eBay goes high-class with Narciso Rodriguez collab


There's little surprising news out of the high-low fashion collaboration trend these days. H&M pacts with a fierceness icon and splashes them across a billboard; Gap gets up-and-comers to sketch khakis and white shirts. Target stocks designer collections as regularly as it does dorm essentials.

But today, smack dab in the middle of Fashion Week, the cheap-chic sector has come out with a curveball. Narciso Rodriguez, couturier to Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Rachel Weisz, is producing a line of clothing that will top out at $350 (his pieces usually run $1,000 and up).

His partner in this scheme? eBay.

Now, this is different. Fashion-focused consumers are well-acquainted with eBay; in the search for that elusive, last-season, sold-out item, it can be a handy tool. But the clothing segment of the site spans an enormous range of products, from secondhand sweatpants to pristine couture gowns. There is also -- and this has long been the sticking point in the relationship between fashion and eBay -- an inundation of fakes. It's the Canal Street of cyberspace. Rodriguez is wading into seriously untested, wild waters.

He's also making a conscious decision to expand his audience. The vast majority of Americans have no reason to know who Rodriguez is. Many of us will likely still find his diffusion line for eBay to be out of our price range. But even the eBay users who don't end up buying any Narciso-for-eBay will likely see Rodriguez's name somewhere on the site in the course of their browsing. When you put your brand in the position of being seen by Internet shoppers who are searching for lawn mowers or textbooks, you've gone mass in a way that no H&M flavor of the month has.

It all goes back to the zeitgeist of this year's shows, the feeling in the air that fashion may be finally considering the world outside its tight traditional circles. I never thought I'd see the day when Narciso joined the world of of combined shipping and last-minute bids -- and I'll certainly be logging on when the line launches this spring. eBay might want to beef up its server capacity -- fashion hounds are hunting for bargains more than ever before.