“Dupe Culture” and its devastating effects on consumerism


Twenty years ago wearing any form of knock-off clothing would be considered embarrassing; However,  since Gen Z has started popularising the word “dupe” the stigma surrounding the practice has faded and, as a result, more and more people are participating in ‘dupe culture’. The question is: should we be promoting this idea in the first place?

The success of ‘dupes’

At first glance, buying cheap dupes on Amazon or alternative sites, like Shein, helps make fashion more accessible, but in reality, it promotes overconsumption. For example, when new trends surface we have access to cheap clothes with the click of a button from the comfort of our home. And this almost damaging amount of accessibility in addition to the sheer price of dupes removes a lot of the cognitive thought process that usually takes place when one goes shopping.

As shopping becomes progressively less of a financial decision, buying a dupe that costs €20 versus an original that costs €100 seems to be a no-brainer. Therefore people tend to buy more clothes with little thought behind if it is an item that they truly like and will wear or if the main incentive for the purchase is the price.

This is a slippery slope as cheap prices become one of the main reasons behind overconsumption. Then the life cycle of trends comes in, with social media they don’t last as long and the process of new trends coming in and people buying a lot of dupes becomes a vicious cycle. Trend cycles used to last anywhere up to five years but now, they can be as short as a month. Because the “trendy” clothing items are changing so quickly and people feel the need to keep up, we are constantly buying new clothes in an attempt to adhere to the next big trend.

From the outside it seems like you are saving money as dupes are cheaper, however, people tend to buy more products resulting in an equal or higher balance than if you bought the pricier (some might say original) version of the product. While some people may dismiss that as the amount of clothing they received is greater, more often than not dupes are much lower quality, in order to account for the low price., meaning they will not last as long as their more expensive counterparts.

Ultimately, the price per wear will be higher for a dupe than the original. So not only can you end up spending more money as you buy more products but their lifetime will also be much shorter. 

The legal pitfalls of dupes

Overconsumption and spending are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ethics behind dupes. Many small brands are getting their original designs stolen by larger corporations. For instance, according to NPR, a Black-owned fashion brand, Elexiay said that Shein copied their “Amelia top”, a sweater that is handmade in Nigeria that costs $330 but  Shein is selling a replica for $17. This is not a unique situation, Sincerely RIA along with many other small brands have reported similar issues.

Large businesses blatantly stealing original designs from smaller creators is a huge issue in the fashion industry because not only are they taking credit for the designs but they are also taking money out of their pockets when, as a smaller business, every euro is important. 

Another consequence of larger brands copying designs with cheaper fabrics is that they do not last as long. Therefore, if consumers go to donate their clothes, they are oftentimes not distributed because of poor quality and condition.

Final thoughts

Overall, it is important to think about the consequences of purchasing dupes, and how it can affect businesses but also how it can influence you to unintentionally spend more money on clothing that will not last as long.

All this being said, I recognize this is not a luxury everyone can afford and in these cases, dupes can be a positive force in the fashion industry, but it is still incredibly important to be more thoughtful about what pieces you are buying to prevent overconsumption. 

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