Last November I went to Tokyo to trail Giorgio Armani while he opened the first Armani tower in Ginza. What struck me most—apart from the marvelous idea of seeing the ultimate minimalist designer in the birthplace of minimalism—was the way Armani kept positioning his brand for a younger generation of Japanese consumers. Everything, right down to the way the handbags and small leather goods were displayed in the window of his new shop, was about luring these coveted new luxury aficionados into Armani's universe. All around the world, designers and luxury executives are jockeying to appeal to the millennial generation. (Gen Y, Nexters, Boomlets: call them what you want—they're the grownup babies of baby boomers.) From Burberry's advertising campaign featuring London It girls like Agyness Deyn to Karl Lagerfeld's recent Chanel Couture show starring the miniskirt and flats—a look only a 14-year-old could pull off on a good day—youth is being served. These millennials may not have 401(k) plans yet, but they have a serious appetite for luxury, and in many parts of the world, they represent a large majority of the population. In key markets in the Middle East, for example, about half the population is under 25. In the U.S., millennials represent the largest generation after the boomers.
In this special supplement to TIME magazine, we take an in-depth look at global millennial consumers, from thobe-wearing MTV producers in Dubai to Hermès Birkin-toting jewelry designers in Beijing. Suffice it to say, this generation doesn't feel that it needs to "earn" luxury. Yachts, vacation homes and tech gadgets are all on its proverbial "to do" list.