Fast fashion advertisements on Instagram are often scams

Written By Carson Folio, Staff Writer

Wanting to be fashionable but also price-conscious has been the story of my life, even more so after becoming a college student. Going to thrift shops for unique clothes that do not eat a hole in my wallet can be fun, but the finds are not always golden. Lately, I have been noticing ads on my Instagram feed featuring stylish winter outfits, which would be perfect given the season we are now in. An example of a clothing outlet I was recommended from an Instagram ad is one named “ESNT,” a brand based in Los Angeles, California. They are very proud of this, given their Instagram page’s username is “”

Problem is, they are not from Los Angeles at all.

I initially became suspicious of the website when it started bombarding me with sales that seemingly never ended. Along with these never-ending sales, there is also a giveaway of $100 cash. All you need to do is enter your email address to find out if you’re “the lucky one,” as the ESNT website puts it. 

No designer clothes website I have ever visited has been quite like this one. But the oddities only got worse.

On the bottom of the website where one should expect contact info, the listing only states “Awlsbury Circle, Fullerton CA.” Fullerton is basically a town right outside of LA which is fair enough, but there is no address listed. Checking the location listed on Google Maps brought me to a random cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood.

At this point, alarms started going off in my head. This is not what anybody should expect from a legitimate clothing outlet.

My first thought was to see if the designs are even original. I took a screenshot of the “Artwork Print Knit Sweater” on ESNT’s website and put it through a reverse image search tool. Almost immediately, I saw the same sweater on multiple different websites that had no relation to ESNT whatsoever. Most of the websites were selling the sweater for $50 to $90. One website was selling it and other blatantly stolen designs for hundreds of dollars. After intense scouring Google reserve image search results, I discovered that the sweater originated on AliExpress, a cheap e-commerce website popular in China. Their price? $30. ESNT sells it for $55. This means that these websites posing to be underground designer brands instead just resell clothes from cheap online retailers, while making a profit from tricking people. $55 is certainly not a low price either.

The next day, I was back on Instagram. Another ad for a very colorful sweater shows up on my feed sold by the brand “Aelfric Eden.” Curious, I decided to see what the website offers.

Imagine my shock when I saw that this seemingly completely unrelated website had the exact same design as the ESNT website, minus a few color differences. Checking the stock available, and it was all the same clothes too. More AliExpress clothes at double the price, more of the same claim that they are based in CA when they are not, they were almost clones of each other. Ad after ad, more fake retailers with virtually identical websites were being promoted.

This experience taught me just how terrible Instagram is at checking whether the companies that pay for advertising are trustworthy or not. Nobody should find multiple scam websites in a row this easily. My advice would be to always look at reviews before buying anything on a website that is unfamiliar to you, look at any addresses on the website to see if they return a nonsense location, and use a reverse image search tool. Those tools are your friend when shopping online.