Lululemon’s approach to dupes is a lesson for other premium brands

Instead of ignoring dupes, Lululemon called attention to them, inviting shoppers to trade them for a new, genuine pair of Align leggings.
Elizabeth Lafontaine
Chief Retail Analyst, Retail Leader
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What it means: Brands are not just recognizing dupes of their popular items — they’re using them to their advantage to connect with consumers in new ways.


In the new normal of the retail industry, where short-form video content accelerates trend creation and adoption, product dupes are growing in importance. Dupes traditionally are modeled after a popular branded item and are usually sold at a fraction of the cost either through private labels or less expensive brands. The rise of dupes comes at a time when social media influence is high for consumers, and shoppers want to get the most value for their money.  As consumers continue to look toward value as a key factor in purchasing 2023, alternatives help consumers make the most of their discretionary income.

But, what does dupe culture signal to established and premium brands? To a premium brand, controlling the narrative around dupes and substitutions is important so alternatives don’t diminish the brand or product reputation. For many brands, now is the time to reintroduce the features and benefits of products to consumers in a welcoming way. Lululemon held an event at a Los Angeles mall in May that encouraged consumers to bring dupes of their popular Align legging to exchange it for a new pair. Align styles retail for just under $100, which is, in part, why dupes of the item have quickly sprouted up in the market. For premium brands, having a popular style almost guarantees that it will be knocked off, but usually brands are content to maintain separation. 

With Lululemon’s acknowledgement of its own success and limitations of access to many consumers, the swap provided a way to engage directly with shoppers and rewrite the brand story through a personalized approach. Many brands want to distance themselves from dupes, but Lululemon crafted a creative approach to build loyalty with current shoppers and potentially grab new consumers who were finally able to try the brand for the first time. Other brands and retailers, across sectors, can easily look to this model as a way to break down barriers between products and consumers.

What’s next: Brands and retailers need to look for ways to break down barriers of entry between consumers and premium items, where appropriate, to engage new shoppers and increase value for cost.