You want to have that Le Hobo bag from Yves Saint Laurent stored in your wardrobe but hate to spend thousands of dollars on it? Worry not, Charles and Keith's Cesia bag should be a way safer alternative for your financial condition on looking trendy. Or maybe, that classic Celine Triomphe shoulder bag with a $2950 USD price tag? Fret not, since you can find Tory Burch's Eleanor Rectangular bag as an alternative, as well as Steve Madden's BGLOWING shoulder bag for Balenciaga Le Cagole's dupe. It doesn't stop there; Boohoo, SHEIN and AliExpress are also some of the biggest beneficiaries of dupe culture.
Spending less money on obvious knock-offs often inevitably leads to side eyes from people who are truly interested in designer items. However, buying and wearing "dupes" or "copies" from affordable luxury labels is considered an achievement that some people are proud of, especially for Gen Z. This generation is very much led by trends when it comes to fashion, as they are exposed to social media on a daily basis. The fascinating point about dupe products is that they are quite affordable in comparison to designer items' price. Thus, Gen Z finds this inexpensive dupe culture as the answer to their unstable financial situation.
We all know that fashion these days has slightly shifted from logomania to focus on design signatures. Thus, brands can be duplicated in more sophisticated ways. A little bit different but with the exact design cues. The less money we have to pay signifies that the quality of the dupes should be poor and not as sturdy as the ones they copied from. However, quality is rarely a consideration for the consumer since it's often just about finding an outfit to post on social media.
Unfortunately, unlike other creative disciplines such as music and art, fashion has limited legal protection against plagiarism and legal consequences for copying a design comes rarely. Just because there are no laws against dupes, it doesn't make them less problematic since there's still a huge impact on the brands being stolen from. As people prefer something that is less expensive, it can take sales from the original designer. If the brand is a large well-known one, it may not cause a huge impact. However, the smaller the brand, the more important each sale becomes.
Aside from plagiarism disputes, popular sources of dupes such as SHEIN is notorious for its lack of environmental and social responsibility. Annually, this popular e-commerce website produces around 700 million tonnes of CO2 and it is estimated to double by 2030. The CEO herself, Molly Miao, stated that the company releases between 700 and 1000 new items each day. The working conditions in these factories are also way more frightening than you can imagine. An investigation by the UK Channel 4 discovered that Shein's workers worked for 16 hours per day with one day off a month and wages of only around $572 USD per month.
To protect the brand from being dupes, they can develop multiple price points for different demographics which include affordable options for young customers-or should we say the Gen Z. One of the brands that now holds Gen Z in a clutch is Diesel. The brand creates pieces with recognisable logos that are very hard to replicate. Another alternative is a collaboration with mass-market retailers to help young consumers to connect with luxury brands. Take Uniqlo's collaboration with Marni for instance. There are a lot of consumers who may consider Marni's price points far from their ability. But with this collaboration, they can dip their toe into the aesthetic at affordable prices.
The latest H&M collaboration with Mugler is also a great example of resisting dupe culture. Even though there might be lower-quality materials, consumers don't have to go extra miles looking for dupes. By giving this accessible collaboration, it can help the consumer to be a part of the Mugler's community without having to spend thousands of dollars only for a pair of jeans.
In the broader context of dupe culture, there is an ongoing conflict between making fashion easily accessible and holding individuals accountable for their actions. Some people argue that it is unfair to assume that everyone can afford high-end designer clothing or always shop ethically, while others contend that environmental sustainability should take precedence over the issue of accessibility.
However, knowing that the fashion industry is driven by fast-going trends with the help of social media, it doesn't mean that you always have to acquire and update your wardrobe with either designer's collection or the dupes—considering that you also need to spend some amount of money for the latter. As with all interests, owning things should not be the goal of the hobby. Delving into the history and significance of some pieces you're interested in is also a legitimate form of appreciation. Trends move at a breakneck pace, and always following it is not a sustainable way of engaging with your interest. By knowing who you are and taking time to build a wardrobe that feels like "yourself", you can develop a greater relationship with fashion.(DIP/alm)