Do sample sales take away from the ‘luxury experience’?

Its time for the holidays, schools are closing and it’s becoming a pleasure to drive around London. But in about six weeks time, it will be time for fashion weeks around the globe! The world’s press will be on stand-by, waiting for catwalk shows, designers and models to take centre stage. However, this time of the summer always sees another side to the fashion world spring up – namely, sample sales. Labels offer their wares at heavily discounted prices, attracting hundreds of people who want to snap up a seasonal bargain to every show. But is the sample sale a true representation of the luxury experience? And do brands who offer these sales risk undermining their images?

As far as possible, it seems as though designers and their labels try to make sample sales as much of an experience as they can. One of the busiest sale venues in London, for example, is The Music Room, which is located in the plush surroundings of Mayfair. After all, with luxury businesses like Nicholas Kirkwood, Hugo Boss and Melissa Odabash having hosted their own sales in London over the last year or so, even sample sales are expected to have an element of glamour! There are also larger multi-brand events like Secret Sample Sale, which boasts pieces from some of the biggest names in the business, like Prada, Vivienne Westwood and Calvin Klein.

Speaking to MBS, the founder of Secret Sample Sale said that the business had kept certain clients right from its first sale (it is now approaching its 89th). Its guiding principles are “all about the clothes. We want the shopping experience to be as comfortable as possible.” With its sales predominantly located in trendy areas like Shoreditch, Secret Sample Sale aims to cut through pretentiousness, offering good quality clothes from leading designers and giving people the chance to grab a bargain. Far from luxury being the preserve of affluent customers searching for status symbols, companies like Secret Sample Sale are democratising the fashion world for thousands of new consumers.

So, is this what budding fashionistas really want from sample sales? They are often targeted at younger demographics, with luxury labels eager to show their products to people who would not normally be able to buy such exclusive pieces. Indeed, Secret Sample Sale’s founder says that a big part of his company’s appeal is that people get a real thrill from being “in the know.” As such, the atmosphere of some sales is frenetic, busy and occasionally stressful! This recent Metro article, which is clearly targeted at young professionals, indicates some of the issues frequently encountered at sample sales, including the lack of changing rooms and the direct competition for particular items of clothing. Is this how luxury brands want their lines to be viewed?

Treating high-end apparel from luxury firms as just a commodity can undermine these business’s efforts to create a story around the brand, tailored to appeal to their ideal consumers and enhance their desirability. Is the sample sale the best way to communicate this kind of message? It is always valuable to extend a brand’s reach to new demographics, but for the big companies it is a fine balancing act between maintaining an exclusive, desirable image and appealing to a new, broad range of consumers. At the same time, especially when it comes to younger, smaller brands, I can clearly see the value of opening up stock and marketing the brand to an audience of keen buyers!

Despite the reservations some have about the effectiveness of sample sales, it is clear that they remain extremely popular. When so many people rush to snap up products at a discounted price, I think it must indicate that luxury brands still have a lot of cache! What do you think? Let me know at, and have a brilliant weekend.