The cake is a lie. A big, fat one.

Little more irks me in the fashion industry than retailers trying to rip their customers off. They do it everywhere, and most of the time you have to just bite your tongue and go elsewhere, or elsewhile wait for sale time to roll around and pray your item of choice doesn’t disappear from those shelves forever. I’m not sure I used that word in the correct context. Anyways. But what if they were selling you things for double, triple, quadruple the price of an identical item that you can get elsewhere for a mere fraction of the price?

This is a special edition of Carbon Copies which will expose these retailers that do that, both in the real world and online, and give you a few tips and tricks that will prevent you from being ripped off.

We’ll first focus on the real-life retailer Hi, Beauty–a store in the Myer Centre in Brisbane. I was lured inside by the sale signs but when I flipped through a few dresses and shirts, the horrors that awaited me were more than a poor frugalista could bear.. There in the shop I saw my eBay wishlist staring right back at me! I wasn’t sure whether to cry about the prices or whether to whoop with joy that I could finally try on my wishlist items without having to purchase them first. I kind of did both, and subsequently pulled out my camera in the dressing room.




I could have posted images from the Internet instead of the images from my camera, but I really needed to show you firsthand what they’re selling. Here’s the rundown, from top to bottom (excluding my picture):

1. Patchwork Dress, $52 | eBay, $14

2. Contrast Collar Dress, $50 | AliExpress, $16 (UPDATED)

3. Orange & Blue Colour Block Dress, $35 | eBay, $14

4. Scoop Neck Yellow Dress, $40 | eBay, $18.70

5. Multi-Colour Polka Dot Dress, $50 | eBay, $16.80

I’m not done yet, though. Online retailers are the worst of the bunch, because they go about this in unethical ways. They pretend that they are exclusive, the next best thing to ASOS, and trick bloggers into supporting them, while they use the professional photos generated on the bloggers’ blogs of those items as advertising for their website. And of course, for the free clothing that they send off to that popular blogger that in reality probably only costs a few dollars to make in some cheap Chinese sweatshop, the followers of those bloggers get directed back to that website and naturally think everything there is awesome and worth the exorbitant prices that the store is charging. Meanwhile, most have no idea that you can find the exact same items (not just the replica, but the same-same items!), minus the 400% or so price hike, directly from Aliexpress or eBay.

Two big-time perpetrators are Sheinside and Romwe. Please note that I’ve chosen the following items because they were the easiest to find, not because they’re fashionable. With enough patience I could probably find most of the things they sell on their website listed for cheaper on eBay or Alibaba/Aliexpress.

Romwe

Romwe has all the cards in their hands. They only allow bloggers with over 2000 followers to participate in their affiliate program, and every time a blogger buys something from them and posts up a picture of it, it’s Romwe’s to use for free. Beautiful people wearing beautiful clothes lends to making them a beautiful website, even if the beauty is only surface-deep.  Here are a few things I spotted while perusing Romwe. Keep in mind that unlike most Carbon Copies posts where I show you where to find the replica of a particular item, all the items listed in this post are the exact same as the listings on eBay.

1. Retro Sleeveless Pleated Mustard Dress, $83 | eBay, $13

2. Multi-level Flouncing Sleeveless Orange Dress, $30 | eBay, $9.20

3. Aztek Pattern Cardigan, $52 | eBay, $19

4. Dog Print Blouse, $37 | eBay, $10

5. Multi-spike Charm Layered Necklace, $19 | eBay, $2.30

6. Retro Style Ring Suit, $13 | eBay, $1.30

7. Small Mouse Open Copper Ring, $11 | eBay, $1

8. Hollowed Carving Detachable Collar, $16 | eBay, $3.30

The differences in prices are absolutely insane. From a ring that is marked up 1000% to a dress marked up 600%. Sure you can find the odd thing on Romwe that is near impossible to find anywhere else, but for what they’re doing to their buyers’ wallets, I wouldn’t touch their company with a ten foot barge pole.

Sheinside

If it weren’t for another blogger, I wouldn’t have found this store either, which just goes to show you the power that these two online companies are harnessing! It was a lot easier to find “replicas” here and I had to cull the enormous list that I had built up, but yeah, mostly everything you see on that website you can find on eBay/AliExpress.

1. Leopard Dress, $32 | AliExpress, $10

2. White Lace Bodycon Dress, $34 | eBay, $13

3. Yellow Skater Dress with Contrast Collar, $45 | eBay, $15.30

4. Bird Print Chiffon Shirt, $32 | eBay, $16

5. Winged Ring, $14.20 | eBay, $1.35

6. Tassel Necklace, $13 | eBay, $2

7. Silver Leaves Necklace, $15.50 | eBay, $1.80

8. Bronze Octopus Necklace, $12.30 | eBay, $1

As I said, Sheinside had many, many items that I’ve seen before on eBay, but the list had to be massively culled because I didn’t want to go overboard or I’d be writing this post for hours!

Tips to avoid being sold the cake:

  • If the models on the website are mostly Asian or from ASOS or Zara (and the website you’re on is not in fact ASOS or Zara), run very far away..
  • If the clothing is photographed on coat hangers instead of real people, same as above
  • If the listings mostly contain the word “chiffon” in the titles
  • If the website is written in Engrish

All of these tips should help you avoid getting severely ripped off, but it’s no reason to leave the site prematurely either. Browse a bit, note your favorite garments, and look them up on eBay instead.

Note: All these items were researched on eBay and AliExpress on the fly–please don’t post to tell me you found a cheaper version because they probably do exist but the main purpose of this post was to show the differences in pricing between retailers, not to bring you bargains (sorry!).

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28 Comments

  1. hy. i really want to buy some clothes on ebay. but im not sure the stores can be trusted. would u like to tell me what the name of stores that can be trusted?

  2. Hi Demi,
    So happy that I found your post. I actually purchased from both romwe and sheinside. The coat I recd from romwe were amazing, but sheinside was horrible. I didnt realize that there were cheaper aites. Do u trust aliezpress? Have you bought from there?

    • Nope, sorry, never shopped at AliExpress before.

  3. Hi, new here, reading from Mexico, I found you through Stalk this, and I am finding your posts abour online retailers and carbon copies very helpful. Here in Mexico online retailing is not really developed, as our mailing system is archaic. Since I am also on a budget for fashion (and everything else) I’ve recently started a search like yours for frugal fashion. But then the other day I was talking to my boyfriend about my recent purchases, and he dropped a bomb that has been haunting me ever since, he told me that my cheap clothes might be made in a China workshop, where people is paid miserable wages and worked lot of hours a day. Then I thought, most of the fashion items in stores, are made in China, so it really makes no difference where you buy, all fashion items are sourced from countries that doesn’t regulate good conditions for their workers, whether it is Morocco, Sri Lanka, China or Mexico, it doesn’t matter, we read in the papers everyday how people is being exploited by even the big brands like Tommy Hilfiger or Zara. I am now really disgusted with the fashion retail industry, and don’t know what’s best?

    • Demi

      It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it? If it bothers you to that extent but you still want to buy cheap clothing, maybe try second hand clothing stores. The situation in those countries bothers me a bit but not to the extent where I can stop shopping there! Remember too that if you don’t buy Chinese goods, the factory owners won’t get money but neither, in turn, will the employees–who probably really need it, regardless of the pittance they get.

  4. PepperssoFresh Reply

    I’m starting an online boutique very soon and the type of clothing I will be catering too is mostly vintage 80’s,90’s and modern street wear. Do you know of any clothing suppliers that may cater to these specifications?

    • Demi

      I’m not a clothing supplier nor do I mass purchase stuff to sell myself so I really can’t help, sorry.

  5. I don’t care much for online stores (though I do avoid Romwe for their prices) but I do agree about bricks and mortar stores. Whenever I go shopping, I can’t help thinking about how I could be getting something very similar online for a fraction of the price. As you’ve said, most things are made in China anyway and regardless of the pricing mark-up, those people making it aren’t getting very much so it doesn’t justify the price!

    You should definitely write up a list of sites to avoid, that’d be so handy. :)

    • Demi

      Haha, it’s not always that you can get something similar, but when you can get the *exact same thing* online for a fraction of the price.. that’s when it gets me grumpy!

      I think there are too many sites to count but I’ll certainly give it a shot one day, haha.

  6. I’ve long become cynical of fashion retailers and their ‘exclusive’ designs. I was just wondering what tag/label did the clothes have? Was it ‘Hi, beauty’ or the original manufacturer? You see something in the same vein happened to me a couple of months ago; where I was at the QVB (I live in Sydney) and saw a cute blazer that I really liked and it was from a similar sort of store to ‘HI, Beauty’. It boasted that the design was Australian made and exclusive to their store. I then walked over to Westfield and encountered the same blazer but with that particular stores’ label attached to it. The pricing wasn’t too different – from memory $80 and $50. I just found it sort of sad and definitely know to look around before I buy something.

    That being said I found the site chicwish.com from another blogger and fell in love with this dress
    http://www.chicwish.com/got-a-date-mint-lace-dress.html
    As soon as I saw it though, I figured it was ridiculously priced up as it seriously looks like something I could get in Hong Kong for about $15. I’m trying to find it on ebay but haven’t had any luck yet. Lol I do have to thank you for introducing me to Aliexpress though!

    Also I believe make-up and skincare brands do a similar thing with their formulas and they are actually the same. Obviously not all of them, but it is something worth thinking about!

    • Demi

      The tags and labels on the dresses in that store were “Hi Beauty”, definitely. It’s so easy to just switch over tags, it’s sad people think they’re buying something exclusive..

      I see sometimes the higher chains do this too. I’ve seen Ice sell things that I’ve seen on eBay/AliExpress and also Chicabooti. I considered taking photos of the stuff I’ve seen, but I was lazy and only had my phone with me.

      Chicwish is another perpetrator of all of the above, haha. I had a quick search on AliExpress and I couldn’t find anything either (such is the nature of some things.. I also spent hours looking for a long-sleeved blouse with wild cats print all over it and never found it), but I’ll keep an eye out for it and comment back if I ever find it, haha :P Try Google searches too, that sometimes helps. It helped when I was looking for a ripoff Versace skirt with like.. coconut grove print all over it. Found it on another Asian manufacturer website for $22 instead of the $50 everyone else was charging for the knockoff.

      I know a little bit of some retailers who do the same with makeup, but I had no idea for skincare! I should do some further research on that too, thanks for the heads-up!

  7. Haha totally agree with Miss Directions’ comment!

    I’m SO glad that other people are aware of this! I look on sites like Romwe, and I want to cry (or smack someone) because I know people are paying some ridiculous prices for some things. Then again, I am an absolute cheapskate, and $25 is generally my limit for clothing (or $6-7 from places like Kmart haha).

    I am a seasoned eBayer (buying only) and have dozens of pieces of adorable costume jewellery from Hong Kong – and I’ve never paid over $2 for any of it! The average would probably be around 50-60c. That mouse ring, I recently saw one go for 17c; much cheaper than $11! I don’t tend to go near the clothing, as it’s super hard for me to tell what the quality is like.

    Fantastic post, I hope more ladies see it and become more aware of how much they could be getting ripped off.

    • Demi

      You’re both really sweet haha :)

      I think a lot more people need to be aware of Chinese resellers like Romwe etc, because the way some people are starting to treat it like the “new ASOS” is kind of scary.. Marketing is everything, and they’re doing an amazing job. $25 is generally my limit for clothing too (maybe not good shoes though, I can go up to $50 for good leather shoes) so you’re a girl after my own heart ;)

      How are you finding listings for 17c when the minimum buy now prices on eBay is a dollar? Are you talking about the auctions? I should probably be buying stuff on auctions more often because it’s cheaper but damn I spend enough time on that website, haha! I like buying clothing from there only when I can see what’s on the mannequin/coathanger–it’s too hard to guess when the only photos are model stock photos and I always regret purchasing afterwards. Zara/ASOS replicas are generally not bad though (haven’t regretted one of those purchases yet), you should give it a shot ;)

  8. Great post. Just shows how much you can save by looking around, and not much effort is required these days with access to the www …. though I must say that these stores (not online) probably have large overheads and high labour costs so I expect items to be marked up to a certain degree but not too ridiculous. I think I’d be happy to support them if prices are reasonable for the sake of convenience.

    • Demi

      The real-life store I can sympathize with a bit because they have to pay rent to be in a good location, etc, but the online ones are really sneaky–they don’t even pay for advertising D: ! I would buy from the physical retailers too for the sake of convenience but only maybe.. $5 more because I’m a complete cheapskate, haha! (I motion to the entirety of my blog to prove that, haha) But nah, not like 3 times more when all they’re selling me is cheap Chinese junk that isn’t worth as much as they list it on eBay let alone in stores!

  9. Thanks for sharing! I love all of your posts like these, but this was is especially informative! I heard about a dress giveaway from Romwe from a blogger I follow, and I entered and ended up winning a free dress! But I wouldn’t buy anything from their site because the prices are a bit steep. And I’m glad I now know to look on ebay to find pieces from their site!
    For the past couple of months ebay has been my go-to place to buy things!

    • Demi

      That’s awesome! I am so unlucky when it comes to winning things, let me tell you.. But I noticed that the last time Romwe did a galaxy tights giveaway, they didn’t let the winner pick out a size.. (As noted by the many a complaint on their Facebook page, haha!) Was it the same for the dress??

      Definitely look to eBay or AliExpress if you spy something you look. You won’t find everything there because it’s hard to browse by randomly putting in keywords and hoping that it fits the description of the item well enough that it’ll appear on the results, but there’s a good enough selection anyways. eBay and AliExpress are my two best boyfriends <3

  10. Hi!

    This is a very good article, but I want to comment on the chiffon thing. Many of my favorite shops (Marks and Spencer, Topshop, ASOS, and Modcloth) use the word all the time, so I would not consider this to be important. It is just the easiest way to describe that beautiful material (by its real name).

    Regarding the coat hangers instead of real people… well, what do you think about mannequins? I have a feeling that it is pretty common to use them instead of real people.

    Thanks!

    • Demi

      Haha, thanks for your comment! I should probably clarify that I mean excessive use of the word “chiffon”.. they seem to have it in every second listing, because chiffon is as cheap as!

      I’m not sure about mannequins, all I know is that either they use generic Asian models or they have the clothes displayed out there for the sake of laziness–lying on the floor or on a coat hanger and sometimes mannequins if you’re lucky. I’ve always thought that a mannequin is a good indication of what a garment actually looks like in real life! Modcloth and River Island and Topshop use mannequins though so I didn’t want to include that, haha.

    • Demi

      No problem at all Iva, I love comments and I figure if I want to keep receiving them, I gotta answer them, haha!

      You will find heaps heaps heaps clothing that use ASOS and Zara photos to represent the items but there’s a 99% possibility that they are just going to be a plain old replica. Word on the street though (because I’ve never personally bought one–just not the right colours I’m looking for) is that they’re pretty good copies!

      Please note though that there are cheaper versions of that blazer if you’re really looking to buy it (http://www.aliexpress.com/item/2012-new-hot-Fashion-Casual-Cozy-women-ladies-clothes-Coat-Jackets-blazer-suit-Candy-color-lined/618767968.html). What you see on the coat hangers/mannequins is what you get, so disregard the models whenever you see that they’re from Zara or ASOS!

  11. I too just love this entry!

    After this post I went on a hunt for the Yellow Skater Dress (or similar) which brings me to my beef with fashionable cheapies. Given they’re usually all of Chinese manufacturing, they’re always, always too short and more often than not too small! In your frugalie googlie wisdom, do you know of any ebay sellers whose M-L is a 12-14 not an 8-10? LOL

    • Demi

      Ooh, it’s so difficult to find bigger sizes, sadly. It’s not so much where you can find sellers that sell bigger sizes (because sizes are more often than not random), but it’s just about finding certain items that are loose-fitting or really stretchy. For that yellow dress with the black collar, some listings seem to indicate that the largest size is stretchy enough to fit a size 12, but it is a bit of a risk. The one that I tried on in the dressing room was listed as a M but it felt kind of loose-fitting on me and I’m a size 8-10. The blue/yellow collar one I tried on in the dressing room was listed as a M too but it was so hideous and TIGHT around my thighs when I put it on that I’m glad I never risked buying it before..

      Anyways, I do digress. Try AliExpress next time–they seem to have a wider variety of sizes, I’ve found, and you might strike it lucky there!

  12. Hiya! I found you via Vogue forum :-D

    Cool post! I think the problem here is not only that people are being ripped off in the first place, but that these clothes are SO CHEAP. I have a serious problem with a dress that can be sold on eBay for $10!!! After you take out eBay fees, how is that measly $10 divided up if there is still *some* profit involved for the seller? Count in the cost of fabric and manufacture – It’s absolutely obscene that barely cents would be left for whoever MADE the damn thing.
    There is absolutely no justification for something to be sold at that price. It’s just not sustainable and makes me very worried about the state of the world.

    • Demi

      Eek, sorry about that, your post got put into the spam bucket!

      Stuff like cheap $10 dresses etc all gets made in bulk in factories which would cut down the cost of the material to something negligible and the labor is paid by the hour, not by the garment (and by the state of the garments I usually get–loose threads and twisted seams and buttons that you sometimes have to pick off and resew into position–you know it probably didn’t take more than 10 minutes to put together). And of course you know the higher quantity of stuff being sold, the lower they can keep their prices.

      But yeah, the thing to keep in mind is that all because a brand is charging more for a product doesn’t mean that the person who made the thing gets more money! :P (Nike and Burberry, I’m looking at you!)

  13. You’re so awesome Demi :-) I love all your Carbon Copy posts but this one is definitely my favourite!

    You should be a personal shopper. Charge halfway between the ebay price and the rip off price and you’ll be set :-)

    • Demi

      Haha, I know right! I’d love to be a personal shopper, that would be my number 1 favorite career!

      But thanks, and I’m glad you like this post! Just after I posted, I was made aware of other companies online that do this too (get affiliations with popular bloggers and send them cheap rubbish to promote their site for free), so maybe I’ll have to write up a list of these places to avoid..

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