They are not fakes, they are ‘dupes’: they appeal to those who say they are green

“Dupes” is short for “duplicates”. It indicates products that are cheap alternatives to the originals. Legally, they are not considered counterfeits. In practice, they are a green contradiction because those who buy them (along with the fakes) are the youngest consumers, those who say they are more sustainable than everyone else


The hashtag ‘dupes‘ is one of the most popular on social media. On TikTok, it has over 2.3 billion views. When used as a verb, it can mean ‘to deceive‘ or ‘to beguile‘. In reality, ‘dupes’ is short for ‘duplicates’ and is used to refer to products that are cheap alternatives to the originals. Legally, they are not considered counterfeits because they do not have the original trademark or logo. But they copy the shape and model and, in cosmetics, the composition. They are only illegal when they copy a patented product. As you can easily understand, however, they are anything but sustainable with the aggravating factor that they are particularly attractive to a class of consumers that claims to be very sensitive to being green: young people.

They are not forgeries, they are ‘dupes’

The borderline between ‘dupes’ and counterfeiting is well defined by law, but it is less clear-cut than in consumers’ perceptions. Be that as it may, dupes increase the desire to buy a non-original good. Feeding the displays of ‘dupes’ are the very young in search of cheaper alternatives to those offered by luxury brands that are unaffordable for their pockets. In February this year, a woven leather bag went viral on TikTok. At first glance, it looked like Bottega Veneta’s Jodie bag. Instead, it was a ‘dupe’ from retailer Anthropologie (like the one in the photo, taken from, as shown in a video by Tia Allen, a user who reviews fake or cheaper products, including information on how and where to find them.

Tracing the origins of the phenomenon

Going upstream to try to understand the origins of the phenomenon, we realise that Generation Z (especially) and Millennials say as much as they cannot buy sustainably. Quite simply: they cannot do it because their wallets do not allow them to. So they resort to buying ‘dupes’ and, more massively, fakes. Data and studies of various kinds prove this and unanimously lead to the same result.

The latest report by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) finds that the intentional purchase of counterfeit goods has increased. In 2021, 37% of young people confirmed that they had purchased at least one counterfeit product in the last 12 months. It was 14% in 2019.

Morally acceptable

In a study conducted by JUV Consulting on US Gen Z consumers (ages 13-25), BoF Insights found that the majority found it acceptable for others to buy counterfeit products. It gets worse: 54% of respondents think it is morally acceptable to buy and use fakes. Another survey commissioned by Earthtopia, TikTok’s eco-community, and carried out by Untold Insights (a digital research and strategy company) found that 96% of Generation Z and Millennials say the crisis is preventing them from making sustainable purchases.

Unsustainable sustainability

Professed sustainability is not sustainable for the wallet. Furthermore, it emerges that young people are disappointed by sustainable brands that do not offer affordable prices. In fact, 53% of respondents say they favour cheaper options over choosing an ecological and sustainable alternative. In the age of BeReal, where supposed authenticity reigns supreme, Gen Z has surprisingly few qualms about buying counterfeit goods. And they justify it.

Because while in the past, buying a fake product might have been a source of shame, now wearing a dupe means you have saved money and made an intelligent purchase. But buying it is neither sustainable nor ethical because it is either a counterfeit garment or a fast fashion product that has no problem copying small brands and designers. A world, the latter, which strives to offer excellent value for money, using quality materials and managing its labour fairly. Moral of the fairytale (which fairytale it is not): Gen Z is the ‘dupe’ of itself. It claims to be sustainability-conscious, but precisely because it does not want to go broke, it cannot make sustainable choices all the way.

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