eBay joins the fashion lemmings

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So eBay has got itself a creative director, in the form of ex-Lucky mag staffer Andrea Linett, to gloss-up its fashion offerings. At least we know they can recognise a trend when they see one.

There is nothing hotter, after all, in the e-fashion world, than retail sites acquiring their very own fashion editor. Harrods, for example, lured away my ex-deputy, the talented Nicola Copping, last autumn (not that I’m resentful, oh no) to run their “content;” around the same time, my-wardrobe.com signed up ex-UK Grazia editor Fiona Macintosh as consultant creative director; and Google’s boutiques.com has a rotating cast of celeb stylists.They are all following in the footsteps, of course, of Net-a-Porter, where one of founder’s Natalie Massenet’s brilliant insights was that the sort of woman who was addicted to high-end glossy fashion magazines was also the sort of woman who would shop at a high-end glossy fashion site, if you edited your offering equally well (she has applied the same idea to her men’s site, launching next month, which is “edited” by ex-Esquire chieftain Jeremy Langmead). She was right, Richemont bought the company last year, valuing it at GBP 350m, and now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.

But here’s the thing: just because this worked so well for Ms Massenet, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone else, and specifically, I’m not convinced about eBay. After all, part of the fun of eBay – part of the identity of eBay – is it’s do-it-yourself non-glossiness. It is a big scrum, and some of it is great and some of it is trash, and you go there for the same reason you go to Paris’s March des Puces or the Rose Bowl market in Pasadena: to make a discovery, and perhaps find some true luxury (Ms Linett, for example, told the New York Times she once found a rare Hermes watch on eBay) that no one else has realised is there (she got it for a third of its retail price).

But if – for the sake of discussion – a fashion editor or creative director has already realised that jewel of a product is there, and done a gorgeous shoot with it, and that shoot has been posted for all visitors to see…well, where’s the challenge and satisfaction in that? And what will happen to the price?

The internet is a rough-’n-tumble world, and sometimes, diamonds are more fun to find in the rough. You can always smooth it all out later on the iPad.

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