The Future of Fashion Retail: Andrea Linett

Andrea Linett

Photo: Courtesy of eBay

The eBay Catwalks

With more than 95 million active users and a 9.8 billion dollar annual business from apparel and accessories sales, eBay could not afford to stay out of fashion. Over the past 18 months, eBay Fashion has transformed rapidly in order to appeal to a more designer-friendly crowd, with a redesigned interface, a better search engine, and the introduction of new services and features.

One of the first initiatives that created headlines was Derek Lam’s crowd-selected dress collection that went on sale exclusively on eBay. More than 120,000 users voted to determine five out of a selection of 16 dresses that would go on sale. A surprise sixth dress was added to the collection, available for purchase only through the eBay Fashion app for iPhone. While not the first collaboration of a designer with a retailer, it was original in that consumers got to say which part of the collection should make it to market.

Added to eBay's arsenal is also The Fashion Vault. For 60 hours or less, exclusive online events showcase a designer's work and offer discounts on brand-new fashions to consumers. Bargain hunters have the choice of eBay Fashion Outlet as well. According to the e-tailer, it is “the first virtual outlet mall in the United States that allows access to items by well-known brands and departments such as Last Call by Neiman Marcus, William Rast, Fila, Spanx, Brooks Brothers, Bluefly, Custo Barcelona, Timberland, and more.”

The creative director

In early 2011, Andrea Linett, a well-respected fashion publishing expert, became the global creative director of eBay fashion. As one of the first magazine veterans to join a big retailer, her move caused quite a stir; many industry insiders started questioning the future of traditional publishers as well as the ever-growing impact of commercial content in the digital age. The co-founder and former creative director of Lucky, the award-winning magazine about shopping and style, got to share with us her views on the future of fashion retail and the role of digital content.

You were one of the first among a wave of magazine editors to leave their 'natural'€ habitat in order to take up a position at a brand/retailer. Do you think this is a trend? Is it sooner or later going to affect all publishing companies?

It is becoming a trend because it happens to make perfect sense. Online retailers are looking to connect audiences on a deeper level and engage them like never before. Fashion and shopping are becoming more three-dimensional experiences, which is something that editors have always tuned into.

What do the editors of print media bring to the table? How are they shaping online content so far?

They are bringing a new point of view and identity to a world that was, until pretty recently, void of editorial content.

Speaking of online content, everybody seems to be a creator/writer these days: journalists, bloggers, and even brands. How is this polyphony affecting the quality of what is being written when it comes to the fashion world, and is it good for the industry?

A lot of people are up in arms about this, and you know what? I think it’s good for the industry. Fashion is way more democratic than it ever was. People get to choose who they want to listen to now, instead of being preached to by a few select editors.

Do you worry that this branded content might saturate the market, causing the audience to eventually lose interest in it? Is the online reader's need for content being taken advantage of by brands in order to prompt them into more consumption?

I don’t [worry]. It’s just going to become the standard. I think people will be confused if editorial content is not a part of their shopping experience. The point isn’t to take advantage of people, but rather to inspire and give them a real relationship with the brand. No editorial content in the world can force anyone to buy anything!

What is your vision for eBay Fashion? How would you like to see it evolve and what are your plans to make it as relevant as possible?

I have always equated eBay Fashion with fun. It’s a huge community of buyers and sellers and it attracts tons of fashion fanatics. These people mean business! It is also a true fashion destination without being traditionally preachy or judgmental. It is a place where people come not only to buy clothing, shoes and accessories, but also to find their personal style and get some solid, friendly fashion advice to boot.

What features have you added so far to eBay Fashion and why?

We are working on a redesign, but in the first six months that I’ve been here [editor's note: the interview took place in July 2011], we have rolled out the popular Style Stories, which is a profile of a different chic and interesting eBayer each week. We take you into their closets and even make them reveal their secret search terms (which is no easy feat for some!). We are also doing more editorial stories featuring real people every week. Stay tuned for an even bigger experience.

As a consumer, how have your shopping habits changed this past year? And as a reader, how often do you pay attention to branded content nowadays?

My shopping habits are pretty much the same, in that I love to shop and do it often (even if I’m just browsing). I do buy a lot more online, though. And I use sites like eBay — naturally — and Style Find to help me find what I’m looking for faster.

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