Depop and Bain & Company outline Gen Z paradigm shift

By Depop
30 May 2021

Depop and Bain & Company have collaborated on a first of its kind report on Gen Z. Futureproof: How Gen Z’s empathy, awareness and fluidity are transforming business as usual details unique behavioural insights about how this rising consumer cohort is making its mark on fashion today and reshaping the future.

The report explores how Gen Z’s mindset is profoundly changing the conception of empathy, self-expression and exchange, and how Gen Z is reimagining (fashion) newness. The insights are the product of extensive quantitative and qualitative research including a survey of more than 2,000 Gen Z Depop users as well as one-on-one interviews with Depop sellers and buyers in the US, the UK and Australia.


  • Growing up in an era of ubiquitous digital technology and an unmatched rate of change, Generation Z has developed an interconnected and fluid way of processing the world, rather than digesting it through a binary framework.

  • For Gen Z, it’s not so much about this or that, but rather, this and that: awareness and vulnerability, individuality and community, digital and physical, commerce and entertainment, consumption and production, value and values.

Key takeaways:

  • Gen Z is simultaneously more vulnerable and aware of the magnified social stresses within the digitally charged globalized economy

    • For instance, the Gen Z we surveyed cited social media as the top source of inspiration, but embrace a more nuanced relationship with social media that acknowledges both the positives and the negatives of these platforms

  • For Gen Z, it’s not so much about this or that, but rather, this and that: awareness and vulnerability, individuality and community, digital and physical, commerce and entertainment, consumption and production, value and values.

  • Gen Z self-expression is characterized by the twin desires for individual authenticity as well as collaboration and community (friends emerged as the second top source of fashion inspiration); in fact, Gen Z’s socially empowered individuality that has catalyzed its empathy of vulnerability into calls for action in the face of adversity

  • Gen Z embraces an integrated reality in which digital and physical exchange are no longer binary but complementary modes of communication and consumption

  • Gen Z interconnection also needs to be understood within the context of digital platforms, which have blurred boundaries between commerce and connection, entertainment and entrepreneurship, and ultimately consumption and production

  • Finally, Gen Z is reimagining newness as interest in sustainable fashion continues to rise

    • 90% of Gen Z surveyed have made changes to be more sustainable in their daily lives and more sustainable fashion practices play a central role

    • Gen Z decisions to purchase fashion are strongly influenced by brand commitments to social and environmental sustainability

      • 70% of the surveyed are influenced by commitments to fair wages & safety

      • 60% are influenced by commitments to diversity & inclusion

      • 60% are influenced by commitments to a reduced footprint

      • 45% are influenced by commitments to eco-friendly materials

  • In this context, online second hand fashion is emerging as an example of a value proposition that marries consumer demands and values

    • 75% of Depop users buy second hand to reduce consumption (sustainability)

    • 55% to buy one of a kind items and 45% to tap into trends (newness)

    • 65% to find lower prices (value)

    • 35% because it’s a cool thing to do (entertainment)

“Gen Z are changing fashion consumption with their approaches to self-expression and identity, and by redefining the way newness is understood and appreciated. This is a generation leading change at global scale – they are increasingly influencing the consumption behaviours of older generations, and are rapidly gaining spending power,” says Peter Semple, Chief Brand Officer at Depop. “In order for fashion businesses to succeed with current and future consumers, they must believe in and serve the interests of these audiences. Fluidity, constant evolution and clear values are the means to be a futureproof brand – and we use those principles to guide the development of our social, purposeful, community-driven fashion marketplace.”

“Brands will need to make sure they understand the unique customers that are Gen Z: they may be young, but they have strong opinions and have high expectations for the brands with which they interact,” said Federica Levato, a partner at Bain & Company and head of the firm’s Fashion-Luxury practice in EMEA. “Values such as sustainability and equity are paramount to them and heavily influence their purchasing choices. As Gen Z gains spending power, building a lasting connection and dialogue with these new consumers will be key for brands to be successful.”

“Gen Z-minded brands must not only be fluent in digital and omnichannel, but also lead in environmental and social sustainability, as well as pioneer new ways to co-create culture in collaboration with consumers,” said Fabio Colacchio, a Partner at Bain & Company in Milan and a member of the firm’s Fashion-Luxury and Customer practices. “Platforms and this non-binary mindset represent major shifts for the value-creation models of brands. In terms of disruption and innovation, sustainability is the new digital, and culture is the next frontier!”

On Thursday June 10th, Bain & Company will host a webinar to discuss findings of the report and what this means for the fashion industry with the authors of the report, Federica Levato, partner and head of Bain & Company’s Fashion-Luxury vertical in EMEA, and senior member of the Strategy, Private Equity and Customer practices, Fabio Colacchio, partner in Bain & Company's Fashion-Luxury team and Marketing & Consumer Excellence practices, and Peter Semple, Chief Brand Officer at Depop, moderated by Lucy Maguire of Vogue Business. To sign-up for the webinar, please register here.

To view the full report, please visit, or click here to download a PDF.


Aliza Medina at Bain & Company or +44 207 969 6480

About Depop

Depop is the community-powered fashion marketplace to buy and sell unique fashion, with over 30 million registered users in more than 150 countries. Depop is a place for anyone to discover and celebrate their style on their own terms, and to feel good about their fashion choices by extending the lives of millions of garments. The company is headquartered in London, with offices in Manchester, New York, Los Angeles and Sydney, with approximately 400 employees dedicated to its mission of building the world’s most diverse progressive home of fashion, that’s kinder on the planet and kinder to people. For more information about Depop, visit and download the app on iOS or Android. Follow @Depop on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter.

About Bain & Company

Bain & Company is a global consultancy that helps the world’s most ambitious change makers define the future. Across 61 offices in 38 countries, we work alongside our clients as one team with a shared ambition to achieve extraordinary results, outperform the competition, and redefine industries. We complement our tailored, integrated expertise with a vibrant ecosystem of digital innovators to deliver better, faster, and more enduring outcomes. Our 10-year commitment to invest more than $1 billion in pro bono services brings our talent, expertise, and insight to organizations tackling today’s urgent challenges in education, racial equity, social justice, economic development, and the environment. We earned a gold rating from EcoVadis, the leading platform for environmental, social, and ethical performance ratings for global supply chains, putting us in the top 2% among other consulting firms. Since our founding in 1973, we have measured our success by the success of our clients, and we proudly maintain the highest level of client advocacy in the industry.