Charity shops. You either love them or you hate them. But I will admit that I am a fan. It is the thought of being able to walk into a shop and spot something really nice at a great deal; among a mess of baby stuff, shoes that are too small and clothing which you could picture your old English teacher in! But it is more than just that. It is that gratifying feeling of not only donating to a charity which you think is good, but also the thought that you are doing something really highly commendable known as “helping the environment”. Which of course is very important. Therefore it is only great that online second hand stores like depop have recently emerged, where people now have such an enormous choice on what cheap items to buy. And not only this, but it is a bit of a win win situation, because why would no clothes lover not want to make a few extra pounds on reselling some of the items which they no longer want?
So What has Actually Happened?
Depop was launched on the 1st November, 2011. Originally most of the buyers on there were using depop as a cheaper alternative to purchasing first hand fashion. However over time, depop has drawn in buyers usually interested in vintage fashion, helping the environment or both. More recently, it has drawn in sellers wanting to run a depop shop as a part time, or even a full time job. Over the pandemic, these types of sellers have grown due to lack of job security, while there are certainly enough monthly active users to facilitate this! As you can guess, this is because highstreet retail shops have had to close as a result of the pandemic. Where in the midst of the first COVID-19 restrictions, Depop’s sales went up by 54%!
Who is this an issue for?
As a result of the increased popularity of depop, prices in general have increased. This has meant that purchasing affordable clothing on depop, has become increasingly difficult for those who rely on it, as in time the popularity has and is likely to continue to make depop more exclusive to those on lower incomes. Ironically this is the exact group of people who need apps like depop the most, forcing them instead to rely on fast fashion. Furthermore because many sellers source their items from charity shops, it means charity shops then have reduced stock to sell to the public. Meaning that Charity shops could face stock shortages (which many have been facing during the pandemic anyhow), meanwhile reducing the choice for those relying on charity shops for clothing. Shop owners argue that this is just how business works and how profit is made, however it cannot be right when it is preventing lower class individuals from accessing affordable clothing.
Why is depop like this
While it is extremely sad thinking of some of the consequences which come with the increasing popularity of depop, you cannot help laughing at the extremes which you may come across in depop. For instance, there are some buyers who will label a simply nice, but cheap looking top, as something like “rare Y2K gem!!” charging something like £80 for it. The reason why sellers do get away with this, is basically as a result of fashion trends. Over the summer of 2020, this white Slazenger tennis skort became the subject of much scrutiny after it became a widely-hyped ‘Y2K’ style staple on apps like TikTok and Instagram. This is simply because when something is trending, then the more wealthy someone is, usually the less they care about the price. Also being a seller on depop is going to be especially popular at the moment, considering the affects of covid. Need I say anymore. And while I don’t agree with this, one source stating that many sellers on depop acted like hustlers and girl bosses, does suggest how it is becoming more of a site which people utilize to make good amounts of money, rather than as a way to get rid of old clothes.
Can you Trust Depop?
As good as making clothing last longer may be for the environment, some sellers have taken advantage of their potential customers, and have instead purchased clothing first hand from fast fashion outlets such as boohoo. To then sell them off at an inflated price. This is clearly a problem, especially when the buyer has no idea that they have done this. Also it could be said that the importing and exporting of second hand clothing can be just as bad for the environment emissions wise. And while it is very hard to judge, I feel it is important to bear this in mind.
But Wait?! Depop is meant to be good
The UK is the fourth largest textile waste producer in Europe, discarding over 1M tonnes of textiles annually. 20% of which goes to dumps and 80% is incinerated. All of us will suffer from this, especially those living in the developing world. This way, it is a good move to keep textiles circulating for longer, before they need to be thrown away. It is likely that unless wealthier people have done some research into this, they are not going to realise some of the consequences off choosing to shop from depop, and they will not realise that what may appear to be sustainable, isn’t as sustainable in reality.
What can we do?
Just like my similar post about “What they don’t tell you about sustainable fashion”, I am certainly not dismissing the movement toward more sustainable fashion, which includes the selling of second hand goods. As buyers, we can feel rather powerless however against the more negative forces of depop and the market in general, however there are some small things which we can all do. For a start, try to avoid buying too many essential items from these outlets; especially if they are very cheap, as someone else may really need them. Also, while it isn’t easy to tell where the seller of a big shop sources their clothing from, there is no harm in asking the seller this! And usually they will be really friendly about it.
Furthermore, if you are a seller on depop, then while there is no harm in labelling something as Y2K to help it sell, refrain from selling products at a badly inflated price, because many sellers doing the same can further contribute to the problem.