The London Sample Sales Guide – All You Need To Know
London is a city that caters for the full fashion spectrum – from the scruffy, to the normcore not-bothereds and to lovers of designer brands.
We all feel like we fit somewhere along those lines, and often this is dictated to by how much money we have left after we pay the rent and fill up the fridge.
But hold on to your Zara knockoff coat and gather up your Topshop maxi skirt because there is a way we can all buy into the good stuff at a fraction of the cost.
Sample Sale Heaven
London is a mecca of weekly designer sample sales throwing out last season or older stock goodies for up to 90% of the RRP. Buy less but buy better from luxury designer sample sales.
Recycle your old high street wardrobe and replace tatty jumpers and tired dresses.
Buy clearance Roland Mouret frocks, classic Mulberry bags, Temperley gowns, N. Peal and Cocoa cashmere, Bella Freud jumpers, Erdem printed trousers and Smythson diaries.
London Sample Sales Guide – The Steps You Need To Know
It’s not all handbags at dawn these days either. Arm yourself up with the right info via our roundup of the best sites for updated weekly information and learn where to go to get best dressed at high street prices.
Step One: Get In The Know
There are a number of websites that curate the sales, giving you a heads-up of what is coming up, where and at what time.
Sometimes they have added services like private VIP entry (before the crowds swamp in and grab the best stock).
In the case of @thesamplesaleteam, they offer to do the shopping and queueing for you for a small fee.
Get Online Before You Get In Line
I like Chicmi, an email service that offers a daily London update on the next day’s sample sales.
On Instagram, the @insidesamplesales account (operated by an unnamed but self-described ‘avid sales shopper working in London bringing news from the inside’) is complete with weekly spreadsheets and links to VIP and sometimes private invites.
There’s also A Little Bird, a cleverly curated email mailshot (and website) that gives you details of the best London sample sales over the coming month.
It’s also good for general cool London cultural happenings, so worth subscribing to.
I recommend following @thebox_london for Hackney sales, @themusicroommayfair for central London sample sales and @ldnsamplesales for – you guessed it – London sample sale invites and exclusive access.
Step Two: Do Your Research
Like with all sales, you should think about what your wardrobe is missing before you head on in, otherwise you will get giddy and bedazzled by the amazing £2000 sequinned dress marked down to a tiny £200 even though you won’t, in actual real life, ever wear it.
Of course, you could do a roaring trade selling your sample sale missteps on eBay, but that’s another story.
A Word Of Caution
Make sure you like the designer’s style and carry with you an idea of what you could really use with your existing wardrobe.
Coats, bags, knits and shoes are often your best bet but be careful of overenthusiastic high heel-buying.
I have four pairs of Mulberry heels (reduced from £400 to £69) still sitting under my bed in their boxes, unworn and unloved – consider those an elegant but ultimately false-economy cautionary tale.
Equally, don’t leave a fabulous one-off dress or jumpsuit at the sale if you love it and if you look brilliant in it.
Buy it not because of the reduction but because it brings you joy. These surprise sartorial treasures in the sample sale hunt are kind of the whole point, provided you don’t lose your head.
Step Three: Heading Out
Sample sale shopping can be a competitive endurance sport.
Wear comfortable shoes and think about your underwear – lots of venues will have you changing in communal areas with barely a badly-hung curtain to hide behind.
You will have to check your bag and coat in at the door, so come with just the basics and make sure your outfit is easy to get in and out of.
Many venues charge a small fee, which usually goes to a charity, so check you have spare change in your wallet.
Dress For The Scrum
Sample sale venues can have massive queues so pick your timing and bring a cup of coffee and a fully charged-up phone while you wait your turn.
If you get there for the opening time on the first day, you will likely be battling crowds but you will get the best pick of the stock.
Go later or – even better, on the last day – and while you might not get the widest choice of styles and sizes, there are often further reductions applied to opening day prices.
My advice is to go early, buy what you cannot bear leaving behind and then go back on the last day for possible reductions on those pieces you couldn’t quite justify.
Ask the staff about last-day reduction policies because they have nothing to lose by letting you in the know.
Step Four: Know Your Venues
The Music Rooms
This is a brilliantly located venue with a large, light, white room and a cloakroom out the front. There are stairs so be aware of access issues if you have a stroller or are in a wheelchair.
These are termed ‘private’ sample sales but that just means you have to register online with Arlettie to secure your place.
Sign up at arlettie.com to get the invites rolling into your email inbox.
Hackney’s The Box hosts sample sales from A.P.C, Isabel Marant, House of Hackney for interiors, Liberty London and goofy knitwear genius Markus Lupfer.
It’s a well-organised space, located just East enough to ensure the sales are not crammed with bargain-hunting punters.
Great for its annual Christopher Kane sale as well as interiors and clothes from The Bluebird shop.
Recent Showcase sales have included a brilliant Christopher Kane sale (where I bought a £1000 silk bomber for £70) as well as a very-well priced Stella McCartney sale.
Located near Piccadilly Circus, the Showcase venue has usually a small queue that zigzags inside the building.
This is much nicer than the queues at other smaller venues that snake outside, often in the drizzling rain and a well-staffed coat check.
I attended the Erdem sample sale with my three month old baby and the staff watched him while I tried on printed skirts and a breastfeeding-friendly shirt. They helped me all the while with sizes.
Shoreditch Town Hall
Old Street’s Shoreditch Town Hall hosts an Alexander McQueen sale which boasts a variety of sizes and styles, shoes, sunglasses, jewellery and bags at great prices.
Some of the lines are iconic McQueen so save up for this one – £3 at the door.
Where’s your favourite place to go sample sales shopping in London?