Amazon dupes—you know them, and you probably love them. But they are also ruining the environment, small businesses, and sustainable companies.
If you happen to not know what an "Amazon dupe" is, it is a copycat product that is produced and sold for cheap on Amazon. It copies a piece of clothing, an accessory, or what have you from the original designer, but for a reduced price. For many buyers, it makes sense to save on such items because they're seen as a "steal," while also keeping up with fashion trends. However, these sellers are able to achieve such low prices through exploitative labor practices such as child labor, sweatshops, underpaid workers in poor working conditions, and the list goes on. That’s not to say non-dupe brands don’t also use exploitative labor practices, but Amazon and Shein dupes create a whole new arena for such conditions.
The implications of dupes go beyond compromising labor practices; they extend to small businesses that originally designed the products being plagiarized. In this way, their integrity is being disrespected and their originality is being compromised. The quality and design are being poorly recreated, so we may assume the original designer to produce poor-quality products. The Amazon dupes, in their cheap nature, tend to profit off of the products rather than the original designer. These original designers deserve to reap the benefits of their designs and ethical behavior. Sustainable companies, such as Patagonia and Reformation, are also losing out to the Amazon dupe trends. Such companies are putting in the funds, effort, technology, knowledge, research and development, and resources into creating environmentally friendly and sustainable clothing items, while their designs are being copied without their knowledge and sold for cheap.
Heavily fueled by TikTok, this dupe trend has consequently created an obsession among users of finding dupes for anything and everything possible. TikTok’s power and influence have been previously established. It ranges anywhere from BookTok, food recipes, celebrity drama, and, to my point, fashion. Over time, the fashion seasons have multiplied and become more compressed. Gone are the times of four fashion seasons that align with fall, winter, spring, and summer. Now, Shein has ramped up to adding 6,000 new styles every day. Because of this extreme overproduction and marketing, micro-trends are replacing fashion seasons due to trend obsessions. These micro-trends also heavily contribute to the overconsumption of clothing. As soon as you get a piece of clothing, it goes out of fashion.
Last week’s trend is this week’s trash.
Everyone is chasing after a certain look or aesthetic that only stays relevant for a week. It gets to the point that people aren’t even purchasing clothes they like or that are unique to them; they’re just following the masses in a detached manner. Everyone seems to be a carbon copy of each other, with the same clothes and accessories. Every trend is basic, no one has a unique style or is original. TikTok drives these sentiments and micro-trends, so people become reliant on the app to find the newest trend and item they need to get their hands on.
This mindset and overconsumption cause clothing to become disposable. If it’s no longer in style, it can’t be worn again unless you want to be considered "cheugy" or behind the trends. Our capitalistic society also fuels this fire. Producers are money-hungry, and consumers are more willing to spend $5 on 10+ shirts from Shein. People are willing to buy heaps of these lower-quality clothes rather than a single shirt or a pair of pants from a more sustainable brand for a similar price in the end.
Platforms like TikTok thrive in such an environment, with the ease of linking an Amazon Storefront to their account. Amazon storefronts are a way for social media influencers to create an "online store," or compilation of items, within Amazon that is linked to their account. By doing this, it allows influencers to make money off of items that are purchased through their storefronts—often dupe items. These storefronts may also be misleading because the influencer might not even own the items they are linking to, and it creates another level of fictitious style or aesthetic for people to pine for. There needs to be a shift in this climate of overconsumption.
While I can’t say I am not involved with TikTok micro-trends, I consciously avoid Amazon and Shein because of their unethically produced goods. It is important to take a critical look at how you consume goods, where they are coming from, and the production cycle. While it is definitely important for goods to be affordable and accessible to all, Amazon dupes are not the only way. There are alternatives, such as thrifting and/or opting out of some trends (as they inevitably go out of style in the blink of an eye).
It is also important to find your own unique style that makes you feel confident and expresses yourself. Consider your values and which original designers you want to support. Supporting sustainable companies over Amazon or Shein will also improve your carbon footprint. Fashion is a meaningful form of self-expression, but it is also important to consider that the industry has an immense impact on the planet as a polluter.
So, your individual decisions can make a difference, and changing attitudes towards fashion and trends is vital in saving our earth.