This fast-growing social media app combines Instagram style image creation with digital marketplace bargaining.

Caitlin Young is just one of the millions of teens and twenty-somethings who are shaking things up in fashion by digging through their parents’ scraps, raiding charity stores and scanning boot sales in order to create mini-businesses online.

Young collects 1990s and early 2000s “Y2K” “vintage” gear at charity shops and jumble sale and styles them or customizes them for her 22,500 Depop followers. Depop is a fast-growing social network app that combines the image creation capabilities of Instagram with a digital market trader version.

“People in my family tell me, ‘You don’t sell shoes anymore?’ but I know that everyone buys vintage. Young says that it’s what people do right now. The animation student adds, “It pays my life,” and sells as much as PS2,000 worth of secondhand clothing per month online.

Online clothing sellers, including young people, are refusing to follow the fashion trends of mainstream brands and high street chains. They make thousands of pounds selling vintage trainers, fluorescent jackets, and high-waisted jeans that their parents wore in raves in 1990s and 2000s.

blue textile beside black leather boots

Depop was founded in 2011 and now has 10m users. It makes more than PS300m ($400m per year) in sales. This figure has more than doubled each year. The average British customer, aged between 13 and 24, purchases 20,000 items per day. It estimates that hundreds of its top-selling sellers earn more than PS150,000 per year by selling online.

Depop has caught on to a trend in which secondhand is no longer second best, along with other online marketplaces including US-based Thredup, Poshmark and Grailed, which trade in a more social way than the more established eBay and Gumtree. Asos is an online fashion retailer that sells vintage boutiques. Student High Street, a British startup, hosts sellers’ events at universities.

Thredup in the US found that there was a 25% increase in women who are willing to buy secondhand goods in 2017, compared to the previous year. The market would grow by 15% annually over the next few decades, according to Thredup. This compares to 2% for overall fashion sales.

Thredup says that secondhand clothing now accounts for 6% of respondents’ wardrobes. This is almost twice the amount of 10 years ago. And that percentage could nearly double to 11% by 2027.

Lorna Hall (head of insight, trend forecasting firm WGSN) says that it’s almost a black market. “This way of shopping, especially in Generation Z [under 25s], is driving money out of the mainstream market,” says Lorna Hall.

She says that people love the fact that Depop allows them to easily find nearby sellers, pick up their purchases and save on postage.

Simon Beckerman, who founded Depop in Italy in 2011, moved the company to London in 2003 after receiving $8m funding from Balderton Capital. This UK-based investment firm has previously backed Betfair as well as Figleaves.

Beckerman stated to Artefact magazine that his initial goal was for young designers and cool collectors. But, we found a world of girls who are looking to sell their entire wardrobe and I couldn’t have imagined there would be such an urgent need. Ebay can be complicated and slow, and it doesn’t work if you are trying to sell something on PS5. Depop is a social marketplace that allows chat and it’s a great option.

Young people are now more conscious about how clothes can be thrown away after only a few uses, following the 2008 recession.

Thidarat Kaha, a Depop seller who sells approximately PS6,000 worth of clothes per month to her 44,000 fans, says that “we are living in an era of DIY and being able to build your own platform.” “In the past, people would only buy Topshop clothes. Now they’d be buying from someone else.”

“The beauty of this product is that it is often one-on-one. You will not find anything similar to what you have just bought anywhere else. Young people are more concerned about the future of our planet. Reusing and purchasing vintage clothes is a way to consume clothes in a more sustainable manner.”

clothes hanging on white rack

Depop aims to capitalize on that shift in mentality and quadruple its size in the next three to four years.

Investors betting on the future of the company have invested $40m in the company, including Octopus Ventures which backed Graze, Gym Box, and Creandum and that backed Spotify, and iZettle, the payment tech company.

Maria Raga, Depop’s chief executive, says, “We are so small in comparison to the overall market, the potential for the market is enormous.” “Depop is all about selling good quality and inspirational stuff. That is down to a lot creativity.”

Young, who began by making and selling clothes to friends at school and used to sell vintage items on .eBay .before joining Depop as a student, says she has had such a good response to her customised clothes that she is now considering launching her own clothing brand. She says, “I started it as a way to keep me going while studying, but it’s something I love.”

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