December 2, 2022 | OPINION | By Maddie Mollerus | Image by Katherine Beard

We’re no strangers to counterfeit luxury goods. Maybe you’ve seen a Chanel purse that says “Channel,” or maybe the logo on your friend’s new Gucci sweatshirt looks different than you remember. No matter the brand, style, or article of clothing, we’re all just trying to elevate our statuses with things that make us look like we have more money than we do. Nowadays, counterfeit designer goods have evolved to the point where their quality and finish competes with the real products, and even fool authenticators.

There was once a time when wearing obviously fake designer clothing gave you a bad rap, but since the fakes are so convincing now, many Gen-Z-ers and Millennials are now wearing them unabashedly. Among the increase of high-quality counterfeits is the Chinese website DHgate, a business-to-business marketplace of designer knockoffs.

The TikTok hashtag #DHgate has over three billion views of people watching creators show off what would be tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of designer clothing and bags–if they weren’t counterfeit. In a time where social media influencers have promoted consumerism and staying on top of trends, being stylish becomes expensive. Who can blame those who don’t want to bankrupt themselves to be trendy?

The counterfeit industry is often driven by demand and scarcity. Take the Hermès Birkin Bag: even if you are among the .5 percent of people who can afford one, you can’t get one without waiting for months or years on a list. So, what’s a person to do? Hit the counterfeit websites. Not only do the bags cost a fraction of the original price, but there are also styles and colors that would be unavailable to a non-celebrity person.

The New York Times recently wrote a piece about wealthy women in Manhattan who made it their side hustles buying, reselling, and displaying their fake Birkins. Some of the women even valued their fake Birkins more than their real ones. This demand for and scarcity of product has resulted in the counterfeit designer industry being worth an estimated whopping $400 billion to $600 billion by the U.S. Intellectual Property and Counterfeit Goods Office.

But there are some people who are less than pleased by the influx of fake goods. Influencers claim that it ruins luxury for those who have worked for it, as counterfeits erase

 the line between who can afford designer goods and those who can’t. When these fakes infiltrate the resale market, they might be bought by people who paid thousands of dollars thinking they were buying the real thing. Additionally, these fakes are robbing designers of their intellectual property and creativity.

I’m intrigued by DHgate and I’ll admit that I’m tempted to browse the website. While I don’t feel the need to wear designer clothes, I’m a sucker for designer bags, shoes, and accessories. It’s fun to have nice things sometimes, you know? But I grapple with a moral conundrum: on one hand, I could pay way less for a Louis Vuitton bag and still look high-end. But on the other hand, I would know it’s not a genuine, legitimate product. I wouldn’t have the feeling of being proud about a bag that had countless hours of design and work done to it. It wouldn’t be special.

If you’re now interested in buying a high-quality knockoff, I don’t blame you, but consider other options first. There are a ton of consignment stores that have designer clothing and accessories (my favorite one in downtown Colorado Springs is Redoux Consignment!). If you prefer to shop online, TheRealReal and Depop are my go-to sites and often have products that aren’t sold by the brand anymore. And remember, you don’t need designer brands to be trendy or fashionable—a large amount of confidence does wonders and is free.

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