Depop began as a place to shift clothes you only wore once, or meant to return and just forgot about. But with the new trend of young people buying cheap finds in thrift stores and upselling them at extortionate prices, users of both Depop and second-hand stores are suffering. By Sadia Nowshin.
What’s the problem?
Depop has evolved from its humble beginnings as a simple buy-and-sell app. With more than 21 million users, and an estimated 90% of them under the age of 26, t’s cultivated a reputation for boasting rare vintage finds, so those looking for a fresh new fit can find clothes from the 90s that have suddenly become cool again without breaking the bank.
The issue is that now, the lucrativity of vintage gems has meant the site has (according to Serena Smith in this brill piece for Dazed) become gentrified. The Explore page is full of clothes with price tags that never dip below £80, many of which were bought in charity shops for a few quid.
People who actually need charity shops because they can’t afford to shop are now finding that the charity and thrift shops they once relied on for a winter coat or warm jumper are now strangely bare of those picks. Instead, some seller has bought it to sell it on their Depop for 50 quid more, just to make a profit.
Why is that unethical… isn’t it just good business?
Before it became a place for edgy teens, Depop allowed people from poorer communities to buy clothes in tight times when they weren’t able to afford brand new outfits. Similarly, charity and second-hand shops have been a salvation for a lot of people who have found themselves struggling financially, but who also needed new clothes when the seasons changed.
Another big perk of buying second-hand is the sustainability aspect of it all. We’re becoming ever more aware of the environmental impact and problematic ethics of fast fashion, so more of us are opting to use sites like Depop to lessen the carbon footprint of our wardrobe.
An unfortunate side effect of prices steadily rising on Depop and nice clothes being snapped up from charity shops is that the original customers of both second-hand apps and shops are likely to opt for the cheap prices of fast fashion instead.
It makes sense – if you’re struggling to afford a new coat but find there are none left in charity shops and the ones on Depop (that you’re pretty sure you saw in the thrift shop window for a fiver last week) are priced at near enough a hundred pounds, then the mass-produced offerings on Boohoo are the only option left.
It’s that, or freeze in the British winter.
So, the gentrification of Depop and the knock-on effect it’s had on charity shops kind of ruin the best bits of both. But it’s not all bad, so don’t delete the app just yet: you can still find clothes worth the money from ethical sellers amongst all the vintage vultures.
The app’s motto of being the “leading sustainable marketplace for the future” is being maintained by some sellers, who source their products sustainably or make the clothes themselves. Some are even creative enough to ‘rework’ clothes and add value by painting, embroidering or otherwise enhancing the piece.
But if the trend of upselling charity shop finds continues across the app in the future, then Depop’s sustainable dream could soon become a distant memory.
How to thrift responsibly.
When done right, buying second-hand can have a positive impact on reducing your consumption of fast fashion. Here’s how to do it right…
👗 If you’re shopping for pleasure and not necessity, try not to buy things that could be essentials for someone who is struggling. That covers winter coats when the colder months are approaching, smart shoes or strong trainers and baby/kids clothes.
👗 Combine your thrift shop with ethical brands. Research a company before you buy from them to get an idea of where they stand when it comes to worker rights and environmental impact.
👗 Rebel against the ‘what’s hot this season’ trends. The fashion industry’s obsession with constantly changing what is trendy is to blame for a significant amount of waste generated by clothing companies – buck the trend and wear what you like, even if the celebs aren’t wearing it anymore