The cost of owning nice things has gone up dramatically over the last twenty years.
How do people acquire luxury pieces without draining their bank accounts?
You have to be savvy to the industry. That’s where I come in.
Sure I love making a well-earned purchase and walking out of the store with a brand new, current season piece; it’s one of the greatest feelings for a fashion lover. Trust me, the high comes down when you see that piece on amazon later for half the price, or when you find out that the style is discontinued and is no longer sought after, or perhaps the absolute worst, when the designer waters down the brand and now everyone has your beloved, limited edition piece.
I combat this deception by finding great deals on many of the things I buy. There are still classic items and even trendy statement pieces that I occasionally decide I have to have, but for the most part, I try not to be taken advantage of by the ever changing fashion industry.
I use flash sale sites sometimes to browse great deals. Flash sale sites work by giving sales that expire in a certain time frame. The first site I learned about was Gilt Groupe. You may have heard of www.gilt.com. There is a book called By Invitation Only about the Gilt startup and the women behind it. It’s definitely on my “to read” list.
I was a bit skeptical at first.
How does all this work?
How are all the prices so low?
I’ve never seen that line, is it authentic?
In general, flash sale sites work in a variety of ways. Here are some of the ways they obtain the marked down goods:
Samples that don’t get picked up.
Fashion designers have sample pieces in a variety of sales offices; buyers visit the sales offices and to decide what pieces they should purchase for their stores. Sometimes a designer has to have a certain number of samples made, ie: 2,000 samples, or the factory won’t produce them. Not all samples are chosen by the sales associates to be kept in the showroom and presented. In this case, if only 500 pieces were picked up by the sales offices, the designer may be stuck with 1,500 excess samples. These excess samples account for authentic styles you have never seen.
Sell through isn’t what was anticipated and the designer is forced to buy back their merchandise.
Designers are held to a certain “sell through” expectation. For example, a department store requires a designer sell through at least 75% of merchandise by the end of the season and the rest will be discounted at an agreed upon price. If the designer doesn’t meet the 75% of sales, then they face penalties outlined in their contract with the department store. Sometimes the designer is forced to buy back the merchandise that did not meet sell through. Designers will need to get rid of this merchandise in order to focus on current lines and keep the fulfillment process from getting backed up with excess old pieces. I learned in school that the average mark-up is 300-600%. I wouldn’t feel too badly about taking it off their hands for 75% off.
Designers are keenly aware of the subset of clients reachable by discounting a certain amount and they do it on purpose.
Large fashion houses have a department devoted to making sure the brand reaches everyone possible without becoming watered down. Designers allocate a certain amount of funding to go toward creating things for sale on flash sites and outlet stores. Some tags will read ‘MFO’ or ‘made for factory outlet.’ Another way designers reach this market is use of excess fabric to create different pieces. If a designer has a pattern for a printed jacket that sells well, but all of the pieces have to be cut in one direction to keep the print lined up, there will be excess fabric. Since the print has performed well, the design team pulls together and decides they can do a tank top out of the excess and that will be sold in factory outlets. In outlets, sometimes the prints are off center or not lined up properly at the seams. When I shop in outlets, I inspect garments and leather goods to ensure I’m paying for the quality that I’m getting. Sometimes, I come across minor things that I’m ok with for the discount, but sometimes, I’d rather just have the real thing.
Now that you know how they work, here is a list of the sites I have used.
Pay close attention to shipping dates
Some of them take quite a bit of time to fulfill orders, however the shipment information is listed in the terms prior to purchasing, so read the fine print! My Habit is owned by Amazon and uses Amazon Fulfillment, so my items have always arrived within a reasonable time frame.
Some items will be final sale and some items will only be returnable for store credit. Hautelook is owned by Nordstrom and returns can be made to Nordstrom Rack, which is super convenient.
I had a few wine glasses I ordered from Gilt arrive broken and although they were final sale and sold out, they still credited my card and sent me a new set. The folks at Gilt were very friendly and easy to deal with.
I also use consignment stores to find new homes for my old treasures and I’ve found some real gems in the closets of others. I use Tradesy and TheRealReal for online consignment. Take a look at the Luxicon’s Tradesy account periodically for some real steals!