How to survive a fashion sample sale in London

One of the great things about living in London is the easy access to international and British designer stores.

The city wears its Fashion Capital crown with pride -  there are  designer stores on every corner packed with stylish labels from McQueen and Marc Jacobs to Stella McCartney and Roksanda Ilinic, as well as fashionable Londoners pounding the pavements.  

With this daily temptation at your doorstep, it's hard to resist the urge to splurge.

But not everyone can afford a pair of Louboutins or a new Christopher Kane jacket which is why London sample sales are one of the city's best kept secrets . . . 

I've bought some beautiful clothes from sample sales - true investment pieces that will last forever. My best purchases have been winter and summer coats from Stella McCartney and Nicole Farhi reduced by 70%, a woollen Reiss shrug at half price that I've worn every day this Winter and a Joseph black jacket for less than half the price.

Of course a sample sale doesn't beat the pure luxury of going into store and buying the latest styles in season straight off the rack. But it does help you flesh out your wardrobe every now and then without emptying your bank account.

Throughout the year, members of the public can access a range of last season designer labels at reduced prices. 
Most sales are advertised in the London press - Evening Standard and Metro - and are dotted around the city from East to West.  The majority seem to occur in May/June or October/November. You'll recognise them from the vast queues down the street of women clutching invitations and empty bags.

The popularity of sample sales, however, means that many do resemble the trader's floor at the London Stock Exchange. 

 The room can be packed with shoppers frantically searching for the best deal, it's hot and sweaty, and noisy, and shoppers will do whatever they can to get their fingers on the stock. 

For the uninitiated, it's a bit like being in a mosh pit at a concert,  is why it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are a few :  

- Firstly, don't always expect to buy designer labels at high street prices.  That £1000 Stella McCartney coat is not going to be yours for £10. Designers are running a business after all.  Although some items may still appear expensive you are getting them dramatically reduced from the original price. And besides, you're buying an investment piece which will last you for years and years

- If you want to avoid the queues, don't go first thing in the morning, at lunchtime or after work. 

-  Never take a  a child or a dog to a sample sale – they’re a pain to carry, there isn't a lot of room and are likely to get trampled in the melee.

- Google the designer before you go to get an idea of how expensive their clothes are and what kind of bargain you’ll be getting

- Wear clothes that are easy to change in and out of in the middle of the sample sale (there aren’t usually any changing rooms). That dress with the 50 million buttons is going to drive you crazy after you've taken it on and off four times,  and the tight jeans that you need to do up with a coat hanger are not going to survive the pressure of a sample sale

- Check over the samples for any stains, tears, damage – sometimes the damaged goods end up in there as well

- Grab as much as you can and then hog one of the mirrors while trying it all on. It’s easier than going back and forth to the mirror especially when everyone has the same idea as you.

- Check that they accept credit cards (some only accept cash) – Most accept both but watch out for American Express - that card is often, sadly, rejected at the till.

- Print out the invitation just in case they ask

- Make sure you have some coins with you in case they charge entry fee (which is for a good cause as it usually goes to charity)

Most of all, have fun, remember it's just stuff and not worth crying or getting in a fight over. Enjoy your new purchases and see you at the next sale! 

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