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Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Dupe Culture

Nov 02, 2023

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Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Dupe Culture

Ecommerce in 2023 has us all seeing double. And, no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. 

As of this year, we’ve reached the depths of dupe culture, with ecommerce stores such as Temu, DHgate and Aliexpress – just to name a few – offering mirror image alternatives to the world’s most beloved luxury and premium items. 

But Gen Z’s rebranding of dupe culture via social media is nothing new. 

All of us have known that one friend who tried their hand at selling knockoff fragrances by telling you “they smell just like the real thing”, but in reality they didn’t. Or tried to tell you that the fake Louis Vuitton bags sold at Dagenham market with the not-quite-right logo were genuine. The likelihood is that we still bought these anyway because we didn’t have hundreds of pounds to spend on the real thing.

Moreover, the nature of the fashion industry itself has always involved reinventing popular trends and themes from the past and the beauty industry is constantly pumping out the same product, just with different packaging.

@demingai

Replying to @Catsrulealways9 the way these temu dupes are almost copy and paste version of the real OG makeup ??‍?? #makeupchallenge

♬ original sound – Demi

@demingai

Idk the packaging of these dupes may look like the real OG makeup, but not sure about the actual formula ??? #makeupchallenge

♬ original sound – Demi

So what makes today’s dupe culture different from past decades? 

Pride. 

While dupe influencers on social media are just the latest reiteration of the bargain-hunting tradition, what’s missing is the hush that once came with owning a knockoff. Instead, there is now an overarching sense of pride that comes with embracing a fake. 

As well as this, the production speed and precision of modern day dupes are also a defining factor. The aim of dupes, today, is to not only to similarly recreate a product, but to create its mirror image. Today, companies like Shein can see a look and whip it up into production in less than a week, paying great attention to colour, fabric and details to fool consumers into believing it’s the real thing at first glance. 

The bottom line is that duping has become an art and dupe influencers the artists.

But is this newly-revived dupe culture all it’s cracked up to be? How should the brands being duped respond?

THE DUPE FACTOR

To better understand modern dupe culture, we must first understand why its popularity has soared to heights never reached before; particularly among Gen Z.

While nearly ⅓ of adults have intentionally purchased a dupe of a premium product at some point, roughly 49% of Gen Z and 44% of Millennials have done the same. We could circle this back to the notion that young adults pridefully embrace owning a dupe, but it also has a lot more to do with the nature of online shopping today. 

With social media influencers being able to sell pretty much anything and Gen Zers not having as much disposable income to spend on high-end items, purchasing dupes of premium products online is the perfect way for consumers to test items before splurging on the real thing. 

But do they even want the real thing?

Oftentimes duped items are just as good as their original predecessors, selling both versions out instantly. Think E.L.F. ‘s Halo Glow Liquid Filter being an exact copy of the famed Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter illuminator. Both products do exactly the same job – some might argue E.L.F has the upper hand here – allowing customers to choose where they wish to spend their money. 

@theoliviasaurusrex

finally comparing the lightest shade of @Charlotte Tilbury flawless filter & @elfyeah halo glow ☺️. the elf one is definitely more orange and thicker in consistency but far more affordable than the flawless filter! what do you think? ☺️ #flawlessfilter #charlottetilbury #charlottetilburydupe #charlottetilburyflawlessfilter #elf #elfhaloglow #elfhaloglowliquidfilter #ctilburymakeup #paleskin #paleskinmakeup #palegirl #palegirls #fairskin #fairskinmakeup #flawlessfilterdupe #glowyskin #dewyskin #primer #flawlessfiltercharlottetilbury #haloglow #haloglowliquidfilter #radiantskin #glowymakeup

♬ original sound – olivia ancell

When it comes to products like E.L.F.‘s Halo Glow, it’s easy to get drawn into dupe culture. Even more so if you’re someone with a tight budget and FOMO. Ultimately, the creation and selling of these mirror image products can benefit a consumer’s finances and stance in society if they’re seen with the latest clothes or beauty products. No one will ever question their authenticity. 

But what benefits are there for brands? Are there even any?

HOW DOES DUPE CULTURE AFFECT THE BRANDS BEING TARGETED?

As previously mentioned, undetectable dupes can lead to instant sales for both the original and knockoff. Everyone’s a winner!

But does this make duping acceptable?

Fashion law is murky at the best of times, but this shouldn’t be an invitation for giants like DHgate or Shein to take advantage of others’ creations. 

Blogilates Founder, CEO and Head Designer, Cassey Ho, recently fell victim to Shein’s speedy duping machine for the second time. Taking to Instagram to document her stolen designs, Ho describes her experience as “unethical”, “pathetic” and “disgusting”. 

dupe culture effectsShein steals Blogilates designsdupe culture effects

It’s one thing knocking off a retail giant such as Lululemon or Ugg, but it’s another stealing from smaller labels and independent brands who rely on making sales to fund their livelihoods.

Fast fashion like this also speaks to the unethical, exploitative side of dupe culture. According to @highsnobiety, Shein adds 1000 new styles to its catalogue every day, with no sustainability initiatives or transparency surrounding the ability to do so. But why should this matter when the company has quadrupled its revenue over the past three years thanks to stealing from designers like Cassey Ho and Kimberly Gordon.

While we don’t condone the actions of the likes of DHgate, Temu, Shein etc, we cannot place the blame entirely on them. Sometimes these things happen on your own turf.

Matilda Djerf’s clothing label, Djerf Avenue, has recently been caught in the hot waters of dupe culture for copyright-striking multiple small TikTok creator accounts for posting more affordable alternatives to Djerf Avenue’s products. 

The irony? Djerf Avenue seems to be built entirely on duping other brands that Matilda herself has worn and loved in the past.

Fans of Djerf claim that “it’s sad to see someone who used to post very frequently about designer dupes that they were wearing now doing this to other creators”. Djerf and her team have since refused to comment on the matter, but we’ll gladly take the silence as acknowledgement for such a heinous fashion crime. 

WHAT CAN BRANDS DO TO AVOID BEING DUPED?

Unfortunately, dupe culture is here to stay all the while disposable incomes are low and dupes themselves offer such quality and precision. 

As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.

This is exactly the attitude Olaplex – one of the world’s most dupe’able hair care brands – has adopted with its latest marketing campaign ‘Oladupé’. 

@alysialoo

The truth is, OLAPLEX is impossible to dupe. Get 20% off on OLAPLEX.com with code UNDUPABLE through October 31st, 2023? #OLAPLEX #OLADUPE #OLAPLEXdupe @olaplex #ad

♬ original sound – alysialoo

Recruiting 100 earned and paid influencers, Olaplex launched an entire campaign around a fictitious product to tease how often the brand is duped on TikTok. A few days later, the truth was revealed through additional influencer content – along with a video shared on both the brand’s TikTok and Instagram account – stating that nobody can copy the brand’s “patents, ingredients or bond-building technology”. 

By the end of the Oladupé campaign, the brand had received 20.1M impressions and 24M views of the hashtag #Oladupe. 

How’s that for taking back the reins?

Of course, not every brand has the budget or even the desire to want to snap back at the negative effects of today’s dupe culture. And that’s okay. 

Ultimately, it comes down to consumers being aware that not everything they see online is real and ethical. There’s a wider discussion at play surrounding the recognition of legitimate content and ecommerce sales, as well as the understanding of the detrimental effects of fast fashion and extremely low prices for typically expensive products. However, until this day comes, there will always be a clear battle between accessibility vs. accountability. For now, purchasing duped premium products is a personal decision for consumers who should make an assessment of what is best or financially feasible for them. 

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Author

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Ella Proctor

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