For Gen Z buying pre-loved fashion is the now the norm and indeed something of badge of honour. According to and Opinium survey in May of last year, more than a fifth (22%) of the wardrobe of UK Gen Z was made up of pre-loved clothing. It seems highly like that this figure has increased over the past 12 months, not least, since in that time global resale giant eBay once again partnered with ITV’s hit show Love Island to promote the fashion gems that can be found on its site.
Prior to eBay’s involvement in the show, Love Island typically partnered with fast fashion giants and, following their exit from the show, Love Islanders would often team up with fast fashion businesses to create collections to capitalise on their moment in the sun. However, eBay turned all of that on its head, outfitting the stars of the show in second hand finds and promoting a new, sustainable way of enjoying fashion in the post-pandemic era.
We speak to Kirsty Keoghan, eBay’s Global GM of Fashion about the pivotal partnership and how she sees the pre-loved fashion space developing in future.
Can you please tell us how the partnership with Love Island first came about and what it was that you set out to achieve with it?
With Love Island being one of the most talked about shows in Britain, we knew that being the show’s first pre-loved partner would be the most impactful way to inspire the nation to consider their shopping habits and make more conscious fashion choices. With the show being so influential to such a variety of individuals across the nation, we also wanted to get the message out there that choosing pre-loved doesn’t mean compromising on style or quality, highlighting that you can find incredible pieces at affordable prices. It’s all about the small changes, and even purchasing one pre-loved item is a step in the right direction.
It was quite a departure from previous associations that were centered on fast fashion, what reaction did you receive from consumers to the partnership initially? And how were you able to measure what impact the partnership has on consumer/eBay shopper behaviour when it went live?
With the partnership, we really wanted to change the narrative on shopping fast-fashion, encouraging watchers of the show to choose more pre-loved and really showcasing the variety of items available on eBay. We were overwhelmed with the positive reaction we had when we announced the partnership initially, and this has continued as the partnership has progressed. Every episode we’ve seen people calling out the amazing looks that fans are seeing on screen as well as seeing so much praise for pre-loved! When the partnership was first announced, we saw a 24% uplift in new circular businesses joining the eBay marketplace, and a 1600% increase in searches for ‘pre-loved clothes’ – demonstrating the impact and incredible reaction of the partnership.
How does it continue to influence behaviour?
Excitedly, we’re seeing that the conversation and narrative surrounding pre-loved and more conscious shopping are continuing to really dominate discussions. Compared to the last series, we’ve seen searches for ‘pre-loved fashion’ on eBay increase by 1,400% – so it’s clear the partnership is continuing to change the game for second-hand shopping and we’re really excited to see this continue beyond the show.
eBay is clearly the leading platform for resale, what overarching trends have you noticed in this space over the past two to three years?
eBay sells a variety of pre-loved items, whether that be clothes, interior accessories, garden furniture, toys, or even collectibles. The trends we see change continuously over the year, and can be impacted by various things from seasons, to celebrities and even films or tv shows. For example, during the Winter, we saw a surge in big and cosy knits with an uplift of 445% for fisherman sweaters, 560% for wool shorts and 390% for statement jumpers. From this, we launched a pre-loved knit edit on the platform for shoppers to find the best pieces to endure the January chill.
When it comes to your core seller and buyer of pre-loved fashion, is there a particular profile that you focus on or that you notice are particularly active, or are you seeing consumers of all ages engage?
Second-hand shopping is popular amongst such a large range of age groups, but through research we found that those between 18 to 34 tend to have the highest average percentage of second-hand clothes in their wardrobe (22%) – nearly double that of over 55s (12%). Pre-loved shopping’s popularity amongst the younger generation made Love Island the absolute perfect fit for a partnership.
Are there types of fashion – be it trends or particular items – that are selling well right now?
Throughout the duration of the show, we saw various spikes in searches for brands and specific items that were worn by the Islanders.
We found that Ralph Lauren was hugely popular amongst all Islanders, with the Ralph Lauren Varsity Jacket bomber jacket being re-worn by Shaq, Spencer and Jessie. The popularity spilled over to viewers of the show, with there being more than one search every minute for the brand on eBay throughout the series.
We also saw a surge of searches for all things Nike (around 1.04 searches per minute) during the show, with shoppers taking inspiration from looks like the Nike White and Grey High Top Dunks worn by Kai. Nike trainers have always sold really well on the platform, and shoppers can always rest assured they’re buying the real deal thanks to eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee. This year, we also sent in Imperfects heels into the Villa – all considered new but with slight defects – and it’s been so great to see popularity for this range on the platform too.
Outside of Love Island, we have seen pre-loved fashion sales boom post pandemic, what do you think has been the tipping point?
I think people are starting to understand the impact pre-loved has not only on the planet, but on our pockets too. As mentioned, we’ve seen second hand shopping become particularly popular with Gen Z being a generation known for being more environmentally conscious, and always on the hunt for a saving. With pre-loved, there’s such a diverse range of items available shoppers have the chance to buy unique items that let them express themselves, and at really decent price points too. We’ve also seen such a large appetite in the luxury market, with shoppers wanting to get their handbags and sneakers for more affordable prices, while knowing they’re getting the real deal thanks to eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee.
Looking ahead, how do you expect to see the pre-loved fashion market develop?
Looking at how many people we have seen searching for pre-loved on the platform, we only expect this to continue as people move further away from the preconceived stigma that second hand means second best. We’ve also seen a shift in the news agenda, with more and more fashion brands joining in and encouraging more sustainable ways of shopping.
The main message we’ve tried to get across throughout the partnership and beyond is that it’s all about balance – by purchasing just one pre-loved item rather than new, it’s already a step in the right direction.
eBay is constantly looking for new ways to support and encourage buyers and sellers of pre-loved fashion. An example of this was when we announced the continuation of the partnership, and gave new customers £5 off their first purchase during the period of time the show was aired for. While we love seeing existing customers returning to eBay, it’s also so great to see new customers making those small changes.
Supporting sellers is also extremely important to us, and during the show (this season and last season), we have profiled stories of sellers whose outfits have ended up on Love Island – giving them the recognition that they deserve. It really is exciting to see where some of the outfits sold on the platform end up!
How important has fashion become as a sector for eBay and how have you responded to that?
The pre-loved fashion market has always been an important sector for eBay, particularly since the partnership with Love Island. It’s been great to see the impact the show has had on fashion searches on the platform and also growth in the number of new circular businesses joining the marketplace.
In October 2022, we launched our Circular Fashion Innovator’s Fund, in partnership with the British Fashion Council, offering £100,000 in funding for small businesses specialising in circular fashion solutions. The aim with this was to bring new technology and services to the market that can help people think and shop differently, as well as making sustainable practices more accessible to more people and businesses.