Depop: The social shopping app that has thrived in Ireland during lockdown

Platform is particularly popular with Gen Z, allowing them to avoid fast fashion and embrace second-hand clothing

A few weeks ago, I was mindlessly flicking through Instagram when I spotted an influencer wearing a fabulous white dress with a voluminous collar and pearl buttons. "Please can you tell us where this beautiful dress is from?" asked one follower. "Sister Jane!" replied the influencer. Immediately I was overwhelmed with a sense of desire. I wanted this dress, nay, I needed this dress.

A quick Google revealed that the dress was sold out and no longer available from the brand's official website or other online stockists. Undeterred, I opened up Depop, the popular second-hand shopping app, and decided to see if it was there. Reader, there it was. In my size and available to buy for a fraction of the original price. I quickly nabbed it and it arrived within a few days. We are very much in love, thank you for asking.

Depop, for those unfamiliar, is a social shopping app that allows users to buy and sell clothes, shoes, jewellery and more. Sellers can set up their own shops on the platform and quickly and easily put items up for sale. Buyers, meanwhile, can follow their favourite sellers, like items and even have items suggested to them through an algorithm. In 2019, the Atlantic aptly described it as "a little bit eBay and a little bit Instagram" and that pretty much sums it up. Whether you're clearing out your wardrobe and looking to make some quick cash or running an actual business, you can make Depop work for you.

Over the last year, I have done the vast majority of my clothes shopping on Depop. Rather than buy new items, I have tended towards buying second-hand or vintage clothes from Depop. Time previously spent scrolling through Instagram is now spent hunting for gold on Depop. Among the items I have bought are a vintage shearling jacket, a wool blazer, a pair of leather boots, a good-as-new Rixo dress, a handmade tie-dye T-shirt and a heavily discounted tube of luxury face cream.


And I am not the only one to have made the move towards Depop.

26 million users

According to the site, it has experienced triple-digit year-on-year growth in items sold, new buyers and new sellers in Ireland. "Ireland is certainly one of the growing markets for Depop," says Marie Petrovicka, vice-president of markets at Depop. "The growth so far has been driven largely by organic and word of mouth growth over the past year."

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic on the app has tripled globally and it now has 26 million users. Petrovicka says that lockdowns have helped fuel the growth of the app.

“At Depop, we’ve really seen Gen Z in particular embrace resale as a way to use the extra time we’ve all had on our hands, as creatively and productively as possible. What was usually considered a time-consuming activity for many has become easier as we’ve all spent more time at home, cleaning out our wardrobes, getting creative with styling and shooting inventory – and making some money in the process, during what has been a difficult time for many people.

“And on the buyers’ side, this period in time has given us all a chance to reflect on what’s important to us and more people than ever are now actively considering resale as a great value and sustainable way to express their individuality through fashion.”

As Petrovicka notes, Depop has been widely embraced by Gen Z. Emily-Jane and Isabel Doyle from Rathgar, Dublin, started using Depop when they were teenagers. "We got the app when we were, like, 16 or 17 and started buying stuff," says Emily-Jane. "With our parents' account," adds Isabel.

Now 21, the twin sisters run a verified shop (@thedoyletwins) on the platform and boast 35,000 followers. They started selling old and unwanted clothes in the summer of 2019. Now they import wholesale items from the United Kingdom and sell vintage branded clothes from the nineties and noughties.

They spend about an hour a day photographing stock or packaging items and earn enough to keep themselves going through college. (Both are currently in third year in Trinity College. )

“We’ve got a good combination,” says Isabel. “Emily-Jane really runs the creative side. She has always loved fashion and always kind of dressed me. I run the numbers – what we can afford and what we can’t afford, what we’re going to have to hit targets wise. We’ve got a good team going.”

The Doyle Twins are part of a community of young vintage sellers in Ireland. Other popular sellers on the platform include Vintage Revamp, Vintage Van Goth and Spice Vintage. “We’re in a group chat with them so we all help each other and give each other advice,” says Isabel. “It’s a very well-connected group of people. We just stay in contact, ask for advice and help each other out.”

So, why is it that Depop has proven so popular among Gen Z?

“Number one, it’s because people are concerned about fast fashion and the environmental consequences of it,” says Isabel. “Number two, it’s becoming a lot cooler to wear clothes and to be able to brag that you got it second hand.”

Others are drawn to the app as it offers an alternative to fast fashion. Take Tara Stewart, for instance. The DJ and RTÉ 2fm broadcaster is a champion of sustainable fashion and hosts the podcast Dirty Laundry.

A longtime user of Depop, she has picked up all sorts of unique streetwear pieces on the app from brands like Louis Vuitton, Nike, Adidas, Champion and Karl Kani. As well as buying on the app, she also regularly sells her own clothes and uses the proceeds to fund her shopping habit.

Shop sustainably

Since the beginning of lockdown, she says that she has found herself shopping and scrolling through Depop more than ever before. Not only does it allow her to “scratch the charity shop itch” she has been missing for the last year, but it also enables her to shop sustainably.

“I try not to buy new if I can avoid it so I prefer to find stuff on Depop. Even when I’m looking for high-street stuff, I search for ‘ASOS’ on Depop first because I would rather get something second hand than new.

“I try to encourage people to try and get something on there before going new. Don’t get me wrong – I still buy new stuff if I have to. But I’ll try on Depop first before trying new. And most of the time you will find stuff. Obviously it depends on what size you are because it’s hard to buy second hand for larger sizes so I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone but it can be easy for some.”

As Depop continues to grow and bricks-and-mortar shops stay shuttered, some sellers are working to develop actual businesses.

Laura Faughnan is a mother of two based in Newbridge, Co Kildare. She started selling her old vintage clothes on Depop (@la_luna_vintage) shortly after the birth of her first child. Having previously worked in both fashion design and retail, Faughnan was a natural fit for the app.

“I had all of this stuff and a lot of it was really nice and I didn’t want to throw it out,” she explains. “I had time, too, because I had a little baby and it was like a hobby. It was something to keep me busy. It was nice photographing stuff and writing descriptions.”

For a while, Faughnan was quietly tipping away and selling one or two items a week. Then lockdown hit and shops closed. One weekend last March, she sold seven items, many from first-time buyers. “I was like, ‘What? How did this happen?” Very quickly there was a move to online.”

Depop has grown exponentially over the last year, she says. “At the start of lockdown, I checked how many womenswear items were available for sale and it was 80,000 in Ireland,” she says. “I checked that two days ago and it’s 360,000 items now.”

As a result, her business has flourished and expanded. She now sources items from wholesalers, typically handpicking items via Zoom consultations. Think vintage dresses and feminine blouses. What was once a hobby now has the potential to grow into something bigger.

“Up until this point, it was probably a time thing and I hadn’t gotten my head around it properly,” she says. “I am trying now to make it into a viable business. I think it definitely has potential.”

Tips for selling

Lights, camera, action: On the internet, your grid is your shop window. That means that photos are important. Make sure clothes are presented and lit well.

Use your words: Descriptions are important. Put a little TLC into them and use as many keywords as possible to ensure that your items show up in search results. (Just don't spam them with irrelevant keywords.)

Be efficient: Get back to customers' queries. Make sure clothes are packaged safely. Pop items in the post quickly. Do all that and you'll be golden.

Tips for buying

Be specific: The more specific you are with your search term, the more likely you are to stumble upon something you really want. Use filters to narrow the search to your favourite brands, colours and dress size.

Like, like, like: Depop suggests items you might like based on things you have previously liked or searched for. Help the algorithm out by liking items that tickle your fancy, whether you want to buy them or not. That way you're far more likely to be shown items that match your style and aesthetic.

Make an offer: Spot something that's a little out of your price range? Don't be afraid to drop the seller a line and make a reasonable offer. Many sellers are willing to haggle if it means shifting stock.