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What if a brand asked you to exchange your dupes for original products?

How an unusual advertising initiative rewrote the rules of marketing

What if a brand asked you to exchange your dupes for original products? How an unusual advertising initiative rewrote the rules of marketing

Lululemon is one of the sportswear brands that has been most successful in the United States and Canada, particularly due to the popularity of its leggings. So much is the obsession of gymrats and the like with their clothing, that many, unwilling to spend a hundred euros on a pair of track trousers, have found cheaper alternatives, i.e. dupes, thus fuelling a huge imitation market. Videos and articles online report the best alternatives to their leggings, as on TikTok the hashtag #lululemondupe has almost 200 million views. This phenomenon could have become a rather serious problem for the brand's revenues, but the marketing team had a brilliant idea to exploit it in their favour.

@lululemon Trust us, no one is missing their dupes. Align Legging Dupe Swap is back tomorrow at Century City Mall in LA, while supplies last. #lululemonalign original sound - Ethan Palazzo

On the first weekend in May, Lululemon set up an event at its shop in the Century City Mall in Los Angeles called the Dupe Swap, encouraging customers of the much-acclaimed knockoffs - the most popular model being Align - to bring in their own dupe in exchange for original leggings. The collected trousers were recycled through a textile reuse company, while Lululemon items were distributed «until stocks lasted,» for two consecutive days. The idea was to engage the cultural conversation surrounding dupe culture, and to provide consumers with an opportunity to experience first-hand the superior quality of the brand's products, seasoning it with the popularity of giveaways. The event was a success, later dubbed as the marketing stunt of the year. Not only did Dupe Swap succeed in making Lululemon prevail against its competitors, but it also proved to be the perfect key to confirm the Lululemon brand in the common imagination as the original, and therefore the best. Leaning on the narrative that portrays other leggings as mere imitations, Lululemon's have secured a sort of lifetime guarantee for popularity, denigrating competitors with irony. «Trust us, no one is missing their dupes,» reads the brand's TikTok page.

The move was actually quite bold - brands usually tend not to acknowledge the existence of "dupes" except to sue their makers. Which is also an understandable mechanism. Yet Lululemon's initiative showed that in some cases it is irony that becomes the winning key. Surely, given the steady spread of the dupe trend in Gen Z but also the rise of so-called RepLadies on Reddit who go in search of replicas of the most famous luxury handbags, luxury brands will also have to address the issue of dupes presumably soon as the discourse on the dialectic of authenticity and forgery is set to take on a cultural status of its own and increasingly structured even if necessarily clandestine. It is also clear that the discourse of luxury goods is also accompanied by a notion of quality and exclusivity that is impossible to circumvent and that gives the entire luxury industry its current setting - in short, no fashion brand will ask you to exchange fake products for real ones. But in the concept executed by Lululemon is also hidden the valuable opportunity for luxury to study its own imitators without alienating potential customers who, after all, only want to be able to become real customers and more precisely counter the phenomenon of replicas - a mission in which the whole fashion industry has already spent considerable sums without really stemming the phenomenon. And in case irony can really help fashion combat the spread of replicas or imitations, is it possible that a laugh will bury the imitators?