Are You a Pawn in the Game of Depop Resellers?

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Words: Niamh Arwin Spalding (she/her) 

With trends constantly evolving and people continuously changing, it’s no wonder that we consume an enormous amount of clothing. However, it seems that people are more conscientious than ever before, opting to donate clothes or resell them. Charity shops are thriving and reaching a societal peak, especially since influencers like Emma Chamberlain have brought attention to thrifting as a hobby for their primary audience of teens and young adults. It’s almost become a competition to see who can snag the most authentically “vintage” jacket or the best limited edition Levi’s. But are these items always as vintage as the labels claim? In most cases, they aren’t. Something only truly qualifies as vintage after around 20 years, meaning that much of what is labelled as “vintage” online may not meet this criterion and is only marketed as such to increase its appeal to potential buyers.

The question then arises: is reselling an ethical pathway to prosperity, or does it merely perpetuate the exploitative mechanisms of the fashion industry?

The pervasive throwaway culture has exacerbated significantly over time. Today, it’s distressing to observe how many items are swiftly discarded after a mere 7 to 10 uses, a staggering decline of over 35% in just 15 years. This trend is undeniably concerning given the constant flux of fashion trends, leading individuals to frequently outgrow their clothing choices.

When the feeling of disdain towards your wardrobe sets in, and suddenly you can’t stand the sight of your clothes (or worse, they’ve quickly gone out of fashion), the temptation to dispose of them immediately can be overwhelming. Yet, many people today have decided that alongside donating their clothes, they’ll also venture onto platforms like Depop, Vinted, and Poshmark to make some profit from the items they no longer want. In addition to selling personal items, these second-hand websites have become a launching pad for small businesses, as they typically don’t take a large cut of the sales.

With the likes of renowned second-hand shopping app Depop boasting a user base exceeding 35 million, consumers are presented with a vast array of options spanning sizes, colours, and styles, all at their fingertips. Nonetheless, stumbling upon what appears to be the perfect find, only to realise it’s listed at a significant markup on Depop as a ‘Y2K baby tee: fits size 6/8’ can be disillusioning. This disappointment intensifies when discovering that the item, upon arrival, is merely a low-cost Shein top likely acquired by the seller for a fraction of the listed price. In such instances, individuals inadvertently become pawns in the game of fast fashion chess, prompting a sobering realisation about the industry’s exploitative nature.

Alongside this, items that appear to be genuinely vintage are often priced at exorbitant rates simply because sellers believe they can get away with it; and often, they can. Even if an item isn’t truly vintage, determining its authenticity can be challenging, especially when dealing with online sellers. Buyers rely solely on descriptions, making it difficult to discern whether the item was made prior to the 2000s or not, unless there’s a clear label indicating its age. In this buyer-versus-seller scenario, people are constantly seeking limited edition pieces or unique items that are no longer available. Consequently, anything resembling vintage is likely to be marked up significantly. It’s a matter of supply and demand; if there’s a demand for it, someone will be willing to pay the inflated price.

The ethical landscape of reselling is a bit like walking a tightrope, balancing seller empowerment without potential buyer exploitation. It’s a world of opportunity for financial independence and environmental consciousness, but let’s not ignore the pitfalls along the way. Both sellers and buyers have a responsibility to take a good, hard look at their role in this reselling game.

For sellers, it’s all about transparency and integrity. That means being upfront about where your goods come from and their true value, and steering clear of any shady pricing tactics. And for buyers, it’s about making thoughtful choices, opting for quality over fleeting trends and supporting sellers who keep it real.

Ultimately, reselling as an ethical practice lies not in its inherent nature but in the intentions and actions of those involved. By fostering a culture of accountability and mindfulness, we can harness the potential of reselling to effect positive change within the fashion industry, one transaction at a time.


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