In February of this year, a woven leather bag went viral on TikTok. Featuring a knotted handle and familiar weaving technique of impeccable construction, it should have been the Jodie bag designed by Bottega Veneta. Instead it was a ‘dupe’ by high street retailer Anthropologie, as shown in a video by Tia Allen.
‘Dupes’ has become a popular hashtag on TikTok, garnering over 2.3 billion views. Short for duplicate, the term is commonplace amongst thrift shoppers, who on TikTok offer affordable beauty and fashion alternatives to luxury brand products.
In many videos, users are touting Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga garments, accessories and even shoes, but rarely are they genuine. Young shoppers are prompting a rise in counterfeit consumption, being subjected to luxury’s vast marketing prowess, but are unable to afford the goods. Like Tia Allen, users review fake or cheaper look-alike products and information about where to find them.
On Instagram, the account @dupethat has 1.2 million followers, and similarly offers bargain beauty news, reviews and information where to purchase affordable dupes.
As the fashion industry continues to evolve, so too does the market for replicas. Young shoppers, in particular, have become more accepting of purchasing counterfeits. While buying fake luxury goods was once seen as taboo, it has become increasingly normalised in recent years.
Why are young shoppers ok with purchasing counterfeit goods?
One reason is the affordability of these items. Designer brands are often priced beyond the reach of many young shoppers, making counterfeit alternatives an attractive option. Young consumers want to look fashionable and trendy, but may lack the disposable income to do so. Counterfeit goods offer an affordable way for them to emulate their favourite celebrities or influencers.
A spokesperson for TikTok told the Financial Times: “Our community guidelines are clear that we do not allow content that facilitates the sale of counterfeit goods. We take the protection of intellectual property very seriously, and creators found to be selling counterfeit products on our platform may be removed.”
But the issue of intellectual property is only one side of the problem. A report released last year by the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) finds that the intentional purchase of counterfeit goods has increased, with 37 percent of young people confirming that they bought at least one fake product in the last 12 months (up from 14 percent in 2019). Where the sharing of information in the digital age has created entire communities, the legal consequences may not be understood, especially by younger audiences.
Furthermore, the integrity of luxury brands advertising to capture younger generations to buy their products is not entirely innocent. Young consumers are the lifeblood of beauty and fashion industry, making the teenage consumer market vital to capturing sales and relationships. A young teenager, living at home and just entering high school, could easily be lured by the desire to buy a replica Chanel bag, when the genuine item costing 7,000 euros is far out of reach.
Yet with so many counterfeiters making fake goods in countries like China, tracing the origin is almost impossible.
As for the affordable versions adopted by retailers such as Zara and Anthropologie, they continue to tap into the aspirational appeal of luxury brands, making their products the best alternative to genuine luxury.