LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY eBay's sales have doubled in the last two years. But can they satisfy the most demanding customer of all
09:02 GMT, 22 October 2012
My ideal imaginary wardrobe would be practical, classic, long-lasting and just a teeny bit frivolous.
It would contain a biker jacket by Burberry, a pair of pointy Manolo Blahniks, an olive military coat that is warm and edgy — by Topshop perhaps — and a knockout dress for an awards ceremony in November, then for possible parties in December.
The fantasy frock would probably be black, slightly body-con and below the knee. One by Victoria Beckham would be ideal, but too expensive — hers cost about 3,000.
Digital delights: Thanks to eBay, it's now easier than ever to get your hands on designer gear
The bag I’d settle for a huge Bottega Veneta tote. Again, it would cost about 2,000, depending on size. And a pair of chunky, mid-calf biker boots from Dior, about 800.
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Each of the above items is expensive. The Burberry biker is 4,995. A pair of sling-back Manolos at least 400. Even the Topshop coat is 89.
And setting aside the cost for a moment (it would set me back almost 12,000 if I was seriously spending), the whole experience of trawling these stores often drives me perilously close to shopping rage.
So, could the answer be Britain’s biggest online marketplace, eBay
I must confess, despite hearing rave reviews, I have never been on the website before, believing it was full of rubbish.
But eBay is having a big push into fashion this year, and has partnered with the British Fashion Council to support emerging design talent.
There’s no arguing with its figures. In one month alone, four million shoppers search for clothing, shoes or accessories — the numbers have doubled since March 2010.
The site now has a dedicated fashion arm featuring more than 100 High Street brands alongside smaller boutiques, and 30 major international retailers — as well as 640,000 individual ‘fashion’ sellers trading on eBay.
The potential is obvious — this could
be like Bond Street, Selfridges, a small vintage stall and the Great
British High Street all rolled into one. You can shop any time,
anywhere, all from the comfort of your sofa. Even I have to admit it
sounds wonderful, but does the theory work in practice
As my test begins, I’m surprised at how much almost new designer fashion is listed.
find a Burberry biker jacket in cream cotton from spring/summer 2011
and a pair of perfect lookalike Dior biker boots from Belstaff.
also find two Victoria Beckham LBDs from 2011 and spring/summer 2012,
and a four-year-old mushroom- coloured military coat by Stella McCartney
that is not quite the right colour for this season, but a snip at 350.
Designer darlings: Christopher Bailey's (left) creations for Burberry can be found on eBay, alongside pieces by Victoria Beckham (right), Belstaff, Chanel, Jil Sander, Manolo Blahnik and many, many more
eBay plans to add another 40 to 60 brands to its fashion site by the end of the year
There is lots more besides, including Jimmy Choos, Manolo Blahniks and a fabulous 2011 Chanel bag, going for 2,250 (new it would cost 5,000).
All these items come with a ‘buy it now option’ (I find the idea of placing a bid and then losing an item you have set your heart on a bit frustrating), a certificate of authenticity, and have been posted by a reputable seller whose biography tells me she has been selling designer brands online for six years.
As a new eBay user, I found the site surprisingly easy to use.
The website has gone to great lengths to clamp down on fakes. And money is normally exchanged through PayPal, meaning if those Gucci boots you purchased fail to arrive, you have some recompense.
Additionally, if the seller dispatches something sub-standard or sells something that does not materialise, he or she will be unable to sell again.
And if you’re not looking for something designer, the site is launching a new fashion gallery (ebay.co.uk/fashion/gallery) from October 30, which will feature discounted High Street brands.
So what are my online marketplace tips If you’re buying pre-worn items, choose things that don’t scream ‘dated!’. In my experience, Italian labels come up slightly large and, if you’re bidding for a pair of shoes, ask to see a photo of their soles.
My haul would have cost me 6,000, had I gone through with it — that’s a saving of 50 per cent. And the process was a lot less hassle than I expected. So much less guilt-inducing than a spree on Net-A-Porter.
MY TOP BIDS
Mulberry military coat, 700
Victoria Beckham dress, 600
Stella McCartney coat, 350
Manolo Blahnik heels, 180
Chanel patent clutch bag, 2,250
YSL patent 'Muse' bag, 400
Jil Sander boots, 350
Jimmy Choo booties, 400
Belstaff biker boots, 200
Victoria by Victoria Beckham dress, 350
Burberry biker jacket, 600
LIZ JONES SPIES ON… COS
Cos stores are rarer than golden eagles in the UK: outside of London, you can find them only in Brighton, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.
But it’s well worth snuffling out a branch, or shopping online because, for my money, it offers the best working woman’s wardrobe in the UK.
For the first time in months, I enter a store and am not bombarded by bodycon, wild print, lace, sheer, fluoro, ridiculous hot pants. Instead, it is a sea of tasteful minimalism: cashmere, slubby greys, moss, creams and navy.
Top of the shops: Ultra cool Swedish brand, Cos, gets the thumbs up from Liz
Cos, H&M’s more expensive sister, is stuffed to the brim with well-cut grey, navy or black dresses with sleeves for work, gorgeous lined pea coats and crombies, easy tanks, as well as silk shirts (79), jackets and skirts.
The knitwear (chunky, sweater dresses, merino, mohair) is the best you’ll find anywhere this season.
My favourite buys are an intrecciato clutch (meaning woven), 79; a hand-beaded collar, 25 (you can add to a plain sweater or T-shirt); black lace ups, 135; a grey wool Crombie, 150; a grey work dress, 115 (draped over the tummy, so flattering); a merino over-sized fine sweater with silk back, in navy or grey, 59; a cashmere scarf, 59; and a cream V-neck sweater with chunky panel, 55.
Underwear, too, is silk and not too girly and frilly: 19 for a bra, 14 for knickers.
There is nothing here really for evening, bar a black or navy concertina halter-neck, 89, which is very Chloe from a few years back, and a couple of LBDs. The menswear is classy: I’d buy a men’s chambray shirt, 59, and wear belted as a dress.
What of the service Well, this lets the store down a little.
I was helped by a woman with an accent I could not understand: she failed to smile and, instead of coming with me to help me find a different size, she just summoned someone else. Perhaps they are not allowed to leave the till.
But garments are wrapped in tissue and cotton bags, and returning items is easy — not that you’ll want to return anything.
LIZ'S VERDICT: 9/10