By Frances Solá-Santiago | Refinery29
At New York’s Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, the scene is straight out of an early 2000s film’s mall sequence. Groups of 20-somethings parade in cargo jeans, Adidas Samba sneakers, and Gap logo hoodies, carrying shopping bags from stores like Aéropostale, American Eagle, and Claire’s.
It’s a gray winter day complete with drizzles of snow that would make anyone rethink the outdoor shopping center just an hour outside of New York City. This isn’t the case for many shoppers though. Clad with vintage Louis Vuitton x Takashi Murakami pochette bags (which reached peak pop culture popularity when Regina George was seen clutching it in the mall scene in Mean Girls), they are shooting “outfit of the day” content and deals for their TikTok followers.
The opportunity to go viral with a credit card swipe and a 60-second video is what differentiates this scene from the last time malls were the place to be. On TikTok, the hashtag #outlet has grown to over 1 billion views, thanks to shoppers sharing their hauls of discounted designer merchandise bought everywhere from Woodbury Common to The Mall Firenze in Florence.
Outlet malls first appeared in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century but reached their peak in the 1980s with retail hubs across the country becoming go-tos for customers seeking a bank for their buck. Today, everyone from department stores, like Saks Fifth Avenue, to luxury designers, like Dior and Prada, have gotten on board, with some brands even producing styles exclusively to be sold at discounted brick-and-mortar offshoots.
For many, outlets are not new — for many more who love a good deal, they never went anywhere either — yet, TikTok’s proliferation of discount shopping hauls has reinvigorated interest for an audience who is newly interested in roaming outlet malls IRL like it’s just another Saturday in 2005. Except now, we all get to see it on the app, where, amid an impending recession and rising living costs, the TikTok generation has rebranded dupecore and discounted shopping as cool.