Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fashion in a Flash

So. It's time for us to talk about flash shopping sites.

I almost felt like it wasn't necessary to tackle this topic because flash sales have been around for a few years now. But then I'm reminded that not everyone is an online shopping addict like I am, haha.

Flash shopping sites are kind of like a combination between outlet shopping and sample sales, but far more accessible than either.

It works like this: Each website launches a number of different sales per day. Each sale is either centered around a designer or a theme (summer shoes, kids' dresses, etc.) and only goes for a limited number of days. If there's a brand going on sale that you're a big fan of, it may be a good idea to log on right when the sale starts, because quite often, there's only one or two of each item available. Once you put an item into your cart, you usually have 10-15 minutes to buy it before it's released back to the sale.

You can find everything on these sites from basics for under $20 to vintage Chanel bags and Christian Louboutin heels.

There's many flash shopping options out there. I'm signed up for quite a few of them to make sure I never miss a good sale (and I'd advise you to do the same), but here are some of my favorites. Since many of them offer the same brands and types of sales, they're ranked by value and ease of shipping and returns.


Hautelook is my No. 1 for a very important reason: They're owned by Nordstrom, and all items are returnable for free at Nordstrom Rack. I've take advantage of this many times! In fact, since they offer free shipping over $100, I've sometimes ordered several things I'm on the fence about to try on, gotten the free shipping and then returned all but one to our local store.

Best current sales: Betsey Johnson, Vivienne Westwood, TOMS

Vince Camuto dress - $59.00


Confession: I once went through a period where I bought the same pair of Sevens in three different colors. (You know how it is. I finally found THE PERFECT PAIR OF SKINNY JEANS. And they kept going on sale!!!) This is where RueLaLa's shipping policy came in handy: You pay a $9.95 flat fee on a purchase, and then get free shipping for another 30 days. Returns can be made for a full RueLaLa credit or cash back with $9.95 shipping deducted. That was useful when I made the mistake of trying Sevens in a different style. #sadface (Note: RueLaLa is the one site that doesn't e-mail you daily, for some reason, so I use their app and get sale notifications pushed to my phone. Most of the other sites also have apps you can check out if you want.)

Best current sales: Tory Burch, Jimmy Choo, Juicy Couture

Badgley Mischka heels - $59.90


Ideeli is basically tied with RueLaLa in my book. They also offer a $9.95 flat rate shipping with 30 days free afterwards. Their cash return is slightly cheaper at $8.95, or you can get full credit. Ideeli also offers something called a 1st Row Membership, where you can get access to sales an hour early and also be invited to exclusive sales. It costs $23.97 per quarter or $83.88 a year. They used to give out these memberships for a month after you bought something; honestly, I didn't find the benefit to be worth paying extra money for.

Best current sales: Balenciaga, Betsey Johnson, BCBGMaxazria shoes

Vince Camuto dress - $39.94


I don't shop as often with MyHabit (owned by Amazon), but they offer free shipping and easy $3.99 returns, making it another favorite. It works much the same as any other Amazon order.

Best current sales: Rebecca Minkoff, Kate Spade Saturday

Michael Stars Indian silk scarf - $39, Vince Camuto sandals - $39

Gilt Groupe

Gilt has been my go-to for feeding my addiction of Swarovski and other designer accessories, although they have plenty of sales of shoes, clothing and home goods as well. They charge a very reasonable flat rate of $5.95 for shipping on most orders. My only complaint is they seem to take a lot longer to ship items to you than other sites. You can get a full refund on items with Gilt credit or get cash back with $7.95 deducted for shipping. Gilt also has a rewards program where you can earn points through purchases, logging in every day or referring friends.

Best current sales: Laura Mercier makeup, French Connection, Zac Posen

Diane von Furstenberg sunglasses - $28

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Outlet Games

As any good shopping addict knows, the outlets (Gilroy, Napa, whatever) are like the mother ship - the place to get the designer goods you covet at much more affordable prices. Outlet shopping is nearly a sport - but what you may not know is that some shops are trying to cheat a bit.

When you buy designer, it's about paying for the name as well as the craftsmanship. One of the biggest appeals of the outlets is feeling like you're getting something quality at a steal. But the thing is, you may be getting exactly what you pay for.

Most outlet or factory stores are no longer simply selling castoff items from full-price designer lines. Instead, they're producing lower-quality items specifically for their outlet stores. A recent Buzzfeed article offered a peek into the strategy, used by companies such as J. Crew, Kate Spade, Coach, Michael Kors and many more. Even department store outlets such as Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth are in the game, with brands manufacturing items to send directly to those stores.

Often, the differences in quality are subtle and vary by product. How can you tell something is made-for-outlet? For purse companies such as MK and Coach, it's all about the details - or lack thereof. During a trip to the Michael Kors outlet in Napa, a bag caught my eye. A salesclerk approached and started singing the praises of the "Hamilton tote." I've been coveting a Hamilton tote - and that huge MK lock dangling from the front - for years now. (Have I mentioned my obsession of all things lock to go with all things key?)

One problem: this particular Hamilton tote did not have a lock, but a simple plate that said Michael Kors. It was about $100 less than a real Hamilton tote goes for on sale, but it was stripped of the bag's signature piece of hardware.

Coach has got this strategy down to an art. If you walk into a Coach Factory store, there's about two shelves that are authentic, full-priced Coach products. How can you tell them apart? Most bags from actual Coach lines have the metal coach and horse symbol on it or have the name and logo stamped in the leather. Bags made for Coach Factory have much different logos, generally plastic pieces that say Coach on them.

So what does this mean to you and me? I'm not saying you should stop buying things that are made specifically for outlet stores. It just means you should go into shopping with your eyes open.

Don't buy something just because it has a designer name on it and has a relatively low price - only go for it if you really do love it! This is something I have to remind myself of constantly! I didn't buy that wannabe Hamilton tote - but I did get a cute purse made just for Coach Factory. ;)