Dressed in a leather jacket and kicks, Depop chief executive officer Maria Raga could almost pass for one of the platform’s Gen Z fans. She has a lot of experience dressing the part. “We observe what the key values are for them, whether they have more access to information or access to so much bad information,” she said. “They’re the first generation that won’t earn more than their parents, and it impacts them.”
Raga sees creativity and activism as hallmarks of the cohort. “Depop is so much about that, and building businesses around that,” she said. “They feel that they can make the world a better place.”
“They’re fascinating, but also complex,” Raga said of Gen Z consumers. “They can be entitled, but it’s what fuels their drive for financial independence. They’re 25 percent of the population and 100 percent of the future.”
The social shopping platform, which is home to more than 12 million stylists, designers, artists, collectors, vintage sellers and sneakerheads, among other tribes, unveiled in August its first physical location in Manhattan, a 1,000-square-foot unit at 168 Mott Street in Chinatown.
The ceo doesn’t foresee new units opening in the U.S. soon. “We’ll open two stores in Europe in the next 18 months, in France and Germany,” Raga said. “We’ve identified interest among French sellers. After that, we’d like to go to Asia, to South Korea and Japan. Those markets are way ahead of the trends, mobile culture and youth culture.”
There’s demand for Depop in other parts of the world. “Australia already has a decent audience of buyers,” Raga said. “We’re growing fast in Australia. We’re thinking maybe we should do [a store] in London. We have a good office space there. We’re ninth in terms of downloaded apps in the U.K., and I don’t think anybody’s targeting the new generation with them as the centerpiece. They’re the ones that drive the platform. Then, there’s also Italy, Simon [Beckerman, Depop cofounder,] is Italian.”
A recent event with 19-year-old cartoon artist Slumpykev drew a crowd to the Los Angeles space to view and shop his first solo exhibition featuring his life-size paintings and the hand-painted apparel for which he’s better known. The aspiring artist never felt comfortable or welcome in art galleries and the purpose of the exhibition was to create something for Gen Z where anyone could experience his work “like they’re walking into my feed,” he said.
Kev spent the last day of the exhibition inviting his community to bring their favorite clothes for him to screen print on the spot. Depop supported Slumpykev’s creativity as he elevated his passion. His larger works were sold to international galleries and collectors around the world, but a few pieces are available in his shop on the platform.
The Chinatown store through the end of the month is being taken over by shoe designer Nicole Saldana, whose footwear is sold at Opening Ceremony, Intermix, Galleries Lafayette, La Rinascente and Hudson’s Bay, and who’s also selling some of the vintage apparel she collects by Todd Oldham, Emanuel Ungaro, Miu Miu, Prada Sport and Versus.
Saldana’s lug-soled Christina boot is almost sold out in all sizes, as is the Nadia, a lug-soled Mary Jane. “A lot of brands today feel very homogenous,” Saldana said. “There’s something to be said for taking risks with shapes and materials. My background is actually in ready-to-wear. I worked for 12 years on start-ups and brands such as Opening Ceremony, Jason Wu and Tory Burch.”
“We keep innovating and trying to see what works best,” Raga said. “With our location in New York, there’s a lot more footfall. We can allow our community to learn, whether it’s how to take photos or how to do their taxes. L.A. is more special activations. In terms of style, L.A. is a little more vintage, whereas New York is more streetwear.
“Trends come and go quickly, you have to be agile,” Raga said. “We saw an increase in searches for ‘preppy’ clothes on Depop before Google shopping began seeing an increase in preppy searches. Ed Hardy has seen a 60 percent increase in sales. At the same time, we’ve seen a noticeable dip in searches for skinny jeans replaced with an increase in low-rise jeans.”
Such trends help Depop shape campaigns to cater to its community. “This year, we’ll have a massive activation in May in New York, followed by brand activations and product launches that will assist our community to buy and sell more,” Raga said. “The idea is to always showcase the best of the community and always be iterating. We’ll always have a mix of things. We stay tuned in by being very close to the consumer. You have to talk to them. We have a very young team. It’s the only way you can stay relevant.”