February 3, 2004 High Fashion Prepares to Put a Digital Foot Forward By TRACIE ROZHON New York Times rom the runway to eBay. Not the typical path for fashions from a hot young design team. But within days of its runway show during Fashion Week in New York next week, Proenza Schouler plans to auction some of the newly modeled clothes and shoes on eBay. The lot will include more than four dozen pairs of shoes, designed in league with Manolo Blahnik, and 50 garments, like a black silk charmeuse bustier dress with black patent leather sequins, and a pair of khaki and Nantucket-red suede shorts. The goods, from next week's show as well as two Proenza Schouler shows last year, will carry minimum bids at deep discounts to retail prices. Bidding will open at $624, for example, for the buffalo-hide trench coat, which sells for $2,400 in stores. Proenza Schouler clothes are normally found only at Barneys, Neiman Marcus and other luxury chains, and are priced at $50 to more than $10,000. The 10-day auction, planned for Feb. 26 to March 7, will not be the first on eBay by a fashion designer. Narciso Rodriquez crossed that threshold last September. But in that case only two items, a nude-tone sequin dress and a similar colored suit, were direct from the runway. The coming Proenza Schouler auction, by contrast, will be "virtually an online trunk show - the first of its kind,'' said Constance White, the style director at eBay. The Web site is intent on expanding its clothing offerings and special promotions. "The potential is vast," Ms. White said. EBay had $1.8 billion last year in sales of clothing and accessories - the fifth-biggest category for the company, which said it sold $28.4 billion in goods in 2003, led by $7.5 billion worth of automobiles and $2.6 billion in consumer electronics. While an auction by Proenza Schouler can only bring cachet to eBay, why would one of New York's hottest design houses sell on the auction site, with its lingering tag-sale and odd-lots connotations? "Because it's great access to people you don't normally sell to," said Lazaro Hernandez, one of the two 25-year-old Proenza designers. "We don't have any stores that carry our label in Middle America." His design partner is Jack McCollough, with whom Mr. Hernandez caught the fashion world's fancy a few years ago while they were still students at the Parsons School of Design. (The marque Proenza Schouler - pronounced pro-EN-za SKOOL-er - was formed from their mothers' maiden names.) Recruiting Proenza Schouler is a way to get "sophisticated fashion shoppers - and that means not just getting the biggest brand, but who's cutting edge," said eBay's Ms. White, who has been a fashion journalist for Full Frontal Fashion TV and Elle magazine. "We didn't want to come in like eBay Big Foot,'' she said. "We wanted to support designers who are developing and could use the exposure that eBay has." Ms. White said she was talking with some of the biggest-name designers about their own special eBay auctions, too, "but they haven't signed on the dotted line." With more established designers, there would probably be some significant differences from the Proenza Schouler auction, Ms. White said. "For one thing, we wouldn't be out to support the designer because it would already be a major name,'' she said. "It would be more of a partnership of equals." In the Proenza Schouler auction, all the clothes that come from the designer team's last two shows will be available only in the standard runway model size: 4. But the garments from next week's show can be ordered in different sizes - provided the winner is not larger than a 10. The shoes, all to be worn by models in next week's show, on Feb. 11, will range from size 7 to 11. Judging from the list of its minimum-bid, or "reserve" prices, Proenza Schouler hopes to sell at least $32,345 of goods in the auction. EBay says it is picking up the costs of managing the auction, which is being set up for the designers by an outside group, and plans to charge commissions of 3 percent to 10 percent, depending on an item's cost. The reserve prices for items from the fall 2003 clothing lines are 25 percent off the wholesale prices the stores paid. For spring 2004 - the goods in stores now - reserves will be 20 percent off wholesale. Those from next week's show will be offered for 30 percent above wholesale, according to Shirley Cook, Proenza Schouler's business partner. "Are the retailers happy with that?" Mr. Hernandez asked Ms. Cook last week in a joint interview in their Chinatown studio. "I mean the stuff is coming in fresh just now." "Yes, I got permission," she replied. "After all, it isn't that many items."