casual underwear as part of its capsule collection that debuted in November 2022, the Miss February collection has been a year in the making and is designed to be a tad more racy. The collection is part of the company’s overarching strategy—a key component of which is retail—to transition from a brand that used to represent “entertainment for men” to one focused on “pleasure for all,” according to its website.

“So much about bridging the gap between fantasy and reality is kind of taking some of those iconic moments and realizing them in a three-dimensional way; so we kind of reinterpreted that core set and built a full lingerie [collection] around it,” Jason Mahler, VP of design at Playboy, told Retail Brew.

New crop

During its magazine days, Playboy counted (mostly) men across a wide age range as its “reader” base; the lingerie collection is aimed at the demographic everyone seems to want a piece of: Gen Z.

  • The target age for the new range is under 34, Mahler told us.
  • The collection was also intentionally designed in a way to be more “provocative” and promote the trend of “innerwear as outerwear,” he said.

“There’s obviously a clear correlation in our history and our heritage to lingerie,” Mahler said. “It’s always been a big feature of the magazine in general and the history of the brand. How we kind of approached it this time around was really understanding that there was an opportunity for the Gen Z consumer. Specifically, there’s a big focus on nostalgia right now.”

The pieces in the collection embrace Playboy’s “brand codes,” like the rabbit head, “which is so iconic, and…the original artwork—[we’re] kind of making it fresh and new.” There are also pieces with bunny embroidery that come in colors like candy pink.

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But a core element of targeting Gen Z is also making sure the brand’s offerings are available in extended sizing. “We spend a lot of time maniacally making sure that even though we know that the consumer is coming to us for the brand, we want that wearing experience to be on par with any other specialty brands that you would shop from, and so fit has become a really big focus for us,” Mahler said. “[So] making sure we have all the right shapes for the consumer, especially when we’re working with lingerie, which requires corsets with boning bras with underwire cups.”

As the company continues to build the “owned and operated” part of its business, Mahler said, they’ll keep themselves focused on one main goal: reinventing the brand for Gen Z consumers since that’s where “we’re seeing the biggest appetite” for the brand, he said. “We’re just continuing to lean into that narrative and really build a brand for that consumer that’s rooted in the kind of American heritage of Playboy as a brand, but also through a modern lens.”

Across the board

The retail aspect of Playboy’s reinvention will extend beyond lingerie to include denim and sleepwear. Mahler said the digital retailer has a number of other TBD projects coming in 2023, while it’s also dipping its toes in physical retail.

In October 2022, the brand debuted its first pop-up store at Century City in LA, an experiment in determining what retail would look like for the company in the long term.

Regardless, Mahler is confident that the brand can stand on its own and transition into a business built upon its renewed values. “I know that the brand over the years has made that transition in a big way, but for us, it’s always been ‘entertainment for all’ and ‘pleasure for all,’” Mahler said. “I think that’s been our approach from the inception of these lines. It’s less about trying to move away from an image. It’s more about moving towards a consumer.”—JS

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.