I vividly remember the hype around this buzzy new app, a place where you could easily flog your old New Look vest tops but also cop a new Topshop dress for under a tenner. It had the functionality of eBay while being as fresh and exciting as Instagram. It felt practical, futuristic and – most importantly – sustainable.
Depop was founded back in 2011 by entrepreneur Simon Beckerman. At the time, Beckerman was working for culture magazine PIG and designed the app for readers to easily purchase products featured in the magazine.
In 2012, as the platform grew, Depop’s HQ moved to London, where the business continued to expand. The app officially launched in early 2013 and later that year Beckerman secured $1 million in seed funding. The app went from strength to strength. In January 2017, Depop had 404,910 monthly active users in the UK; in January 2021, it had over four million active buyers and two million active sellers.
Although Depop seemed to be the first app of its kind, a similar ecommerce platform was founded three years before its launch: Vinted.
Lithuanian entrepreneurs Milda Mitkute and Justas Janauskas cofounded vinted.com in 2008 after Mitkute was inspired by her self-professed “shopping addiction” and shared her idea for an online marketplace with developer Janauskas at a party. The business took off when Vinted launched as a mobile app in 2012: within a day of the app’s release, Vinted saw a 30% increase in traffic. Today it is used by 45 million people globally – considerably more than Depop’s 30 million.
Rebecca, 24, is one of Vinted’s 45 million users. She signed up quite a few years ago but only started actively using the app recently after a friend recommended that she give it another go. “I checked it out and instantly found something I wanted,” she tells me. “And the items on Vinted are generally so much cheaper.”
Fern, 21, recently started selling clothes on the app. “I’ve been on Vinted for about two months,” she says, adding that she still uses Depop occasionally. “I think I prefer Vinted at the minute, just because it’s a lot easier to deal with postage and shipping and stuff – the buyer always pays for whichever kind of shipping they want.” She adds that she also “really hates” how Depop takes 10% of sellers’ earnings. On Vinted, the system is more logical and it falls to buyers to pay this fee.
Amy, 23, is another fan of selling on Vinted. “I thought it would be sort of like an eBay-type thing that I just wasn’t really interested in,” she says. “I only started using it in July last year when I moved house and had a lot of stuff to get rid of. It’s been so much easier to sell ‘normal’ items on Vinted.”
Their tips for people looking to get started selling on Vinted? “Don’t overprice your items because you won’t make any money,” Fern says. Amy adds: “Do a bit of research. If I’m going to sell something from Brandy Melville I would probably still put that on Depop because Depop has the market for that, whereas Vinted has a slightly older age demographic as their market. Look at the clothes that you have and see where they would best fit.”
Rebecca, Fern and Amy all admit that part of Vinted’s appeal is simply the fact that it isn’t as ‘gentrified’ as Depop. All three women have grown increasingly disillusioned with Depop in recent years, citing rude sellers, inflated prices, dropshippers and charity shop resellers as reasons why the app is quickly losing its charm.
“I don’t want to see a Nike T-shirt being repurposed into a boned corset and sold for 50 quid,” Amy says. She also takes issue with sellers buying plus-size clothing and altering it to fit more petite women, calling it “morally questionable”.
Speaking to Refinery29, Depop said: “We educate our sellers and allow them to set their own prices, as they are the ones who are putting in the time and effort – often scouring the world for unique vintage finds, transforming an old item into a new one, or styling it in a way that allows our community to seek inspiration for their own aesthetic.”
They continued: “We also always advise sellers to be as detailed as possible in their item descriptions, and buyers to engage in conversation with their seller to understand the value of the item before purchasing, and ultimately, both to negotiate on a price that they are equally satisfied with.”
Resellers aren’t the app’s only issue. Rebecca adds that dropshippers are also becoming a nuisance on the platform. “People sell things from places like SHEIN for the retail price or higher,” she says. As dropshipping puts money back into the fast fashion industry, the presence of dropshippers on the app undermines Depop’s image as a sustainable brand – so it’s no surprise that eco-conscious Gen Z consumers are taking their money elsewhere.
“I think Depop has just kind of lost its magic, lost its spark,” Amy surmises.
VP Trust and Safety at Depop, Fabian Koenig, told Refinery29: “We don’t allow dropshipping on our platform. We use a combination of manual and automated enforcement to ensure dropshipped items are being located and removed.” He adds that anyone who sees dropshipped listings on the app should report them.
It is worth stressing that even if some users feel as though Depop has strayed from its roots and become ‘gentrified’, the app has had an undeniable, lasting cultural impact. Depop helped bring pre-loved clothing into the mainstream; it rebranded sustainability as something cool and accessible and spectacularly obliterated the taboo of buying secondhand. Amy says that Vinted reminds her “of the early days of Depop” – suggesting that Depop will, ultimately, always be the blueprint.
It’s also important to note that these problems with Depop don’t exist within a vacuum. It’s very possible that Vinted could go the same way – something which Amy has picked up on. “I can see how the same thing is going to happen on Vinted,” she says. “Eventually, if it does become as big as Depop, I’m sure Vinted are going to be chasing that same level of profit.”
Speaking to Refinery29, Natacha Blanchard, consumer lead at Vinted, says: “We do not allow professional sellers or dropshippers on the platform, as indicated in our Catalogue Rules. We work closely with our members and customer service teams to enforce this. If there is any suspicion of commercial activity, users are warned and may be suspended or blocked permanently.”
It seems that Vinted has a clear vision for how it wants its app to be. But will the allure of higher profit margins result in Vinted also becoming flooded with charity shop resellers and dropshippers? Only time will tell.
Correction: This piece was updated to reflect DePop's latest global user and active seller/buyer count in the UK. They now have 30 global million users, four million active buyers and two million active sellers. We apologise for this error.