It has more than 26 million users worldwide, its CEO calls it “the fashion marketplace for the next generation”, and if you’re over 30, chances are, you’ve never heard of it. Depop is a platform to buy, sell and swap clothes, shoes, accessories and more; its app is somewhere between Instagram, eBay and a teenager’s bedroom floor.
A third of all UK 16- to 24-year-olds are registered on Depop, with 80 per cent of active users in the UK under the age of 26. You can buy anything from Primark T-shirts to Birkin bags, and since the pandemic began, Depop’s business, already robust, has been booming; time spent browsing the app has increased dramatically, and between April and June last year, turnover doubled.
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“It’s like Rightmove but for your wardrobe,” says Yvonne, a TV development producer, enthusiastic and, in Depop terms, geriatric (she’s 34).
Inspired enough to overlook that, at 41, I am more than double the age of many of its users, I download the app and snap straight back to that terrible time I went into a branch of Hollister by mistake. Twenty panicked minutes later, things are starting to make sense. You “like” the pictures you – yes – like, and then the app curates your homepage to entice you into buying.
Everyone’s modelling their wares, which makes browsing the listings feel oddly intimate. But it makes shopping feel far more size- and shape-inclusive than is the norm for online retail, and it means I get a sense of what the clothes might look like on real people. Well, real 18-year-olds, anyway.
I press the heart button on a couple of handbags and a message pops up in what I discover is my inbox. “Just seen that you liked my bag, could lower the price for you and ship on Monday, let me know xxx” I’m touched, both by the kisses, and by the prospect of money off.
“Can I see a picture of back of it?” I ask. “Yes, there’s just a tiny water stain,” comes the response, along with a photo of some leather that has apparently just swum the Channel. I pass, but my new pal remains sanguine, signing off with a cheerful “No worries x”.
There are celebrities selling on Depop, most notably Lily Allen and Emily Ratajkowski, and there are sellers made famous by Depop; styling, curating and picking up thousands of fans and customers. One, Olivia Haroutounian (aka ‘’reallifeasliv’’) even made it into Vogue.
It’s all very snazzy but it is the sustainability angle that impresses me most. We blame cash-strapped Generation Z for fuelling the fast fashion cycle, but here, people are swapping, upcycling and, most of all, re-using; the platform is a clear riposte to horror stories like Pretty Little Thing’s 8p dress.
I’m scrolling late one night, because yes, I am now entirely addicted, when I spot my dream bag. “Hi!” says the seller, Imo. She’ll even knock off the postage. A couple of clicks and she promises it’ll be in the post tomorrow.
It’s not all good. The site is littered with counterfeits (“price reflects authenticity” is a phrase that I saw time and time again, often next to a “designer” product on sale for less than a tenner). And there are scammers aplenty. Kieron, from Newcastle, told me how he’d lost £125 selling a (genuine) designer hoodie to a customer who claimed never to have received the package despite having signed for it – “As a student this is a huge hit for me,” he says.
So check the feedback of your seller before you buy, always pay via the app and sell and spend only what you can afford to lose. Which means no Birkins, even if the postage is free.
By now my inbox is full of emoji-strewn messages from people trying to sell me their old bags. Maybe I’ve just been a bit socially starved of late, but I’m really enjoying myself.
“Is this weird?” I ask a (non-Depop-using) friend. Her reply is to the point: “I’m not answering that.”
Still, I’m not alone in appreciating the Depop banter. An Instagram account set up to honour the more, shall we say, offbeat interactions, @depopdrama, has amassed more than half a million followers. I contact the account’s owner and ask for their favourite. “Definitely the one where someone received a dead frog”.
Other gems include variations on “this is kinda random and a bit cheeky of me but would you sell this to me for free?” complete with excuses that range from the blatant: “I’m a student and I need this top” to the ornate: “I would like this item but am skint atm and I was wondering if I did two dares of your choice if I could possibly get it for free?”
Plus the fallout from attempted scams: “Well you have received them, there’s a picture of you in them on Instagram on 11 May”.
So when the postman comes with my parcel, I’m somewhat cautious. But glory be, my new bag is even nicer than described. I log on to thank Imo, who informs me that she was actually selling it for her stepmum. “Ha ha,” says my friend, when I tell her. “You are hanging on a teen site but buying things for old people.”
She’s right, I am. And I’ll be back. In these grey and difficult times, Depop is energetic, fresh and most of all, fun. We could all do with a bit more of that.