Lululemon adopts unconventional approach to cope with knock-off ‘dupes’ flooding the market

Lululemon organized a dupe swap in Los Angeles this past weekend.
Lululemon organised a dupe swap in Los Angeles as it sought to convince consumers the real deal is worth its price.
Budrul Chukrut—SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cult athleisure brand Lululemon adopted an unconventional approach to combatting a trend towards cheap knockoffs proliferating especially among Gen Z consumers.

Armed with a smartphone that can locate and purchase virtually anything in the world in just a few clicks, the digitally native generation is quick to track down and buy up duplicates, or “dupes” of unaffordable premium and luxury goods that rob their manufacturers of potential sales and dilute their brand. 

To try and mitigate this growing problem, Lululemon hosted this past weekend the “Align Legging Dupe Swap” at the Westfield Century City Mall in Los Angeles.

Their store gave away one free pair of black Align High Rise Pant 25” that can retail for $118 each to anyone that walked in wearing a dupe of their signature leggings. 

“We thought it would be a really fun exercise to play into the cultural context of dupes,” Nikki Neuburger, the chief brand officer of Lululemon, told Women’s Wear Daily.“The feel and quality of the Align pant can not be matched. If you’ve worn one, you would know, and if you haven’t, that’s why we’re doing the dupe swap.”

Intellectual property theft is one of the biggest threats for any consumer goods brand.

German sportswear giant Adidas, for instance, zealously enforces its trademark whenever it spots anyone manufacturing clothes featuring three stripes for trademark violation. It doesn’t even stop at clothes—it even went after Black Lives Matter over their logo.

This exaggerated attempt to protect the value of one’s IP might also explain why the stigma once attached to wearing counterfeit branded products or even cheap knockoffs nowadays seems to be fading away, particularly among members of the youngest demographic. 

This represents a growing threat to the economy, in particular in those markets that depend heavily on the strength of their luxury brands like Europe.

Rising demand for fakes

A survey conducted last June by the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office found that 37% of young people bought one or several fake products intentionally, a significant increase over the previous result of 14% in 2019. 

Respondents cited various reasons for their decision, whether it be a lower price, the ease of finding and ordering fake products or perceiving little difference between an original and a fake. 

One in 10 even mentioned the idea came from recommendations by influencers on social media, where more apps are integrating storefronts that facilitate ordering one from popular Chinese internet retailers like DHGate and AliExpress. 

For example, TikTok has more than 3.5 billion views for videos cataloged with the hashtag #dupe.

EUIPO executive director Christian Archambeau called the survey’s recorded increase “a worrying trend” given the ever-growing number of products sold via the Internet. 

“Although the survey’s respondents still see price as a main driver towards piracy or counterfeiting, the importance of social influences, such as the behaviors of family, friends and people around them, is notably gaining ground,” he said in the report.

Lululemon already has similar dupe swap events planned for London, Shanghai and Seoul.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationInflationSupply ChainsLeadership