Superfakes and stealth wealth rewrite the rules of fashion

January 25, 2024 Matthew Wright
From flaunting designer knockoffs to going incognito with low-key luxury, the ties between fashion and status have become decidedly more relaxed.

There’s a new take on bling. As Americans grapple with economic challenges, some fast-growing forces are reshaping the relationship between money, status, and fashion—especially among younger shoppers. Roughly one-third of Gen Zers and millennials reported an increase in their clothing spending this year compared to the beginning of 2022, according to the most recent Schwab Modern Wealth Survey. But consumers are often making a different kind of fashion statement.

No-shame knockoffs

Tight budgets have some shoppers buying “superfakes,” counterfeit items designed to be virtually indistinguishable from their authentic brand-name luxury counterparts. Once a source of shame if revealed as faux, these well-crafted dupes are now seen as a sign of financial savvy. 

You can trace the rise in superfakes directly to Instagram, TikTok, and the like, says Stefania Allen, co-founder and creative director at Editorialist, a luxury fashion e-commerce site. “With the continued rise of social media platforms, younger generations are more concerned with ‘getting the shot’ versus actually owning and appreciating the real piece,” she explains. “It’s about abundance—more is more, so the need to buy fakes to keep up is popular now.” 

Unflashy fashion

At the same time, and thanks in large part to the hit show Succession, the concept of “stealth wealth,” or quiet luxury, has snuck into the cultural lexicon. Customers embracing stealth wealth opt for subtle and modest fashion choices over extravagant logo-laden ones. Think a $1,300 cashmere taupe turtleneck or a $500 black hoodie sans any brand name.

Some consumers prefer to sink their money into high-quality but low-key and timeless styles they’ll wear for years, says Stefania, who works with ultra-high-net-worth individuals to curate their wardrobes. 

Investment pieces

So which does Stefania herself prefer: superfakes or stealth wealth? “I’d rather have less and save up to buy the real deal versus buying lots of fake bags,” she says.

When it comes to personal style, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But just as fashion is a form of self-expression, how we choose our clothes and accessories reveals a lot about our values.