As fashion editors, it is our job to tell you everything we know about shopping, but there's one secret trick we are often guilty of holding back. Two words: sample sales. Twice a year, designers will hold sample sales where they sell pieces at huge discounts, and for many of them, you don't need an invitation to get in. Editors will buy everything from presents (you can buy Monica Vinader pendants for approximately £20), to one-off designer dresses for special occasions (Preen is a must on the industry's calendar).
So how do you actually find when these magical sales are on? This is your first challenge. In London, most sales are at the Music Rooms, whose website has a calendar of upcoming sales, and the site Chicmi has a comprehensive calendar of open sample sales. Designers will often publicize their sales on Twitter and Instagram, so make sure you follow your favourite labels to see these alerts.
Scroll below to see our insider tips for finding the best pieces in sample sales.
Beware: There usually aren't private changing rooms
At sample sales, the changing rooms tend to be one communal room, so there is little privacy. Thus, one of our main tips is to not wear embarrassing undies! It's highly likely you'll have to strip down in a room full of people. And on that note, perhaps it is best to wear slim leggings and a vest in case you want to try things on over your clothes.
Many sample sales now do let you pay by card, but take cash just in case as often you can get caught out.
Have a goal in mind
Hannah Almassi, Who What Wear UK's editorial director, advises, "Try to have some goals in mind, but don't limit yourself too much—e.g., when I go to somewhere like Preen, I'd focus in on the dresses as those are the items that I always look at throughout the season and wish I could own, but I'm open to looking at different items too."
Build a collection of luxury staples
The best thing I have ever bought in a sample sale is a pair of Christopher Kane croc-effect Chelsea boots for £90, which I have worn 12 months a year for the past three years. One of the most popular sample sales for fashion editors is the Joseph sample sale because you can stock up on classics such as cashmere jumpers, tailoring and white shirts.
Avoid the main mistake sample-sale shoppers make
Sample sales can be heaven for shoe lovers, but this can be the trickiest thing to buy in a frantic setting where you can feel pressured to decide quickly. But make sure your shoes fit, as we've heard endless stories of editors buying £100 designer shoes. I made this mistake at Sophia Webster, and while they make for a pretty display under my desk, I can barely squeeze my foot into the shoes, let alone walk in them.
Be as punctual as possible
As with any sale, the best pieces tend to go quickly, so it pays to go as early as possible, factoring in that you will probably have to spend some time queueing outside. But it's still worth going at any time, as often sales will be restocked throughout the day.
Bring a friend
Go with a friend or colleague. The chaos can put you in a right spin, and you can make terrible choices. Honest feedback will stop you from going home with a mistake/panic buy.