Mobile magnates

Eve Watling in The Economist:

VIN_02_inlineGrowing up in a conservative suburb of Toronto, Bella McFadden stood out. “Everyone in my high school was either a football bro or a basic girl that only shopped at the mall,” she says. In her second-hand chequered trousers and velvet dresses, paired with purple lipstick and a choker, she looked like she was from a different planet. Short of local soulmates, she turned to social media. Under the handle @internetgirl, she built up a large following that shared her passion for retro, thrift-shop fashion. “I loved my friends that I would make online, because I didn’t have friends in my day-to-day life,” she says.

Two years ago, Bella dropped out of college and began monetising her social-media presence on Depop, an app on which people trade second-hand clothes. At 22 years old, she has amassed close to half a million followers on Depop, placing her consistently in the platform’s top ten global sellers. She now employs two assistants, recently opened up her own website selling unworn second-hand stock, and has started her own fashion line. Fans often approach her in the street asking for autographs and selfies. The clothes that alienated the once-lonely teenager from her peers have built her an adoring fanbase and a career.In 2014, Bo Brearley returned to her parents’ home in London from university and discovered her favourite old jumper was missing. She confronted her 15-year-old sister, Eve. Eve confessed – she had sold it on Depop. Nearly four years on, Bo, now 22, hasn’t entirely forgiven her. “I loved that jumper!” she howls when she remembers it. Nevertheless, the sisters teamed up to create a shop on Depop called Past Trash, selling party clothes from the Nineties and early Noughties. It became the biggest selling Depop shop in the world in terms of volume of stock sold, shipping 500 items a week to everywhere from Barbados to Norway.

Depop was launched in 2011 when Simon Beckerman, an Italian entrepreneur, decided to make a new, hip online marketplace by creating an app that merged editorial and sales. “I realised most of the decision-making in buying fashion was through references,” says Beckerman, who had previously founded a youth-culture magazine and then a sunglasses brand. “I realised Depop needed to be social.” The team designed the app with Instagram-style features, with “follow” and “like” buttons, comments and chat, already familiar to social media users. Users download the app, make a profile, upload photos of clothes they want to sell, scroll through the “explore” page of items recommended by the Depop team, search for a specific item or browse their Facebook friends’ stores. When you buy an item, the individual seller is responsible for packaging and sending it to the buyer. Money changes hands through PayPal, or users can meet in person.

More here.