Thrift culture presents a new opportunity for many experiencing the financial hardships of a COVID recession. 

Australia’s fashion industry might look a little different in years to come, with COVID-19 to blame for the rise in online thrifting.

According to a report from retail analytics firm, GlobalData, online second-hand clothing sales have increased by 27% and are set to increase by 69% between 2019 and 2021, while the broader retail sector is predicted to shrink by 15%.

Not only is second- hand clothing more sustainable with more consumers turning away from fast fashion, it also provided a lifeline for those who lost their jobs.

Ciel Chang searching for the hidden gems at her local Salvos to use for her Depop page (Image: Emilia Roux)

Chiel Chang was one of many young casual workers whose employers chose not to apply for Jobkeeper, leaving her with no income source.

“Depop kept me sane during the lockdown. It was like work for me … I genuinely wouldn’t have had money if it wasn’t for Depop. I would have had to rip into my savings.”

Since the pandemic, Depop, a popular online platform for buying, selling, and swapping second-hand clothes, has doubled in traffic.

Ciel is one of Depop’s 15 million users, 90% of whom are aged between 16 and 26 years old.

Depop has capitalised on this growing resale market, which GlobalData assessments estimate to be valued at 33 billion US dollars in 2020.

Victoria-based Depop influencer Meghan Fiddler under the user name ‘2cool2chuck’, has over 11 thousand followers and makes up to $700 a week.

depop megan photos

Meghan is listed as one of Depops ‘Top Sellers’, her carefully curated photos and 90’s inspired style has helped her sell over 1000 items

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw an influx of people buying from my shop. I could only attribute this to people being bored in the first lockdown.

“I wasn’t anticipating it. I assumed because people had less events to go to, there would be less sales, but I guess I was wrong.” Meghan said.

COVID-19 has even changed the model of traditional op shops like Vinnies and Salvos. Salvos expanded their online market to a digital store in May.

“Online thrifting kind of gave me a safety net, at least now I know that if everything else fails and I lose my job again I still have something to keep me going,” Ciel said.

Charity op-shop Salvos goes online for the first time after COVID-19 forced store closures

– Story, Emilia Roux @emiliaroux2, Additional editing, Jacinta Neal @Jacinta_Neal