Most of us are sample sale aficionados because we can’t afford to pay retail prices. Some of us are because we love the thrill of finding a good bargain. But the rise of ethical consumerism has introduced yet another motive to keep us on our toes (while hunting for the perfect pair of heels): sample sales and luxury consignment sites save the planet.
Ethical consumerism, ethical fashion, fair trade fashion, and sustainable fashion have all become ubiquitous in the world of fashion—but many brands also incorrectly use them interchangeably. It seems everyone from your BFF to your favorite brand is going green. I agree that “green is the new black” when it comes to fashion and shopping.
We strongly encourage you to go green but it’s impossible to do that properly if you don’t have a solid understanding of what “green” truly means. And considering that it’s becoming more and more trendy, you have to make sure you’re discerning enough to be able to separate the truly green from the, well, aqua.
We are concerned that articles like this one that proclaim things like, “The luxury resale market is expected to soar with the rise of mindful consumerism,” put too much emphasis on the “help the planet” factor and not enough on the “consignors can make a substantial buck on their used goods” factor. The article might simplify the reason why second-life merchandise thrives, but that doesn’t mean it is completely wrong. Our planet is better off with us purchasing less new merchandise.
Brands are under pressure to score large profits and be sustainable simultaneously—and some are willing to do that at whatever cost… including taking advantage of naive consumers who don’t really understand what “sustainable” means. This practice even has its own name: greenwashing. Please, don’t be that consumer who falls victim to this deceiving marketing strategy—be immune to greenwashing and brainwashing alike!
Understand the difference between ethical, fair trade, and sustainable fashion.
We couldn’t find better definitions than the ones provided in People Tree by founder and CEO Safia Minney. So yeah, click that link… or check out our twitter version (tight character limit) of these definitions:
- Fair Trade Fashion is defined as fashion created by a Fair Trade Certified Group with the goal of empowering marginalised people.
- Sustainable Fashion is a product that is made with environmentally-friendly standards.
- Ethical Fashion is a broader term that can encompass fair trade and sustainable fashion but is not always explicit. Ethical fashion has no distinct set of rules, practices, or governing body.
- Fair Trade Fashion may also incorporate sustainable practice, including the use of organic cotton.
- Fair Trade Fashion are sometimes grouped under “Sustainable Fashion” when the production is considered “sustainable” to communities in providing livelihoods.
If you’re going to buy new items, then make sure they check off as many of the above boxes as possible, or whichever boxes are most important to you. However, this can be a challenge getting this information out of brands…
So an alternative would be even further simplifying this process by buying at sample sales and consignment stores. Why? Because even if they don’t check the boxes, they’re at the very least: not new. That means you save them from being destroyed at the expense of Mother Earth. It appears that extending the life of a product instead of always conflating “new” with “better,” plus creating a culture around that idea might be a sensible thing to do… for now.
Happy green shopping!
Posted by Staff Writer at 01:27 AM
Eco-Friendly , Insights , Our Views and Opinions , Shopping Trends , Sustainability |
We had just re-launched The Stylish City with a new, more functional design (yes… again!) when we got the alert that Racked had published their final post. Their short farewell note sent us to their newly launched The Goods by Vox for stories about what people buy and why. In all honesty, Racked stepped away from sample sales coverage a couple of years back when they hired a new editor-in-chief. She decided to focus her resources on turning the website’s spotlight on fashion news and features. You can’t blame her, but you also can’t blame me—sample sale queen—for being sad. I was suddenly worrying: was that a sign that there is no hope to have a sustainable business model in this sample sale publishing space?
While bloggers with real rent-paying-jobs or understanding husbands (guilty as charged) can afford to cover NYC sample sales, it is hardly a business model to be envied. Do you remember DailyCandy? NBC closed them down unceremoniously due to decreased traffic. Even the beloved Mizhattan and the mizterious miss (or miz?) behind it has bowed out. Why? (Reveal yourself to me regardless because I want to meet you!)
What are the factors affecting this sample sale space that make it so difficult for websites about sample sales to survive? Sample sales are thriving, after all. Here is the good news about our beloved sample sales:
- Sample sale events have evolved from showing a limited number of real factory sample sales in the 90s to mostly selling excess inventory today. Let’s call a spade a spade” sample sales are overstock sales with large inventories.
- People love the thrill of scoring a bargain, so the public interest for sample sales has increased, despite the significant difficulties physical retail is facing. Brands took notice and turned it into a lifeline for them, and an opportunity for aspirational and budget shoppers.
- Sample sale events are organized these days. Some brands open up their showrooms so you can meet the designer (this happened to me at a Rachel Roy sample sale!).
- Most brands have stopped keeping the sample sale information secret, and they gladly share it with outlets that will publish it for free.
And yet companies like DailyCandy, Racked, and Mizhattan have all had to call it quits despite all of this good news. The question remains: WHY? Here’s the bad news that we suspect may be contributing to the potential demise of the sites who spread the word about sample sales:
- Prices of samples sales have increased as prices on overstock inventory cannot be as low as those of real samples. Ask anyone who works in the accounting department and they will explain to you why. Also, hiring an external company like 260 Sample Sale to host the sample sale, which has proven to be quite successful, comes at a cost. That leaves little room for other expenses like… advertisement.
- Sample Sales tend to be cyclical While website traffic is high during the months of April-May and October-November, “sample sale season” it decreases significantly during “off season” months.
- Companies like 260 Sample Sale do their own dissemination of news through their customer list. They organize most NYC sample sales and are very transparent with products, prices, and even images. That doesn’t leave much room for a site like Racked to bring in newsworthy articles.
- It appears to be easy to copy large amounts of information from one site to another, which makes business tough. A competitor once asked me if I would agree to willingly give them access to my database or if they would have to “scrape” my site for that information without my approval. Yikes.
- High end brands continue to host “by invitation only” sample sales for their customers. Others prefer to burn merchandise worth millions of dollars than discount it. Um, really, Burberry?
- There is very little money to be made in advertising products at the end of life cycle. Companies push new products, but have little interest in investing more money in overstock items. It’s sad they don’t understand it’s a great opportunity to let aspirational shoppers become ambassadors for their brand.
Needless to say, we understand, Racked. And let this be our farewell letter to you. You will be missed and we are sad to see you go the same way DailyCandy and Mizhattan went. The Stylish City is still here… for now. But hopefully, for much longer…
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 02:12 PM
Insights , Our Views and Opinions |
In case you didn’t know, there is a Rent The Runway sample sale going on right now. If you are anything like me, and want to actually commit to dresses from Rent The Runway with which you might otherwise only have one-night stands… now is the time to get on one knee and propose—or hop on one leg in a dressing room and try it on. Either way, all this makes me wonder: do I love Rent The Runway or do I hate it?
The sharing economy is all the rage these days, and we have to give credit to Rent The Runway for being a pioneer of sorts in that respect. It’s a logically sound idea after all. How many times are you going to wear the same dress you wore to that wedding? It’s nearly—gasp—blasphemous to wear the same dress twice to such occasions. So I doubt you would flaunt it at another event where you’ll see the same people you violently elbowed in an effort to catch the bouquet at that last wedding.
When the time came to choose a dress for a black-tie wedding that Saturday, I was delighted to see the Rent The Runway dress selection. I always wanted to wear a Monique Lhuillier gown, and renting one (in two sizes) for $140 seemed like a reasonable price for a dress that retails for $880. What could go wrong? A LOT, apparently.
I ordered the dress and the earrings from Rent The Runway and the following day I actually bought a pair of sandals that matched my evening clutch. When Friday came, the supposed delivery day, I received an email at around 4PM that raised my cortisol levels. The email reported the dress was actually not available in my size after all, but a stylist would choose another one for me so I was (kind of) covered. By 8PM I was still waiting for the surprise dress, so I called Rent The Runway and asked for an update. I was reassured the dress would be delivered within an hour. An hour passed and the dress was still not there.
At this time, my stress was teetering on the edge of a panic attack, so I crossed the street for a spicy margarita to forget my first world (but very serious) problems. When I returned home, the dress was still not there. Finally—at 11:30PM, it arrived. I just breathed a sigh of relief and went to bed without even opening the box.
When I opened the package Saturday morning, the day of the wedding, there was no surprise dress chosen for me by some mystery stylist. All that was there was original dress I’d chosen in its backup size that was too small for me. Panic overwhelmed me and there was not enough spicy margaritas in the world to make me feel better. I called Rent The Runway, and they advised me to go downtown to their store and physically pick up one. Um, the reason I’d ordered from Rent The Runway in the first place was so that I wouldn’t have to do exactly what I was doing right now.
But… here’s the good news: the store personnel was actually great. Both the customer service (Ru?) and the stylist (Mackenzie?) were professional, helpful, and (my perfect counterbalance) very calm. I ended up leaving the place with a better dress than the one I had originally chosen for myself.
So, after this both bad and good experience and then three more that proved to be somewhat similar, I guess I’m giving it yet another go? This weekend I am ordering another dress for a “casual country club look” and I am keeping the fingers crossed (as I type this—so excuse any typos) that it will be here on time.
Regardless of whether another dress fiasco ensues, here’s the takeaway lesson for you. I have placed a total of four Rent The Runway orders so far, and only two were delivered as expected. If you get the four days package, be prepared to receive it at the end of the first day, or on the second day (this is another story for another time). If you are flexible, keep calm, and rent the dress in a way that you are covered for anything that might go wrong because it’s still a great way to be stylish on a budget. Also, this is not based on my personal experience but rather on a stranger’s review; make sure you return everything on time. If you are late or they don’t receive the package, the penalties are such that you end up paying more than if you’d bought the item retail full price. Yikes!
What is your Rent The Runway experience?
Posted by Mirela Gluck at 09:34 AM
Our Views and Opinions |