An influencer has sparked a debate over the ethics of promoting replicas on TikTok after her team asked the platform to remove videos featuring dupes – duplicates of branded products – of fruit-print pajamas from her brand.
Matilda Djerf has been a fashion influencer for almost a decade and when she launched her brand Djerf Avenue in 2019, she gave her fans the opportunity to shop directly for her lifestyle. But over the past month, some fans have soured on Djerf, after small creators said his company removed their videos mentioning dupes from his clothing line, citing copyright infringement.
Dupes generally sell for more affordable prices than the originals. Although dupes have been around for years, dupe videos have gained popularity on TikTok in recent months, sparking debate about purchasing low-quality copies. Dupes may be more accessible to consumers on smaller budgets, but some critics believe they encourage design theft and contribute to fast fashion waste.
Some experts, including fashion designers, say it is difficult to enforce intellectual property and copyright laws in the fashion industry, even for big designer houses. Djerf’s designs are also similar to and inspired by other brands’ pieces in his own wardrobe, critics argued, making the copyright strikes seem “hypocritical.”
Several TikTok creators posted videos this month announcing that their videos mentioning Djerf Avenue pajama dupes had been removed. Two creators said the Djerf Avenue team took down their videos praising original clothing over dupes, sparking outrage toward Djerf and his team.
Critics say Djerf’s team was wrong to punish small influencers, rather than manufacturers, for their dupes. Many people were shocked that uploading videos featuring dupes, which are a popular genre of TikTok content, was allowed. The hashtag #djerfavenuedrama on TikTok has garnered 1.5 million views.
“It’s scary that they can do this,” one commenter said under a video of the incident.
A representative for Djerf Avenue said the company had recently seen a “surge” in the number of websites selling items bearing its branded prints. It has an external intellectual property company that monitors cases of copyright infringement.
The intellectual property company “inadvertently impacted individual accounts,” the representative said in an emailed statement.
“We quickly directed our intellectual property firm to stop reporting from individual accounts and focus on third-party sellers of these items. Instead of reporting individual accounts, we will contact the responsible party behind the accounts when we detect suspicious pirate copies and engage with the content creator. »
TikTok’s Community Guidelines prohibit “posting, sharing, or sending any content that violates or infringes on someone else’s copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights.”
Djerf Avenue posted a similar statement on his Instagram story on October 7, but that didn’t stop the backlash. Djerf briefly deactivated his personal TikTok account due to the controversy and has not publicly responded to the criticism. The strikes fueled further criticism of Djerf and her brand, with some people saying she sold overpriced basics and alienated fans who wanted to emulate her style on a limited budget.
“It kind of galvanized her community and made them want to buy these dupes, in defiance of what they saw as unnecessary copyright infringements,” Mosha Lundström Halbert, fashion journalist and host of the podcast “Newsfash”, who made a TikTok about Djerf. Avenue, said in an interview.
Lundström Halbert said targeting members of the Djerf community, rather than the producers of the dupes, was “biting the hand that feeds you”.
“You want to inspire people to be inspired by your style, but you want to direct that inspiration-only traffic funnel directly to your own channels and your own site,” Lundström Halbert said. “But the problem with the Internet is you can’t really do that.”
Lundström Halbert said that the fruit print of the Djerf Avenue pajamas is not particularly original, so any slight variation in the dupes’ prints would make it difficult to enforce a trademark claim. She added that enforcing intellectual property and copyright laws in the fashion industry is difficult, even for big designer houses. She said attempting to do so on TikTok, where there is a large community around Amazon dupes, backfired on Djerf Avenue and only made people more aware of the replicas.
While the strikes sparked a lot of negative reactions, some people defended Djerf’s team on TikTok.
Lucinda Pikkat, a content creator and public relations consultant, said in a TikTok that Djerf didn’t deserve the backlash she was receiving. She praised Djerf for taking a stand against copying his designs.
“This is basically a knock-off of their product, and I don’t think that’s fair or just to any company,” Pikkat said in an interview.
While she doesn’t think copyright strikes are the best public relations move, Pikkat said much of the criticism of Djerf and her brand has overlooked the issue of design theft. She said Djerf understands that people take inspiration from influencers like her. But there’s a difference between taking inspiration from someone and stealing their work, she says.
“People are taking advantage of the Matilda brand by showing in a TikTok that they found a dupe,” Pikkat said. She added that it could be “frustrating” for Djerf to see others taking advantage of her.
Lundström Halbert said the incident raised the question of who was responsible for the proliferation of counterfeits. She said some brand influencers, like Djerf, have unrealistic expectations when it comes to imitation.
“If you are an influencer, by nature you try to persuade people to be like you in different ways, which will encourage copying,” Lundström Halbert said. “If she’s trying to inspire other people to aspire to her lifestyle, the problem with that aspiration is that not everyone can afford it.”
The culture of cheating is not new and will not end anytime soon. Lundström Halbert said it was a problem in many industries beyond fashion. Although dupe culture is popular, she said owning the real thing often feels different and more intentional. Dupes, as some copyrighted videos demonstrate, can even highlight the quality of an original product.
“It’s interesting to experiment with duplicates, and see that it doesn’t necessarily always save you money, because sometimes it just reinforces the reality,” Lundström Halbert said.