Is Depop The Digital Age’s Answer To Sustainable Online Fashion? 

In the time of online shopping and mass clothing consumption, Depop stands as one of the few sustainable and affordable online shopping options for shoppers.

Thrifting is an activity that has recently been hugely popularized in fashion consumer culture. Specifically a hit among younger people, varying forms of social media have been abuzz with the raised consciousness of sustainability in the context of clothing.

An example of the style of clothing most popular on Depop. Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Despite this increased online rhetoric, the act of thrifting remains primarily in-person. Whether it be in your local Goodwill, Savers, or Salvation Army; the thrifting industry – as large as it is – doesn’t have a huge availability online. If you’re an avid YouTube watcher, you may have heard of Thredup, an online consignment store that resells used clothes for moderately decent prices. Customers can purchase items off the site and also send their other used clothing items to Thredup in the hopes that they may be selected or “bought” by the company to resell. This system is not perfect, however, Thredup’s large business model of buying and reselling used clothes contains some major flaws. One reddit user noted how the company in previous years had paid up to $65 dollars for the clothing they sent in, but in more recent times, had chosen to keep only the cheapest of their clothes (items from stores, such as: Forever 21, H&M…etc.) and sent back only $0.35. The website also features a value figure to the right of the price that is supposed to allude to the item’s original price, thus reinforcing what a deal the buyer is reconvening. Despite that the reality of these original prices is unclear, and after shipping and handling costs, often the total price is not so far off from its alleged original price.

The ethics of thrifting in higher-income communities is a hot button topic. Photo by Noémie Roussel on Unsplash

The other major platform for selling used clothing online then falls to the popular app, Depop. Less similar to the business model of a consignment store or thrift store, Depop operates in more of a “yard sale” model. Users have the ability to buy clothes directly from other users at negotiated prices and also list and sell their own unwanted used items. Although other platforms are similar in operation, including:  Poshmark, or Mercari – Depop caters specifically to the market of fashion, especially focused on a younger, more hip style of clothing.

One of the largest controversies surrounding Depop revolves around the app’s ethics. Many have come to criticize the app for encouraging typically upper-middle class individuals to enter into low-income thrift/charity shops in the hopes of sourcing good items they can resell for a profit. This phenomena has been coined as “gentrifying second-hand shopping” and advocates for the fact that many people who shop at charity shops do so out of necessity. With the influx of young Depop shoppers, many thrift stores have been cited as raising their prices which disproportionately affects those who relied on cheaper prices to dress themselves. On the other side of the coin, many praise Depop for its singular stance against online fast fashion and its efforts to turn a generation of shoppers away from unethical fashion. In the Refinery29 article, “Is Depop Gentrifying Second-Hand Shopping?” a popular Depopper with over 18,000 followers, Hannah Valentine known on Depop by her username, Ghost Soda commented on the critiques.

“If anything, Depop is making it more accessible to people and making it as easy to shop as fast fashion! We aren’t taking clothing opportunities away from people who need it because thrift stores are constantly being restocked and constantly getting donations,” she said.

digital shopping
Online shopping remains as a popular option for many consumers. Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash

In regard to the questionable ethics of Depop, it is hard to land on one solid side of the argument. It is, however, possible to curate your own shopping experience on the app. Users have the ability to choose which profile they shop from, what kind of clothes they purchase, and at what prices they pay for them. Although there may be some circumstances that are questionable, the price of shopping second hand may just come down to the age old phrase, “buyer beware.”


Delaney Beaudoin

Content Creator & FB Manager

Having grown up in a non-traditional family of intersecting identities, Delaney takes pride in her blank-slate, open-minded perception of the world. Her interests in writing, politics, and travel converge perfectly to fuel her intense passion for journalism and the pursuit of truth in modern media. Delaney values her tendency towards impulsivity and loves the unprecedented circumstances that come with traveling.

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