Fashion Forward: A Conversation with Miriam Lahage, eBay’s New Fashion Chief
By: eBay Inc. Staff
The seasoned fashion executive sees opportunity for eBay in lifestyle shifts
In August, fashion industry veteran and e-commerce entrepreneur Miriam Lahage joined eBay to lead the company’s multibillion-dollar fashion business. As General Manager of eBay Fashion, Lahage is already bringing her extensive offline and online experience in fashion to the (U.S.-focused) role.
A respected merchant, Lahage spent more than 20 years with TJX Companies, the off-price global retailer of apparel and home fashions, rising from store manager to senior executive roles in merchandising and general management. Most recently, Lahage worked as a consultant to Natalie Massenet at Net-A-Porter to help grow theOutnet business. In 2007, she successfully launched Koodos.com, the first online discount boutique for designer brands in the U.K., and managed the successful sale of Koodos in late 2009 to E-Trader Group.
“Miriam’s deep retail experience and entrepreneurial vision for fashion e-commerce will be a great asset to eBay as we drive shopping innovation and extend our leadership in this category,” said eBay Inc. President and CEO John Donahoe. We had a chance to talk with Lahage about her thoughts on eBay Fashion and consumer trends overall.
How does your retail experience help in your new role?
The most important thing I have learned from my years in retail is to put myself in someone else's shoes. Figuring out what customers want to buy is critical. And just as important is understanding the business needs of the seller, so that we can work in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Based on your experience in fashion, what do you think are some of eBay’s advantages over retail stores and other fashion channels?
We are on the side of the customers, both the buyers and the sellers. We are successful when we help them find each other, and make finding each other convenient and fun. I see our role as being a good matchmaker.
Retailers have a much narrower scope than eBay. Retailers do not have the opportunity to work with individual entrepreneurs, designers, and other retailers the way eBay does. eBay can put the world of fashion at your fingertips, regardless of who you are and where you live. No other channel can offer that. It is the most open accessible way to buy fashion in the world.
I have many friends who manage their shopping habit through eBay, buying new fashion, and selling pieces when they are ready to refresh their wardrobes. For those of us who live in the world of fashion, it is a great way to feel good about our spending habits. And the beautiful pieces we sell can find a good home.
Are people more comfortable buying fashion items online than they were before?
There will always be some people who have to see and feel fashion items before buying, but the world has changed in such a way that many people really appreciate the convenience of getting something at home. They want to fit shopping into their lifestyle, rather than having to fit their lifestyle around shopping. The vast majority of people are very comfortable buying fashion online, and many of the barriers have gone away.
How price sensitive are fashion buyers and how does that affect eBay’s fashion business?
People who are truly into fashion are pretty price sensitive. While lots of people will buy things at full price, everybody loves a deal. The newer the fashion and the more important the brand, the higher the price they’re likely to pay. You will find lots of people who have plenty of money in the bank who get great delight out of getting a treasured piece from a favorite brand at a discount. At the same time, they may occasionally splurge on an item at full price. That’s why the tremendous selection that eBay offers is a big advantage.
eBay is integrating social media into the shopping e-commerce experience. What role do you see it as playing for eBay Fashion?
Shopping is a form of entertainment, and fashion is the ultimate personal form of creative expression. Getting social with fashion on eBay is a natural evolution. People are delighted to tell each other about their great finds.
How will you approach building the fashion business on eBay?
We have incredible selection and wonderful dedicated fashion customers. With 10 million fashion buyers, and 20 million fashion listings daily, helping to curate the huge fashion offering is the big challenge. The smart and talented team at eBay has already accomplished so much, and is well positioned to drive future innovation.
eBay has recently worked directly with designers to unveil new offerings. Are you planning more partnerships like this?
I definitely see more opportunities to work directly with designers. We have a lot of exciting partnerships at the planning stage right now. Our customers are in for some nice surprises – we’ll share the details as soon as we can.
What are your favorite fashion brands and/or designers?
In the more traditional designer world, I am a big fan of Akris and MaxMara. The contemporary brands I love are Rag & Bone and Rick Owens. And I am always on the lookout for emerging designers. There is some great new talent in New York, London, and Paris.
What are your latest finds on eBay?
My favorite recent purchase on eBay was a skull scarf from Alexander McQueen. The item in my shopping cart right now is an Alexander Wang bag.
Are you a bidding or Buy It Now eBay buyer?
I am primarily a Buy It Now shopper. My need for instant gratification outweighs the thrill of the bid for me. :)