When national lockdown began in March 2020, people all over the country searched for something to fill the void. Time with friends and family was replaced with whipped coffees, 5k runs and packages. Online shopping saw a surge in popularity as consumers whipped out their cards to distract themselves from consecutive days of bad news. A guilt free option soon appeared, an app that many may not have heard of before lockdown: Depop. Depop allows people all over the world to sell their unwanted clothes and root through pieces that had been gathering dust in a wardrobe somewhere. While many may have been drawn in by the pull of sustainable clothing options in a turbulent world, they stayed for the prices.
During our parents’ glory days hand-me-downs and reworked pieces were a way of life. It was far better to buy one good coat in Arnotts than ten cheap coats that wouldn’t stand the test of time. The nineties made everything cheaper, and the need to gather ‘stuff’ became irresistible. Leading us to a world where a new collection of clothes is released to shop weekly. While many may have attempted to keep an eye on the change in fashion seasons in years gone by, keeping up with 52 micro seasons yearly is next to impossible. Lockdown allowed many to find their own sense of style, whether that was influenced by Queen of Breakups- Stevie Nicks or a lady in a classic black dress that had forgotten to name her cat. Fashion trends come and go, and Depop allows us to pick and choose the trends we like.
With popularity comes great responsibility. Many criticise resellers and celebrities for driving up prices on the app. However, Depop’s rise in popularity could have a lot more to do with the boredom brought on by the order to stay at home than Gemma Collins.
Gary Kelly set up Retrospect Clothing during lockdown, finally acting on his great interest in vintage clothing. “I found myself with a lot of time and little to do, this led to the creation of Retrospect. It was basically just a little project for myself to keep busy and it just grew from there”, explains the Maynooth University student. The effort that vintage shops go to do find timeless pieces is something that is often forgotten about. “Go to your local charity shops and have a rummage around, it can take a lot of time and effort and you’re not always going to find a gem, but when you do it’s a great reward! Vintage shops must do this over and over again to find the best stock and many people don’t think about that when they see the price of vintage clothing.”
He explains that many university students are now going against the idea that a new outfit needs to be seen on every night out and in every Instagram picture. “I think it’s become a lot more important to university students to be more environmentally conscious and to shop sustainably. Obviously fast fashion has been a thing for a long time but it has exploded over the last ten years or so! It is only in the last few years that it has really became apparent the harm it has on the planet.”
The need for once off pieces that stand out from the crowd, is something that sets second hand clothing above its high street and fast fashion counterparts. “More and more people want to have one off and individual pieces and you just don’t get that from mass producing clothing companies whereas, it is much less likely to meet someone wearing the same outfit as you if you’re wearing vintage.
Kelly can understand how the price of that vintage jumper (yes, the one in the screenshot on your phone) can put people off. This is where the old age ‘quality over quantity’ mantra comes into place. “I think because vintage fashion has become trendy, obviously more people want it and more demand usually means a higher price. Because these pieces can’t be massed produced today, it usually means they are of a better quality and standard and they are more collectible as too… The quality of other clothing can be clearly seen when it has stood the test of time this long, and sometimes when you pay a little extra for a piece, you are less likely to throw it out.”
The rise of Depop means that fast fashion is no longer as desirable as it once was. Yet for some young people, vintage clothing is not accessible enough- an issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the closure of real life shops. UCD student Courtney Jordan explains that options on Depop can often be targeted towards a certain type of body, the one portrayed on social media as the one size fits all option. “It’s really difficult shopping sustainably right now, particularly online. Myself and my friends were always in and out of Nine Crows thrift shops when we were in college but obviously not anymore… I haven’t found anywhere as reliably sustainable that also carries my size. I’m only a size 18 so it’s not like I’m much bigger than average.”
Jordan has little option but to turn to fast fashion for certain items that she needs. Typing anything other than a female size 6-10 , does not provide the consumer with the same wealth of results. “There are some things I simply have to buy new or from companies that produce fast fashion because I just can’t find it at the moment. I’ve needed a new pair of jeans for a whole but I’ve been putting it off because there’s nothing similar to what I was looking for on Depop. I often have to choose between shopping sustainably for clothes my great aunt would wear or buying fast fashion but wearing what makes me feel like me”
Jordan is all too familiar with the guilt that comes with not being able to shop sustainably, something that she has had to move past. “I used to feel a lot of guilt for not buying sustainably as I could, but now I’ve just afforded myself the luxury of choice that smaller people have.”
She explains that young people that do not meet the ideal Instagram body, often miss out on the sense of fun that comes with finding a look they love. “Fashion should always be fun, especially when you’re young and discovering how different ways of expressing yourself make you feel. It’s only fair that plus sized people get that same experimentation, and aren’t demonised for it because it came from Shein rather than Sue Ryder.”
As we move forward as a generation that cares more than ever before about the impact that we have on the planet we call home, we must work together to provide inclusivity and accessibility in sustainable fashion. Stepping away from an industry based on ease of access was never going to be easy.