When it comes to fashion, some people like to be right on-trend. They may consult fashion glossies such as Vogue, ELLE, Marie Claire and GQ. They may follow fashion bloggers, or frequent sites like Style.com report on the top ready-to-wear and haute couture runway shows New York, Paris and Milan.
But whether you’re into the or you’re an “of the moment” fashionista sporting the latest looks most of us can’t afford to pay retail for a new wardrobe every season. So what’s a girl or guy to do?
These days, there are many ways to buy designer clothing, jewelry and shoes for less – in some cases, much less. Best of all, you don’t have to live in a big city; an array of easy-to-use eCommerce sites has made “discount designer” shopping available to everyone.
Below is a selection of the most reputable sites. Simply decide which style of bargain hunting you prefer. Then get ready, get set… shop!
You enjoy the “sport” of shopping and don’t mind obsessively checking a site
Gilt.com offers an ever-changing array of heavily discounted designer goods (50% off and more), with fresh inventory available every day from iconic brands such as Missoni, Derek Lam, James Perse and Marc Jacobs.
All sales are conducted for a limited period of time, and items can sell out quickly (once an item is in your shopping cart, you only have 10 minutes to purchase it before it’s returned to stock). So if you spot a “must have,” you have to act fast.
You’ll also find an ongoing selection of vintage and estate items, including fine jewelry and the occasional Chanel purse. Sign up at the site to receive emails listing upcoming sales.
You’re a fan of certain designer brands and want to view a wide selection
Bluefly.com offers a broad selection of discounted goods ranging from trendy youth labels like Free People and French Connection to boutique brands such as Vince and Wyatt to luxury designers including Valentino and McQueen.
While the site does offer discounts of 30% or more, posh brands can still be quite pricey (a pair of Louboutin heels that retail for $1,100 might be listed at $800). Look for “end of season blowout” sales featuring additional markdowns.
Yoox.com offers over 100 designer brands and has an international flavor, with top labels such as Alberta Ferretti, Fendi, Lanvin, Balenciaga and Thakoon, as well as boutique brands such as J Brand, Diesel and Acne.
Although not everything is on sale, items that are can be deeply discounted. The site is well organized, with available sizes listed right up front you don’t have to “click through” to see if your size is in stock (a great time saver). The site also offers the “Luckyoox Surprise Box” featuring a non-refundable, mystery grab bag of items (valued at over $350) for $150.
TheOutnet.com is a relative newcomer, launched by the Net-a-Porter.com group. It features over 250 upscale brands at up to 75% off, with new arrivals every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday (look for the “Just In” section).
Here you’ll find many of the same labels sold at Barneys New York and posh shops worldwide. The site offers 24/7 customer care for help with size and fit advice, which is quite useful, as sizing can be tricky with high-end designers, varying widely from one label to another.
Helpful sections called “Dress Me” and “What to Wear” allow you to quickly click through suggestions for different occasions, and there are also suggested gifts in different price ranges (see “Gifts”); it’s almost like having your own personal shopper.
You don’t mind an “outlet” approach to discount shopping
Many of the fancier department stores have off-price, brick-and-mortar outlets for past-season merchandise, and these off-price outlets have matching websites. Check out Saks Off 5th (Saks Fifth Avenue), Nordstrom Rack and Last Call (Neiman Marcus). Although merchandise fluctuates – as does the availability of high-end labels – if you’re looking to upgrade your wardrobe, these sites are always worth a look.
You’re seeking a specific item
And finally, if you’re searching for a specific item, your best resource might still be the old standby, eBay. Almost any item sold in a retail shop is likely to show up on eBay eventually – including pricey and obscure luxury items that can’t be found anywhere else.
And while some items are gently used, you’re just as likely to find “NWT” (new with tags) merchandise, as well-heeled shoppers jettison never-worn impulse buys. Just make sure the seller has excellent feedback, as counterfeits do show up on the site
And remember, designer goods are no different from brand-new car; with the notable exception of a few haute labels (Hermes, Chanel), most items depreciate in value as soon as they leave the shop – or as soon as the season is over.
So why pay retail? If you’re willing to wait a bit, you can almost always find the same luxury goods, at a tremendous discount – and look fashionable for less!