eBay and fashion
eBay is a treasure trove. It’s full to the brim with practically everything you could ever need. In the years since its conception, eBay has grown exponentially from a fairly simple auction site to one which connects buyers and sellers across the globe in an instant. The reach of the internet in 2014 means that, as consumers, we have vast choice and access to products that we previously wouldn’t have had. The expansion of global trade also means that prices for goods from locations such as China are incredibly low.
Over the past 10 – 15 years, rapid expansion in free market economies has contributed to the success of eBay. The progression of web-based trading means that transactions outside the previously conventional format of high street shopping are much more flexible and convenient for customers in their immediacy and access. It’s enabled entrepreneurial creativity from small to large scale operations, and following the financial crashes of recent years, the website has provided a cost-efficient and practicable solution to business owners who found themselves priced out of taking on premises.
eBay allows sellers to trade flexibly in a ready-made and familiar location online, without geographical limitations. With this in mind, Racked recently reported a push by eBay management to make the site more appealing to young designers in a move to gain a more credible and secure footing in the fashion, rather than its established utility-based, sector.
So what impact has eBay had on fashion? Although the Racked article does imply the company is seeking to move away from its reputation as a second-hand trade site, for many, eBay remains the go-to place for vintage and pre-loved clothing. With such diversity available, the website supports individuality; being able to source items to customise clothing and accessories is a dream for anyone wishing to apply their own creativity to new, cheaply-bought items from Hong Kong or something 20 years old.
Designer fashion has become more accessible through the website, both through private sellers and high street names offering brands that can often be out of season stock; it actually provides the opportunity for customers to pick up bargains. Not everyone sticks to seasonal rules and in fact, styles very often replicate themselves and can be refreshed with the addition of a statement accessory, for example.
eBay has also had something of a cultural effect: in 2006, author Daniel Nissanoff’s book Futureshop told of how online auction sites (eBay being the leader in the field at the time) were transforming consumer behaviour and values. Fast-forward eight years and Nissanoff’s arguments made from sociological and economic perspectives were well grounded. Rather than the consumer culture being constrained by goods/services being static, the internet and production influenced by competitive markets challenge accepted notions of ownership. People consume fluidly, with less expectation of things as being permanent fixtures.
Much as fashion regenerates ideas, ownership and consumerism is a dynamic force – we see this on the high street with so-called ‘disposable’ fashion from Primark for example. Of course as has been demonstrated with tragic consequences on more than one occasion, not always has ethical practice been provided to protect those at the front lines of production. We as consumers have the responsibility to demand otherwise. Sites like eBay which allow us such vast choice, also give us the power in the Western world to affect change. Fashion isn’t merely about trends and styles or seasons; it’s an industry built on ideas and people. Love fashion, enjoy choice, but demand knowledge of where and how your retail fix comes from and for fair treatment of others whose voices may not be heard.