The Depop dilemma - are users being exploited?

As popularity of the North Face puffer continues to rise, what price are you willing to pay for your fashion fix?

Ruby Story Dartford
28th February 2021

Depop, a much- loved sustainable second-hand shop with over 20 million users and a target audience of those under 26, has been a lifesaver for those on a budget or saving the environment. However, the virtual vintage shop once hailed the marketplace to seek much loved trendy goods has faced recent backlash as many have argued the sustainable alternative to fast fashion has entered a new era of exploitation. 

The virtual vintage shop once hailed the marketplace to seek much loved trendy goods has faced recent backlash as many have argued the sustainable alternative to fast fashion has entered a new era of exploitation. 

As the popularity for vintage pieces continues to grow, many users have seen Depop as a money-making scheme, a chance to cash in much wanted goods from designer brands. Collection drops from companies such as Supreme offer users the opportunity to exploit retail prices to provide many customers their fashion fix. Garments are released with high demand leaving many to buy at a much cheaper rate and then re-sell on Depop for sometimes twice and even triple the price. Items such as Juicy tracksuit bottoms found in TK Max for £16 have been marked up to £50-£60 to meet the demand of consumers. This has been increasingly seen over the past year with brands such as North Face, Nike, and Brandy Melville. 

Garments are released with high demand leaving many to buy at a much cheaper rate and then re-sell on Depop for sometimes twice and even triple the price.

With many desperate to grab a North Face puffer coat, Depop seemed a good alternative to the costly price. Yet after browsing the site, it is clear this is no longer about sustainable fashion or second-hand goods with one North Face coat listed for £545 – a costly price that many are prepared to pay. Gone are the days of uploading much loved items for extra cash; Depop’s competitive market has scammed customers to pay more for vintage designer goods, in some cases up to 7x the RPP. As sweatshop workers are increasingly exploited by corporations and brands, reselling designer Depop garments only further fuels the demand for these cheap made goods and unethical treatment of overseas factory workers. With fast fashion on the rise, how will this unethical textile cycle ever end?

As sweatshop workers are increasingly exploited by corporations and brands, reselling designer Depop garments only further fuels the demand for these cheap made goods and unethical treatment of overseas factory workers. With fast fashion on the rise, how will this unethical textile cycle ever end?

Whilst Depop was once created to enhance sustainable fashion, with the UK labelled as the fourth largest textile waste producer, with £140 million worth of clothing sent to landfill each year, what is the future of Depop? Whilst many are quick to challenge clothing entrepreneurs exploiting re-sell garments, maybe the fast fashion industry needs to change? 

Whilst companies such as Depop have attempted to re-brand second-hand clothes, in a world fixed on fast fashion, has Depop unintentionally fuelled the fashion passion with quick and accessible availability of on brand trends? With a society engulfed in social media, influencer culture enables Depop must haves to be more disposable than ever before. Whilst many are eager to maintain the latest trends, just how much is left behind? How many V-neck sweatshirts will be left untouched in wardrobes next year, how many brown garments will be outdated come the next Winter season? Arguably, Depop is the real victim in the fast fashion industry, a company caught up in the fast fashion frenzy.

With a society engulfed in social media, influencer culture enables Depop must haves to be more disposable than ever before.

However, Depop is yet to face other dilemmas that many users know all too well - drop shipping. The process of ordering from global oversea websites such as Ali Express and Shein to re-market them with extortionate mark ups. Once a market for unique pieces, Depop has paved the way for many independent online stores specialising in cheap factory garments – the opposite of the sustainable second-hand store Depop first established as. 

With Depop set to sell inflated North Face coats until the next fashion trend emerges, what will be the future of accessible and affordable clothing? Will Depop unintentionally become the next PLT or Shein, but only with second-hand goods?

featured image - instagram: @vintroomclothing

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AUTHOR: Ruby Story Dartford
Journalist Student studying at Newcastle University.

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