Arts and Culture

“Depop girlies” and the problem with pre-loved fashion

By Sarah McKie  

Photo credit: Istock

With the fashion market dominated by multinational companies exploiting workers and buyers alike, it’s no surprise that Gen-Z have been at the forefront of the sustainable fashion movement. Vintage shops have been around for many years, but the recent popularity of apps such as Depop has taken the pre-loved craze onto our phone screens, and it’s more popular than ever before.

On the surface, this seems like a great idea; fast fashion is destroying our planet and exploiting textile workers, so anything that takes this further out of the mainstream is great, right?

Depop is now host to many “vintage” sellers, inflating the price of second-hand clothing by an enormous degree. For many of the poorest working-class people, charity shops hosted the cheapest options; in the 2000s, you could walk into one with a tenner and leave with a full outfit. Although, with a rise in the price of living and inflation, the buying up of pre-loved clothes by Depop sellers is clearly not the main problem, it still contributes to the rising inaccessibility in sustainable fashion by taking cheap options away from those who need them most.

As a result, the poorest are directly affected, with many people on low-incomes relying on unethical fast-fashion outlets instead of shopping second-hand. These outlets know that they are the only choice for a lot of poor and plus-size individuals; as a result, the market is saturated by poor-quality garments sold for pennies and made by exploited workers. Surely this would be less likely to be the case if there were accessible and inclusive pre-loved clothes available?

Collectively, we need to remove the power that multinational fashion conglomerates hold.

For too long now these companies have thrived on microtrends and on the custom of plus-size people who have been neglected by mainstream fashion; an easy first step to beating the system is by ensuring that thrifting becomes inclusive, and that the price of pre-loved clothes reflect their used status. This will widen the market for ethical companies to start charging what the labour used to produce their clothing is worth too rather than competing with the discount items flogged by Boohoo; it’s a win-win, right?

It goes without saying that the problem does not lie at the door of your average, run-of-the-mill Depop seller trying to make a few quid off their wardrobe. However, if larger sellers of second-hand goods charged what they were worth rather than inflating the value tenfold, we may well see a resurgence in thrifting from people who could benefit from buying discounted clothes, and the demand for fast fashion would dwindle. 

Don’t let me stop you from rocking a cute-but-ugly blouse or selling it on if that’s what you fancy; just take a moment to consider if you’ve gone out of your way to mark the price up. Whilst we may all just be small cogs in the machine of the fashion industry, if these cogs seize up, we break the cycle of inaccessibility in sustainable shopping.

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