Shopping for Forbidden Fruit

Limiting access often increases desire. I call this the velvet rope effect. Some of the appeal is psychological. Some of this is a quality differential. On The New York Times Style Magazine blog, Rafil Kroll-Zaidi writes about proxy services which help Western shoppers navigate the Japanese online marketplace and buy the goods retailers refuse to sell outside Japan. Language is only one of the barriers here. The other is disinterest. Many Japanese clothing and lifestyle companies simply don’t want to sell their products overseas, and not just the boutique limited edition items either, but, as Zaidi put it, “a single pair of the 20,000 available units of the megabrand’s standard-issue jeans.” Zaidi’s piece ran in May 2015.

I turned up a number of forbiddingly impersonal and expensive proxy services before seeking direction from nerds on sneaker forums. The proxy service I chose is called SpeBid, run through a creaky community-style message board by a half-Japanese half-Nigerian man named Spencer (or Spe). For $30 a year plus arcane surcharges, Spe buys, bids on and reships wonderful stuff to “subscribers” all over the world. Per Jay Gatsby, “I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall”; but a proxy never proffers anything you don’t already know you need.

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