They are mainly American women and half of them visit the forum daily. Most are white (50%), followed by Asians (36%). They are usually over 35 years old and have an annual income of between $100,000 and $200,000. Many of them have authentic bags, but they love imitations and are not ashamed to have them. In fact, they feel a certain pride in knowing that they have bought, at a bargain price, an imitation that is barely distinguishable from an original that costs several thousand dollars. Her favorite brands are Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès.
According to a survey created by its administrator, these are the women of RepLadies, a Reddit subforum with more than 200,000 users created in 2016. Today, RepLadies is the largest forum on the Internet for lovers of counterfeits. Women compare good fakes with authentic products, review their recent purchases, post links to interesting products they found while browsing, give each other tips to avoid falling for scams; They even help each other communicate with vendors in other languages.
Reviews are the most particular subgenre within this forum, since they have acquired their own language and are written following detailed editorial standards: they include information about the seller (name, telephone or contact form and location), available payment method and order schedule (from when one of the buyers contacts the seller until they receive their purchase). The review also includes photos of the imitation bag and the original. Finally, it provides a brief analysis of the quality of the bag, the accuracy of the imitation, and the reviewer’s satisfaction with their purchase. RepLadies are so popular that some sellers give them a discount: “I mentioned RepLadies and got 10% off,” said one reviewer of a Chanel knockoff. RepLadies also have their own glossary and acronyms guide, where AE stands for AliExpress, ISO stands for In Search Of or MIF stands for Made In France, and of course Rep stands for Replica.
The women of RepLadies also use the forum to share anecdotes and confessions. “What do you always (and never) buy auth [authentic]?” a user asked in a thread, explaining that they prefer authentic Celine bags, “because I think the quality of the leather is super [luxurious] compared to [replicas] And I like to treat myself to an extra nice treat from time to time.”
The cheapest Celine bag costs around €2,000 ($2,100), while the most expensive, a crocodile-skin bag with a gold chain, costs €18,000 ($18,900).
“But”, continues the user, “I think I will buy more [replica] shoes in the future, as I have been very impressed with the ones I bought recently.”
“I wear out my shoes fast, so I don’t mind spending a lot of money on [authentic ones].”
Many users agree on the shoe issue, with one saying, “I can’t keep my shoes in perfect condition, I don’t plan on spending $700 on shoes.”
In a space known as RL Confessional, women share the experiences that led them to RepLadies, including their demographic details according to the forum’s meticulous posting rules.
A 25-year-old tech worker from New York with an annual salary of $135,000 says that for her, handbags are like personal achievements: “I recognize that handbags are symbols of status and wealth, and neither of these are healthy goals to pursue. . But I would like to think of my bags as more than that: they represent a deeply personal journey that marks events in my own life.”
This user says that she bought an authentic Yves Saint Laurent bag to celebrate a recent pay raise and that she has a collection of authentic and imitation bags.
A 44-year-old Illinois woman who earns $70,000 a year says fake handbags are more nutritious for her than dinner: Fake handbags, which she’s spent more than $15,000 on, “fill me up more.”
An engineer in her 30s from New York who earns $200,000 a year says she has never been particularly committed to buying authentic products. “I think my first replicas were pirated versions of Digimon,” she writes, saying that she owns over 47 bags and doesn’t know or care if they’re real or fake.
It’s not that the women of RepLadies can’t afford authentic bags. They just like their imitations and most find the price of an original to be excessive.
american media outlet The cut recently chatted with some of the forum members, asking their motivations for buying imitation bags. Responses can be categorized as emotion (“this is the atavistic thrill of the hunt, the feeling of getting a bargain” for a former real estate agent who retired at age 30); savings (“my friends who spend a lot of money on real money have never worked a day in their lives or married rich guys,” explains one woman, “but if you’re working hard for your money, you don’t want to spend it on stupid things…” ); and practicality (“Imagine if we spent all our money on authentic handbags,” says one housewife. “You would never increase your wealth that way, would you?”).
Rich and privileged, the women of RepLadies are a sociological phenomenon: they circumvent the strict rules of their own social class and do so with a certain pride; providing each other with a safe network for confessions, candid observations, and mutual support.
Of course: if we all lie at times for appearances, RepLadies makes it clear that not all of us do it for the same reasons.