Depop: Sustainable or Harmful?

Depop is a website and app that allows you to list and sell clothing, jewelry, books, and more. It has gained consistent popularity over the years, bringing in almost $62 million in profits during the 2019 fiscal year. Users can list items and sell them at whatever price they want, and Depop provides them with a shipping label. The concept is clear -- start up your own shop and make your own money with your own contributions. Depop has been branded an “online thrift store,” and the reselling of clothing is proven to reduce the carbon footprint. Reselling items puts them into new hands rather than trash. However, in recent months the Depop community has been facing scrutiny for a practice many sellers have been picking up -- going into thrift stores, finding unique items, and selling them for 2-4 times the initial price. While this can sound like a good business model, it does not take into account the people that depend on thrift stores for low-priced, high-quality items. So it presents an important question: Is the environmental benefit that Depop provides worth the inconvenience to low-income families and those affected by the lack of affordable clothing available? 

Environmental benefits 

It’s no secret that reselling clothing is much better for the environment than throwing them away. Between 2000 and 2014, the amount of clothing being produced globally doubled. Because of high demand, the “fast fashion” industry was born. The fast fashion industry has done a number on the environment, and many people have vowed to stop supporting it. However, the industry is difficult to avoid. Shopping for clothing made with sustainable materials, especially in rural areas, is challenging because it is more expensive, has less size variation, and is harder to find. So where does that leave people? It leaves them at the thrift store. Buying secondhand clothing is a wonderful and usually cheap way to find new things and keep clothing out of landfills. Depop made secondhand options much more accessible. The service is available wherever there’s wifi and a mail system. People not close to secondhand stores can now buy items from sellers online, with an interface that’s easy to use. Depop was not the first of its kind, but it popularized online thrifting.  

What's up with the thrift stores?

The “dark side” of Depop consists mainly of y2k-inspired sellers finding cheap garments in thrift stores and buying them, only to sell at a higher price on their Depop account. As a business model, it’s smart. Decrease spending and increase profits, right? But it’s not that simple. The Depop sellers known for looting the thrift stores do so in low-income areas and often clear the stores of all of their available plus-size options. Their desire for capital is greater than their concern for the communities they are harming. When someone takes the plus-size, low-priced items out of low-income neighborhoods, they do not replace it. They are just leaving people without low-priced clothing in the communities that need it the most. This is called the gentrification of thrift stores. The term “gentrification” in this context refers to the influx of typically white, upper to middle-class girls going into thrift stores in low-income areas and causing the displacement of the people who depend on those stores. 

What are we supposed to do?

There is no clear-cut right and wrong here. It’s up to you as a consumer to decide where to put your dollars, and the environmental benefit of Depop is nothing to shy away from. However, the gentrification of thrift stores is a problem facing more and more communities. The solution is not clear. You don’t have to completely swear off Depop and thrifting, but you should be more conscious of what and where you’re buying.