Lulu throws dupes for a loop

Want to get a free pair of Lululemon leggings? You just have to buy a fake pair first.  

Driving the news: Last weekend, Canadian athleisure leader Lululemon held a swap event in LA where people could trade in copycats of Lulu’s popular Align Pants for the real deal. The company also has swaps planned in other influencer hubs like London and Seoul.

Why it’s happening? Lululemon is trying to combat the growing TikTok trend where influencers hawk dupes—simply the TikTok-ese word for knockoffs—to their followers. 

  • Videos using #dupe have accrued over 3.5 billion views on TikTok. Lululemon is one of the most duped brands, with #lululemondupe videos racking up 180 million views.

  • By leaning into the fact that dupes are wildly popular, Lulu is betting on the belief that knockoffs can actually raise the profile of the genuine article. 

Yes, but: The strategy might not work in the “Era of Fake Products.” While finding cheap alternatives to high-end name-brand items is as old as consumerism itself, the difference today is that getting spotted with a knockoff isn’t embarrassing, it’s actually kinda cool.

  • Unlike counterfeit Chanel bags, dupes don’t have fake logos. To certain Gen Z’ers interested in anti-consumerism, Recession Core, or de-influencing, this makes owning a dupe “a flex,” one marketing professor told CNN Business.

Why it matters: While TikTokers will claim dupes are like liiiiterally the exact same as the products they’re copying, that’s often not the case. While dupes can be high quality, many are less durable than the OGs and make their way to landfills quicker, meaning consumers don’t actually save money, and the worst parts of fast fashion are exacerbated.—QH