Depop: Secondhand Treasures and Sustainability

Discussing the online marketplace of GenZ’s choice and how it has impacted thrifting culture.

The rise of thrifting as a trend has opened opportunities for small businesses online alongside ethical problems regarding how sustainable it really is. / Photo from

How often are we on the search for something new? Whether that is in regards to the latest technology, album releases, or perhaps clothing. To be a trend follower, vintage enthusiast, jewelry fiend, sneaker head, etc. in the fashion world demands a continuous refreshing of the wardrobe or at least something unique to show off. 

Depop is a popular online marketplace for users to buy and sell products. Founded by Simon Beckerman in 2011, the creator’s original goal was to connect his own fashion-inclined friends but the app’s community began to grow gradually. Popular amongst younger users, usually below 26 years old, the platform allows them to sell anything from vintage clothing to handmade pieces of jewelry. 

Some sellers choose to list products with a niche or highly specific aesthetic such as “cottagecore” or “dark academia.” The concept of “cottagecore” idealizes a western countryside livelihood with small stone paths, endless meadows of wildflowers, and freshly baked bread. In terms of clothing, one may find light, linen blouses, long floral skirts, and an assortment of nature-themed earrings. On the contrary, “dark academia” stems from the romanticization of the pursuit of higher education especially with emphasis on classic literature, the arts, and Greek or Roman inspiration. This aesthetic is tied to plaid bottoms, deep brown tones, collars and coats suggesting a more business casual look.

Not everything on Depop has a -core to match its products. Depop is a particular type of Internet marketplace that has a large emphasis on “upcycling” or resale. Similar to Poshmark, Mercari, and the RealReal, these platforms, as well as Depop, focus on purchasing second hand. People in the fashion world are constantly vying for vintage pieces of luxury brands. Whether it is due to the clothing’s uniqueness, the paradoxical search for something new, or the desire for something invaluable, these platforms offer users the ability to obtain one for possibly a good deal. 

Fast fashion is one of the major causes of climate change, and provided GenZ’s emphasis on climate action, it makes upcycling and thrifting a popular option. Although those practices are not saving graces, they still contribute to better environmentally friendly habits. It is hard to promote sustainability and actually convert people to a better lifestyle, and actually easier to make it more accessible. It also helps that thrifting and upcycling are considered trendy now. 

However, this trend of online “upcycling” has raised an ethical issue. To purchase secondhand online, the seller’s products must have also been bought secondhand. Often people will go to thrift stores, not to buy clothing for themselves at a bargain, but to search for items that they can buy and then resell at a more expensive price. This prevents people who cannot afford new clothes from getting them. Middle and upper class shoppers who do “thrift store hauls” merely for the purpose of reselling are denying them a basic right. 

With a largely younger generation user demographic, it is no surprise that Notre Dame students use this platform.

Anna Kim ‘24 uses Depop to sell her self-printed clothing as well as unique jewelry. She receives a considerable amount of revenue from this side-hustle and over time, she has built a solid following. 

“With thrifting essentially becoming a trend, everyone is looking for popular clothing but ‘vintage’ or secondhand. I think thrifting is for anyone. I don’t think we should prevent people from thrifting, but I also think that it’s unfair for people to resell at an absurd price,” she says.

Reselling on Depop for unreasonable amounts, either much higher than retail or what the seller bought for the product originally, makes it unethical. It ruins the purpose of sustainability and the overall customer experience. This use of the app leans away from the initial goal for users to simply sell their clothes that they no longer need. Even then, it takes away from other users who are simply trying to promote their own businesses. Both buyers and sellers should be conscientious about how they spend their time on this platform.