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How Dupes Took Over TikTok

Amazon deals. Costco finds. TikTok has the plug for cheap sartorial alternatives

Dupes are taking over TikTok. A dupe is a nearly identical product that works (or looks) the same, but can be found at a cheaper price point. With luxury products out of the price range for Gen Zers, many are turning to less-prestigious brands — and finding the same garments work just as well. 

Have you heard about the Lululemon leggings? This popular athleisure can retail up to $128, but womenswear influencers on TikTok have found dupes for much cheaper. Like the Colorfulkoala biker shorts, leggings that sell for $30.

Across the app, there are endless dupes like these. They largely live under the hashtags #Dupes, #AmazonFinds and #CostcoFinds (MEL readers know we stan Kirkland Signature apparel). You can also find dupes under #DHGate, which is a reference to the Chinese e-commerce site known for selling knockoffs and wholesale items. 

Here’s what you should know about the trend before you start shopping.

A dupe and a counterfeit item aren’t the same thing

There’s a fine line between a dupe and a counterfeit commodity, and this hasn’t always been clear to many of the young style and beauty influencers on the app. Often, TikTokers will refer to replicas of Gucci boots or Louis Vuitton handbags they hawked for cheaper, “off-brand” alternatives. 

Several of the top posts under the #Dupe hashtag are knockoff luxury items with the logos still intact, like Cartier rings and Gucci belts. But a fake Louis Vuitton handbag isn’t a dupe. It’s likely counterfeit and often trademark infringement. 

Still, Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute, told CNBC it’s unlikely TikTok or its users would be held liable for promoting counterfeit products. “When it comes to suing hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals on TikTok, it’s unlikely,” she said.

Luxury brands are freaking out

The dupe community is large, and most of these users avoid counterfeit products. Instead, they’re showing you how to get the best Amazon or Five Below deals and stick it to Urban Outfitters and Glossier.

Spilling secrets about the best dupes isn’t unique to TikTok. When it comes to these commerce hacks, I think about my grandparents sharing which grocery store had cheaper produce that week. These days, Tumblr, YouTube and Facebook have all fostered lively communities for dupe obsessives over the years. TikTok, where it’s easy for regular people to go viral, simply amplifies an already popular community.

The fanfare is alarming luxury brands who don’t want to see their counterfeit or dupe products replace their expensive, trendy items. So they’re coming to TikTok too. Last year, Tory Burch, Alice + Olivia and Missoni all joined TikTok. They’ve also partnered with top female influencers on the app, such as Addison Rae, Charli D’Amelio and Larsen Thompson. 

What to do about the dupes? Well, they’re not going anywhere, and it would likely behoove luxury brands to let them thrive. As Jess Bedussi, associate director of social strategy at the ad agency Muhtayzik Hoffer, told Glossy, “Brands can’t just attack people and sweep away all the dupes. They need to focus on building their own brand and awareness, put out organic content, and partner with influencers to show how high quality and great the product is. Build brand affinity and awareness.”