Gen Z is learning to save money… by spending it on counterfeits

Young consumers don’t seem to mind wearing knockoff luxury products.

counterfeit goods

Olivia Heller

What’s that phrase? Imitation is the sincerest form of… frugality?

TikTok data suggests that sentiment is now shared across Gen Z — and in a world where you can either buy a genuine Chanel flap bag for $10.2k (up from $4.4k in 2012), or a $55 “dupe” on Chinese site DHgate, can you blame them?

Counterfeits: The real deal

Last year, an EU survey found that 37% of 15- to 24-year-olds purchased at least one fake product in the prior year — mostly accessories, footwear, electronics, and cosmetics — up from 14% in 2019.

  • There was also a 6% jump in young shoppers who said they were influenced to make such a purchase.

Among the bogus-buying group, 48% said they did so because of price, 27% just didn’t give a damn about a product being fake, and 24% didn’t believe there was even a material difference from a genuine item.

Are you faux real?

Despite efforts to discourage counterfeit sales, TikTok appears to be the prime breeding ground for this behavior — and it happens to coincide with the platform’s expansion of its shopping functionality.

  • This month, The Guardian reported that nine out of the first 12 results for “perfume” in TikTok Shop appeared to be fake.

The younger generation’s buy-in to thrifting, bargain-hunting, and, uh, “frugal flexing,” is readily on display on TikTok, with hashtags #reps (often meaning “replicas”) and #bougieonabudget up to 1.9B and 473m views, respectively.

One faux pas: Not everyone is on board with this trend, based on the drama that ensued when a popular TikToker and Hermès enthusiast was accused of trying to resell fake Birkin handbags (which start at $9k and sometimes go for six figures). The accuser was The Fake Birkin Slayer, a burgeoning whistleblowing Instagram account.

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