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How ‘Islanders’ have helped spur on Ebay’s pre-loved fashion push

By Rachel Douglass


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Business |Interview

Love Island villa's participant closet. Credits: Ebay.

“The fact that we made front page news when we first announced that the Islanders would be wearing secondhand clothing shows how ingrained fast fashion had become in society,” said Kirsty Keoghan, global general manager of Pre-Loved Fashion at Ebay UK, when asked about the platform’s ongoing partnership with Love Island.

Initially teaming up for the first time last year, the agreement between the duo was somewhat of a ‘never-seen-before’ kind of deal. Prior to Ebay, the popular UK reality TV series had only ever worked with fast fashion labels, such as Missguided, to dress its ‘Islanders’ – the title given to participants. This was until the ITV programme opted to drop fast fashion in favour of more circular options, a move that both Ebay and Love Island were at first unable to comprehend the impact of.

Speaking to FashionUnited, Keoghan said: “When we first launched the partnership last summer, we were of course hopeful of the impact we could have, but I don’t think any of us could have imagined the sheer scale of that impact in reality today. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we believe it was the spark behind the pre-loved boom we’re in currently.”

Making the adoption of pre-loved fashion no longer ‘new’ news

Having just wrapped up its third season with Love Island on July 31, for which Ebay upped to anti to become the programme’s headline sponsor, it is already clear that consumers are responding well, as evident in the platform’s reported figures. According to Koeghan, Ebay saw over 1,400 percent more searches for ‘pre-loved fashion’ during season nine of Love Island in December, compared to the eighth season – the first to feature the partnership.

Ella Thomas, Love Island season 10 participant, wearing a look from Ebay's auction. Credits: Ebay.

Now, however, Ebay is hoping to make the concept of working with pre-loved fashion no longer ‘new’ news, with Koeghan’s perception of success in this field differing greatly from fast fashion counterparts. She noted: “For us, our marker of success goes far beyond tracking sales and listings, it’s impact and perception driven – we want to know how much progress we’ve made towards our mission of making pre-loved the first choice. Although we’ve taken great strides in driving awareness of secondhand fashion, our mission to make pre-loved a first choice for everyone is far from complete.”

In her own opinion, a shift in perception is already present among consumers. The idea of pre-loved shopping has particularly appealed to Love Island’s viewer demographic, those aged between 18 and 35 years old, who Keoghan said had been driving the change towards the circular solution. According to Ebay, it is this group that have the highest average percentage of secondhand clothing in their wardrobe at 22 percent, nearly double that of over 55s.

There has also been an uptick in shoppers particularly seeking out the designers worn by Islanders, which have included the likes of Jacquemus, Ralph Lauren and Versace. As a result, this has also seen their taste for pre-loved move away from second-hand fast fashion garments towards items from such labels. Koeghan added: “Shoppers are increasingly lusting after labels and ultimately, the secondary market offers an entry-point to luxury fashion for those looking for value. We see this as a real opportunity for Ebay and are continuing to drive this message to the forefront of consumers’ minds in a bid to help demonstrate that there is another way to get the look, but for less.”

Pushing pre-loved beyond the summer season

Ebay’s efforts to push pre-loved fashion go beyond the show itself, with partnerships of a similar level continuing after Love Island has wrapped. One of the most notable of such was with series eight contestant Tasha Ghouri, who was named Ebay’s first pre-loved ambassador and became the first ever former Islander to partner with a pre-loved brand following her time on the show. Additionally, in May 2023, the platform also hired its first in-house, pre-loved style director, Amy Bannerman, who had initially been appointed to dress Islanders in the villa when the partnership launched.

Tasha Ghouri, Ebay’s pre-loved ambassador and former Love Island participant, wearing pieces from her pre-loved collection with Ebay. Credits: Ebay.

This emphasis on summer falls in line with Ebay’s findings that the season is “all too often coupled with last-minute purchases and throwaway items”, Koeghan highlighted. Dubbing it “single-wear summer”, Ebay’s ongoing strategy during this period has centred around encouraging customers to pack their holiday cases with pre-loved in place of throwaway pieces. Efforts to enhance this mission have been seen through secondhand pop-ups in train stations and investments in small and medium businesses that centre around circular fashion solutions – for example, the Circular Fashion Innovation Fund launched alongside the British Fashion Council (BFC).

But of course, it isn’t just the summer period where circular solutions are needed, and therefore Keoghan did add that Ebay does consider what options there are beyond this time. Initiatives recently launched by the marketplace include its Pre-Loved Wedding Hub and its ‘schwopping’ partnership with Marks & Spencer, a pilot scheme to sell pre-loved school uniforms through the department store retailer. However, it is the acceleration of authentication that has really caught the attention of Ebay.

Authentication is a key player in Ebay’s strategy

While the platform has offered this service for luxury goods already for a number of years through its authentication centres in the UK and Germany, it has been upping its efforts in this area, expanding the offer to other categories, such as streetwear and kids’ sneakers, to cater to a wider consumer base. It also recently acquired AI-powered digital IDs and authentication firm Certilogo to further push the sector forward, onboarding the company’s technology to provide a more seamless process.

The intention to pump up this offer comes largely from increased demand from shoppers, as noted by Keoghan, who said: “With the luxury secondary market thriving, verifying the authenticity of a designer product is non-negotiable for the modern shopper. Consumers must feel confident in their purchases, particularly in the current economic climate. Whilst the Authenticity Guarantee has of course provided an extra layer of trust and comfort, it would be naive to assume that this is the sole driver behind the increases in pre-loved luxury purchases. Rather, we can look to the industry to provide the crucial insights behind changing consumer behaviours.”

Naturally, Ebay has also set its sights on continuing its growth of the pre-loved category, even taking its efforts beyond borders. Keoghan stated: “The appetite for pre-loved is high across Europe, as in the UK, which is why we’re continuously investing across markets to help make resale easier for brands.” Partnerships with the likes of repair experts Reskinned and Advanced Clothing Solutions (ACS) are evidence of this, through which brands have been able to approach Ebay looking for EU and global solutions to support their resale plans.

When asked where Ebay is preparing to go from here, Keoghan subtly hinted towards future initiatives, concluding: “We’re always considering how we can create impact and disruption for the better in pursuit of our mission of making second-hand the first choice. As well as by looking at how we can create more joint-up circular solutions for brands. Watch this space, as our plans are evolving and we’ll be doing much more over the coming months and beyond.”

Ebay x Love Island's Paddington Station pop-up stand. Credits: Ebay.
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