Depop is a mobile peer-to-peer shopping app, founded by Simon
Beckerman in 2011. Beckerman had founded People in Groove (PIG),
a quarterly magazine dedicated to discovering new artists in fashion,
music and design, and from that experience, saw an opportunity for
a mobile platform that would allow his readers to buy and sell items.
Harnessing the power of the creative community he’s always been
close to, he’s now building a sustainable fashion business – and
finding that Depop is starting to be an influence on fashion itself.
What was the initial opportunity you saw for Depop?
Compelling mobile marketplaces didn’t exist in 2011. Ebay,
Etsy and Gumtree were already successful, but they were not
concentrating on mobile. I was impressed by how differently you
needed to think when going mobile. At the same time I used to
run a magazine called PIG, which focused on fashion, design and
lifestyle. I thought that the existing marketplaces were not taking
care of those underground, creative and more avant-garde
communities. Marketplaces were utilities. The idea for Depop was
to create a community of like-minded people, where they could
be inspired, discover new things and influence each other. So far
Depop has become much more. It’s now also influencing fashion
a bit, which is interesting.
How is Depop influencing fashion?
Depop offers the possibility to discover and be inspired by vintage
in the same way that you are when buying new. In the real world,
when you buy vintage you have to walk into specific shops, where
everything is piled up into boxes and sometimes dirty and smelly.
It’s not the same experience as if you go in to Liberty or Goodhood
in London. Platforms like Depop make it more or less the same
experience. So people open their wardrobes and start styling vintage
in a new way. So vintage is becoming more, for lack of a better word,
cool. At the same time, we are entering a phase historically where,
because of sustainability problems in the world, people are more
careful about buying new things. Buying new stuff, especially from
big companies, is not exciting anymore.
Championing vintage naturally positions Depop in many ways as
a challenger to the world of fast and disposable fashion: was the
sustainability aspect a motivating factor for you in creating Depop?
Definitely. I think sustainability is not a ‘plus’ anymore. It needs
to be factored into everything you do. We are heading towards
dangerous times, as we’ve been seeing in the news, and so if you’re
not sustainable, you’re not going anywhere. We wouldn’t use it as a
marketing tool either. It’s just necessity. But sustainability doesn’t mean
buying used stuff, necessarily. Take a brand like Noah, from New York,
for example. Its clothing is produced in the best and most sustainable
way possible, and it incentivises you to not continuously buy stuff, but
buy the best quality, which can last forever. It closed on Black Friday to
give a message. That’s a sustainable mindset.
The Depop community is primarily made up of 18–24 year olds.
What shifts are you seeing in what this demographic values today?
With the exception of sustainability, as I mentioned, I think that young
people experience the same kind of needs that we did when we were
younger. When our parents were younger, they lined up outside record
stores to buy the latest record of their favourite band. Today they do
the same thing, only they buy sneakers. They’re going through a phase
in their life where they need to find and discover themselves. Fashion
is a means of expressing their personality, telling the world who they
are and how they think, and what kind of tribe they are part of. So I
think those values are the same for them as they were for us.
How do you define and think about Depop’s brand identity?
I’m not a statement kind of person. I think that a brand should reflect
a personality. It should look and feel like a person. People don’t go
around shouting statements all the time. A good brand is a brand
that can speak with someone directly as if they were friends. It should
have tastes, biases, specific needs and a tone of voice. I think of
Depop as a rebellious little kid who is not satisfied with what’s out
there, and always wants to challenge itself to find what’s interesting
and exciting. You can be a seapunk or a ghetto goth. But the mindset
is more or less the same within the Depop community.
How do you approach bringing that rebellious character
to life externally?
The community is us, so the community should be our voice.
Because Depop is about the community, we want people to see
who we are through the eyes of the people that use our platform.
We choose people from our community that we think represent
our identity, and we try to work with them as much as possible,
and then we let them speak for us. For our first advertising campaign
we chose specific users, and we asked them to describe in their
words what Depop is for them. We chose the more quirky, outof-
the-box ones, because of the personality of Depop. So you
can see very fun descriptions of what Depop is, said in a unique
way by our community members, although using traditional
advertising. We ran the campaign in London and New York.
From Avaaz in politics, COPA90 in football and Glossier in beauty,
there’s a rise in brands that position themselves as being powered
by their people. Depop takes this idea even further by using your
users’ words as the copy in your advertising. Why is this peoplepowered
approach to brand building on the rise?
I think the truth is that we’ve gone through a 25- or 30-year
phase where we thought that consumerism would be the solution
to everyone’s happiness. These big companies started to arrive and
drop their wisdom on top of us, in a way that was… maybe unnatural.
And now we’re going back to a world where people want to connect
naturally, one to another, and the bigger your company becomes,
the worse it’s going to be for you. So you need to make sure that
the company you build stays in the spirit of being small. The internet
makes this happen in a big way, because it connects people directly,
so you cut out the middle man in so many areas now. I can buy
things from a company where I know who the founder is, or what
the founder thinks, and why he started the company. That connects
people now with who we are, and I think that is where we are headed
in the future.