For gen Z, dupes (aka, an item that has qualities or similarities to a designer item but doesn’t overtly copy logos or trademarked features) are the perfect answer to emulating a popular trend at half the price.
The very nature of fashion is to recreate—after all, without trend cycles and recurring motifs, there would be no progression. There is, however, a fine line between finding a good dupe and participating in creative plagiarism.
Industry expert Business of Fashion recently found that over a third of gen Zers are willing to buy fakes, despite being well-known as the cohort set upon striving for political transparency and authenticity. But, with the counterfeit goods market being worth up to $4.5 trillion, have we officially taken the dupe challenge too far?
Dupe culture has always been fuelled by social media. Younger users of TikTok in particular have circulated dupes for everything from skincare to makeup to designer knockoffs. And as dupes and fake products go viral, people become more accepting of knockoffs as opposed to feelings of shame and embarrassment. If everyone’s doing it, what’s the big deal? Influencers are even encouraged to promote dupes with financial incentives. So, with every click comes an influx of cash.
The rise of dupes challenges exclusivity within the industry and counteracts the class ceiling. Fundamentally, not everyone can afford luxury high-end goods, but everyone should still be entitled to reap the benefits, whether that be enjoying the confidence that comes with joining in on the latest trend or tackling problematic skin.
Dupes allow for greater accessibility among a younger demographic that is not privileged to a disposable income. And with the current cost of living crisis, it’s always nice to feel like you’re grabbing a luxury bargain—despite issues regarding validity.
Gen Zers are subject to constant influence, whether it be through social media marketing campaigns, viral fashion aesthetics, celebrity inspo or even music trends. There’s no doubt that fashion and music operate symbiotically, and when an artist references a brand in their lyrics, sales and popularity skyrocket.
Beyoncé divided the fashion community when she sang: “This Telfar bag imported, Birkins, them shits in storage.” Meanwhile, 2 Chainz “walked out of Louis looking like a Virgil discount.” Flexing designer purchases signals status, particularly in the hip-hop and rap Genres.
However, there are also a number of musicians who’ve been seduced by the duping method. British-Nigerian grime artist, Skepta, recently shared his thoughts on the matter, declaring on Instagram that he’s been “flexing fake Gucci since 2017. It’s gotta be fresh out the market… the faker the better.”
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Despite his polarising view on fake luxury goods, Skepta’s remained a favourite in luxury fashion circles. Working with houses like Dior, Diesel and of course Louis Vuitton, the grime artist has been praised for his street style.
Stepping out from behind the decks, Skepta also paid an emotional tribute to his late friend and collaborator Virgil Abloh, who up until his passing in 2021 was the creative director at Louis Vuitton. With Skepta’s acceptance from the fashion industry, despite promoting Fucci, could Fior, Fada and fan favourite, Dolce and Banana be on the horizon for the musician?
Depop sellers are also jumping on the bandwagon, selling fake designer goods under the guise of “bootleg fashion.” The term bootleg implies a product that is made and sold illegally, but in contrast to straight-up fakes, there is a level of creative interpretation and aim to disrupt the hierarchy in luxury fashion. It’s definitely a facet of fashion that’s been highly divisive.
In the Depop sphere, bootleg predominantly includes monogrammed designer products that fit Y2K aesthetics. Even the Depop girlies aren’t ashamed of sporting a fake, if anything, they’re ready to embrace it wholeheartedly.
With the help of trend forecasters, fast fashion brands can produce designer replicas before they’ve even stepped off the runway. What impact, however, is this having on the designers themselves? Dupes completely dismiss the creativity and hard work of the initial creator, allowing for fashion plagiarism to be normalised. For up-and-coming designers that rely on their products going viral, duping can be highly detrimental.
Marie Dewet, founder of French label MaisonCléo, has spoken out about the impact dupe culture has had on their business. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Dewet explained: “As a designer you put all your heart into your brand, so it really affects and hurts you. I was angry.” The designer also recalled catching a major fast fashion brand purchasing a product with the sole intent of analysing the build through deconstruction in order to produce an almost replica.
In comparison to fast fashion competitors, brands like MaisonCléo are advocates for sustainability and pride themselves on using deadstock fabrics. Startups have minimal legal protection making the companies financially vulnerable.
As dupes have increased in popularity, gen Zers have been criticised for their hypocrisy. As a sustainable cohort, we’ve been previously praised for our commitment to brand authenticity, ethical methods and transparency. Duping and fake goods have an undeniable link to fast fashion, a level of the fashion market that is synonymous with exploiting low-paid workers while also being incredibly harmful to the environment.
So, are gen Z desensitised to their values as and when it suits them? Or can we create a version of dupe culture that allows for evolution in fashion rather than producing identical clones?
Ballet has pirouetted back to the fashion world’s centre stage. Pale pink leg warmers, satin ballet slippers and dusty grey trousers are just a few staple pieces you’ve probably seen so far this season, signalling the shift from grunge to graceful. With balletcore being the easy, breezy it girl style as of late, it’s no surprise that Bella Hadid has been the poster girl for the trend.
Luckily, even if you aren’t a former dancer (or an off-duty model), you can embrace the trend too. It’s surprisingly more versatile and comfy than you might think. Ready to infuse your wardrobe with French girl flair, or maybe just want an outfit you can (attempt to) plié in? We’ve got you covered. Below, shop similar pieces from Miss Bella’s ballet-inspired wardrobe.
Can’t get enough of monochrome ensembles? Then you’ll love this balletcore outfit sported by the youngest Hadid sister. Simply pair baggy workwear trousers (pro tip: size up so you can roll the waist) with a sweet lace-detailed tank top and a simple short-sleeve bolero. Oh, and don’t forget to complete your look with classic black loafers and a can of Kin Euphorics, of course.
Balletcore doesn’t always have to mean leotards and tights à la the no-pants trend. Want to look chic while still feeling comfy? Take a note from Hadid’s slouchy ensemble. She styles the simple Wardrobe.NYC X Hailey Bieber sweatsuit with a matching headband, and adds a touch of personality through her accessories (hello, bedazzled sunglasses and tie-dye Chanel messenger bag).
The true star of this ballet-inspired look though has to be the pink satin flats which peak out under her sweats. Don’t want to splash out on this exact co-ord? Opt for an equally minimalist set from Arket for a fraction of the cost.
Going for a more refined outfit, as opposed to the slightly rougher ballet grunge? This next ensemble from Miss Hadid hits all the right notes. The model pairs this striped boatneck dress (vintage Chanel, of course) with simple white leg warmers and a pair of blue Miu Miu kitten heels. Looking this cute doesn’t have to cost a small fortune though. Instead, shop our more affordable picks below to achieve the same ‘je ne sais quoi’ without hurting your purse.
Next up, we have a quintessential balletsleaze look you’re sure to have heart eyes for. As Miss Bella demonstrates, this outfit is comfy enough to catch a flight in, but it could also easily double for your Sunday morning pilates class, or for simply lounging around at home. Get the look by throwing on a matching tank top and leggings set, your favourite oversized zip-up hoodie and a beanie. Then finish it off with leg warmers and ballet flats for a touch of off-duty ballerina flair.
And finally, want to add a pop of colour to your balletcore fit? Follow Hadid’s lead. Here, the supermodel wears a cropped cardigan, a purple baby tee (with matching slouchy socks), a red corduroy midi skirt, all complemented by a stunning set of white satin ballet pumps. Make the look your own by incorporating your favourite textures and hues. And, then, to complete the ensemble, balance out the outfit with a neutral statement piece.