Spotlight reporter Lucy Parish, discovers that teenagers across the UK are making serious money selling their pre-loved clothes, and talks to a Harlow vintage clothes store manager.
THE minimum wage for under 18s in 2019 is a meagre £4.34 whilst the average cost for a university degree is £9.250. It doesn’t add up.
Minimum wage jobs aren’t the only option though. Some young people are making thousands from their bedroom – and all they have is an eye for vintage clothes and a rough idea of how the UK postal system works.
Similar to Ebay, Depop is a unique social marketplace where over 12 million people come to buy, sell, discover and explore vintage, upcycled and reworked clothing. It lets users upload pre-loved clothing, shoes and jewellery to turn over a profit. The more popular the store – the higher the chance of being featured on the explore page that’s curated by Depop staff, resulting in a steady source of income.
Ella Purvis, co-owner of ‘Endless Wardrobe’ has over three thousand followers and has been featured on the explore page countless times. Ella is currently studying A Levels whilst running her Depop shop on the side.
Ella said “It is quite time consuming, as we have to have full days sometimes dedicated to modelling, taking photos and organising.
“It has definitely made me want to pursue a career in the fashion industry as I really enjoy managing our Depop shop. I am thinking of maybe doing a degree in fashion marketing at university after sixth form.”
In regard to profit, Ella said “It really fluctuates, however over six months we have made just over £200 and each month we probably make around £40.”
What makes Depop such a hit with young people is its distinctive style, and without completely losing all grip on the English language, the ‘coolness’ is exudes. Ella reflected back to September 2018, when she created Endless Wardrobe.
“When we first started I watched a lot of YouTube videos of how to be successful on Depop and I think this information really helped our shop to grow. We use a white background as it keeps everything looking clean and makes it easier to see the clothing well.”
Another Depop seller, Carrie-Anne Phillipson (Although she prefers Caz) is a little older than Ella, and has already completed university. She’s owned Dreamboat Vintage on Depop for five years, and has nearly 300 sales.
She stressed to me how great Depop is for young people. “Selling online is a great place to start in regards to setting up an actual business. Depop is a platform that’s super simple and visual and so it attracts young people to it, however I think if you want to make something of yourself, once you’ve established a name for yourself on something like Depop or Instagram, branching out and creating your own website is the way to go!”
Some charity shops can be a gold mine for sourcing high quality clothes for cheap, the lower the cost of the find – the easier it can be to make a profit. “I love second-hand shopping in particular for the environmental factors as well as the opportunity to have unique pieces, so much of my wardrobe and the things I sell are one-off vintage items from other vintage stores, markets, charity shops etc!”
When I was in secondary school, the idea of buying second hand clothes used to make me cringe, but now the idea of clothes having a previous life enthrals me.
Vintage clothes lover Allie divides her time between being an assistant manager of charity shop Scarlet Vintage and Retro (SV&R) in Harlow Town, raising her two children and being a sustainable fashion guru for her four and a half thousand Instagram followers.
Allie said her passion for pre-loved clothes began at a young age, as she enthused about the enormous Oxfam round the corner from her East London home. “I used to go in there with my mum and there just used to be buckets of the most amazing clothes. As well as that I used to go down to Brick Lane market with my dad every Sunday and there was always the most amazing dresses and vintage treasures displayed.”
SV&R first opened in October 2018 and has been popular ever since. Allie works with Tracy the general manager and volunteers to raise as much money for St Clare’s Hospice. She said “We do that by obviously visual merchandising, and a general kind of day-to-day running of the shop and just showcasing our stock as well as we can.”
I believe that Depop is giving young people a chance to start something for themselves. Instead of binge drinking and smoking weed, they’re packaging and posting faux fur caps and 90s windbreakers – taking an initiative in their future.
Allie commented: “I kind of feel like I should applaud their entrepreneurial skills because they’ve obviously noticed that there’s a gap in the market and they’re exploiting it and I suppose there are transferable skills. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a bad thing for them but it may be hard to then navigate their way through a working world outside in the wide world where they may not be earning that money straight away for such little work as such.”
There is also an environmental aspect that needs to be considered. According to Wrap UK, over 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year. In order to secure a greener future we need to reignite our relationship with clothes and end this ‘throwaway culture’ that’s incorporating every aspect of our lives. The clothes we’re about to chuck could have a second life in someone else’s wardrobe.
Be sure to follow @endlesswardrobe and @dreamboatvintage on Depop and Allie’s blog: ‘TheStyleAllie’ on WordPress. Head down to find your own vintage pieces at Scarlet Vintage and Retro at 3 Broad Walk, Harlow CM20 1HX as well.