Founded by Simon Beckerman in 2011, the peer-to-peer social media shopping app is now a runaway success that claims to attract 10 million visitors each year. And good for them. Because what’s not to like about a digital second-hand shop specialising in recycling designer-branded clothing and accessories? Any business that offers an alternative to the Primark model of throwaway fast fashion is surely a step in the right direction, especially when the stereotypically costly nature of sustainability is now comparable to the prices of quick-fix brands such as pretty little thing or boohoo, and, is just as easily accessible. However, a growing concern is that this platform may be taken for granted.
Now even Depop risks being undermined by the fashion bootleggers and poachers of the industry who have long plagued mainstream brands like Gucci, Dior, and Burberry in the bricks-and-mortar world of backstreet markets around the world. While you can find a lot of amazing vintage pieces and bespoke garments made by independent designers on Beckerman’s creation, these self-made brands are under attack. Depop is becoming increasingly infested - and its integrity brought into question - by the number of low-cost, low-quality imitation products now popping up across the site.
Take Bella McFadden’s success story of iGirl. By scouring the thrift stores of LA as well as her very own wardrobe she puts together a unique and personalised ‘style bundle’ for pretty much whatever look your heart desires, be that a glam pixie nymph to CEO goth freak. At over £160 a bundle the price may seem questionable, but experiencing the service myself, it is worth it, as she clearly puts her heart into the ensemble of clothes and accessories. It is only made more personal by the inclusion of some of her own designs and a hand-written letter detailing her creative direction.
Now, ominously, Depop has become increasingly laden with imitations following the zeitgeist surrounding McFadden’s products as well as those of other independent designers. iGirl jewellery and clothing is being produced at a fraction of the originals’ price – and quality. As an app whose target audience is, broadly speaking, 18-24-year-old debt-burdened students, cost considerations are almost bound to outweigh concerns about the environmentally unsustainable and unethical ‘sweatshop’ origins of these imitations.
Depop has definitely earned its reputation as an emerging champion of sustainability and accessibility in fashion; but for how long can it maintain this position without having to transition from the peer-to-peer business model that has made it so popular, to a more heavily curated e-commerce stance that keeps the imitators at bay?