Social impact

Depop, Gen Z and the vintage style revival

Written by
Published on
January 8, 2021
Last updated
May 9, 2024

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Our newly-launched Youth Brand Affinity Tracker shows that Gen Z students are loving app-based, second-hand retailer, Depop. We take a closer look at the elements of this disruptor app that are revolutionising how UK students spend.

It’s no secret that Gen Z students are big spenders when it comes to their wardrobes. After all, fashion is their biggest discretionary spending category, beaten only by rent and food. And while in-store retail will always hold a special place in their hearts, a lot of students’ forays into fashion take place online.

Our latest Youth Brand Affinity Tracker results reveal the fashion brands that are getting it right with Gen Z. From one-stop-shop marketplaces to influencer-driven affordable fashion brands, there are a fair few usual suspects ranking highly this quarter - but also a couple of surprises.

Two Gen Zers take a selfie.

One such surprise is Depop. The second-hand ecommerce app has exploded within the past twelve months, and now it’s an integral part of the Gen Z trend funnel. As Vogue notes, social media dwellers are gaining their fashion inspo from TikTok - and fulfilling their aesthetic over on Depop.

For context, the students are more likely to have heard of Depop than Nastygal or Shein - just under half (47%) recognised the brand name, and 16% intended to buy something from the app within the next three months. It was the fourth most likely brand that students would buy from within our full list of ecommerce fashion brands - coming in just behind three major fashion heavyweights.

Why has second-hand taken off?

Depop is not a new platform - it turns 10 years old this year - but the Gen Z pivot towards second-hand clothing is perhaps a newer, more unexpected turn of events. Buying second-hand presents the opportunity for young consumers to express their individuality, with limited-edition or one-off purchases. It speaks to their desire to be environmentally conscious - 97% of young people have taken some action to save the planet, and for many, making more second-hand purchases is one of them.

A Gen Z wears vintage style clothing

And Depop does something that tilts it even more into Gen Z students’ favour - it’s condensed the thrift store format into an app, their preferred digital shopping experience. With a format that’s not dissimilar to Instagram - the number one place for students to get their shopping inspiration - Depop’s resounding success makes a lot of sense.


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A post shared by Depop (@depop)

We know that Gen Zs love to mix and match when it comes to style - wearing vintage designer alongside affordable fashion. It’s part of the reason why more and more are getting into luxury clothing. Depops peer-to-peer seller model and emphasis on second-hand has only made these high-value items more accessible to young, fashion-conscious consumers.

Is the vintage revival a threat?

Of course, perhaps there’s a (well-dressed) elephant in the room here: How much do second-hand retailers like Depop serve as a threat to traditional ecommerce?

As mentioned, Gen Zs love to mix and match. It’s part of their DNA, with so many options to choose from in all areas of their shopping experiences. So while there will no doubt be a few Die-hard Depoppers, there won’t be a mass exodus from traditional shopping any time soon.

a woman wears a vintage style

That said, there’s no doubt that second-hand fashion has influenced the revival of certain aesthetics and styles, which have appeared across ecommerce sites of all kinds. From sportswear brands rereleasing their vintage lines in limited drops to 80’s revival clothing reworked into affordable pieces, it’s clear that for students the past is… the future. For now - whether it’s releasing limited drops or going app-first- there’s a lot the wider fashion retail world can learn from Depop.

Want to know which fashion ecommerce site got the top spot for Gen Zs this quarter? Or are you curious to see how you compare to your competitors? Our Youth Brand Affinity Tracker is live. Check it out!

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