With almost ten million users, the platform offers online shopping for the social media generation – and has spawned an aesthetic all of its own
Bootcut trousers, bandana tops and Danniella Westbrook-era Burberry might trigger deeply regrettable style flashbacks for some, but they’re the fashion currency that shopping platform Depop thrives upon. Founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Simon Beckerman, the London-based peer-to-peer shopping app now has 9 million registered users.
Beckerman struck gold by tapping into the easy familiarity of Instagram-style functionality. Sellers take a photo, upload it to their grid, add a caption and wait for someone to hit buy. Buyers can curate their feed by following their faves and using the ‘like’ feature to create a digital moodboard. It’s online shopping for the social media generation.
“Depop is literally built for Gen Z isn’t it?” says Siobhan, founder of Shopfloorwhore. “At first I was like ‘Oh my god everyone is so young on here’ then I was like ‘Okay, this is how that generation is shopping’”. With over 15k followers on Depop, more than her brand has on Instagram, Siobhan knows exactly what her audience is looking for.
“Depop is literally built for Gen Z. At first I was like ‘Oh my god everyone is so young on here’ then I was like ‘Okay, this is how that generation is shopping’” – Siobhan, @shopfloorwhore
Kicking against fast fashion’s homogenised style for the masses, users want something different and they’re flocking to Depop in search of vintage one-offs and handmade pieces. But why Depop and not eBay, ASOS Marketplace or charity shops?
It’s all about the holy trinity of aesthetic, price and individuality. “I think that Depop has so many fashion forward people, who all have different styles and don't conform to the same trends. I personally love using Depop for outfit inspiration, as my style varies across the spectrum so I like to see how different people put outfits together,” says 18-year-old Depop buyer, Chi, who mainly uses the app to find cheap shoes and vintage pieces because “thrift stores have become quite expensive now”.
Chi cites Amparad as her favourite seller, whose past offerings include Hello Kitty halter tops, Burberry shoulder bags and Elle Sport hoodies. For 17-year-old student Eleanor, who classes Depop as the “cool way of charity shopping”, SusaMusa’s low rise cargo trousers and crop tops are the go-to.
Depop’s fans are digging for vintage that’s never been vintage before, which means brands like Kookai, Bay Trading and Jane Norman have been elevated from noughties wasteland relics to Depop gold dust. “I think the biggest trends right now are 90s and 00s fashion,” Chi says. “90s is more worldwide, but in the UK there is definitely a 00s thing going on right now. There's a lot of double denim looks and low rise jeans, animal print, that sort of thing.”
Sophie, the seller behind Holita, hit 30k followers the day we spoke, and has reaped the rewards of tapping into Paris Hilton’s golden age. “90s or Y2K, anything like that... they’re the key words people love to use on Depop because literally it’s so sought after. People are going crazy for that early 2000s style,” she says.
“Depop’s fans are digging for vintage that’s never been vintage before, which means brands like Kookai, Bay Trading and Jane Norman have been elevated from noughties wasteland relics to Depop gold dust”
Alongside buying into ironic and cool brands, questionably low waistlines and satin bustiers, teen Depop shoppers are going big for unique pieces. They’ve grown up with hype culture but don’t have the budget to match, so Depop is bridging the gap, providing one-off finds at Saturday job prices.
“Price definitely comes into it,” says blogger TollyDollyPosh, telling me about some bright red boots she’d scored. “I was surprised by how cheap they were because they were basically new.”
Even though the culture might trickle down from the big name brands, that’s not where Depop fans are necessarily turning for inspiration. For them, it’s all about influencers. “I get inspiration more from Instagram because I scroll through it more frequently, but I think that Depop is more useful for finding actual outfits,” says Chi. Eleanor agrees: “My thought process is one that goes from seeing influencers on Instagram to trying to find something similar on Depop.”
And if they can’t find the item they’re looking for? Shoppers are not afraid to ask. Major fashion brands are falling over themselves to cultivate organic communication and connection with their customers, but with Depop it’s built right in.
“I think they are totally used to being able to say ‘can I have this?’ They’re more confident in buying,” Siobhan of Shopfloorwhore says. “Like, I’ve got fluffy pom pom earrings and a lot of people will directly message me and ask for them (if they’re sold out). Or if they see a pair of gingham trousers, they’d be like ‘can you do this in a silver metallic vibe?’”
“Previously on the cusp of becoming just another over-saturated selling platform, Depop got hands-on to shift their narrative and bag the next generation of shoppers”
The reputation for one-offs, killer Y2K vintage and getting exactly what you want hasn’t happened by accident. Depop is very much involved in shaping its brand in the image of young consumers. Big sellers receive email updates about what’s trending, they’re offered mentoring and their profiles – and sales – are boosted by carefully timed appearances on the explore page. Previously on the cusp of becoming just another over-saturated selling platform, Depop got hands-on to shift their narrative and bag the next generation of shoppers.
Did it work? Definitively, Depop fans are overlooking the big brands that have dominated for so long, and turning to the platform and its cohort of 00s-clad sellers for inspiration instead. As Eleanor puts it: “I go to a college where there are 2000 people in a year so that's 4000 people overall and the amount of people I see wearing similar outfits that I know are as a result of a trend on Depop is staggering.”