Designer Deals Revealed: Online Sample Sales

Private online sample sales are the label lover’s best-kept secret. You too can be the proud owner of authentic merch from coveted brands, without ever leaving your home — or denting your wallet. Bargain luxury has never been this cool.

Gilt Groupe: The holy grail of invitation-only shopping sites, Gilt.com offers in-demand fashion and luxury brands for men, women, and children at prices up to 70% off retail. A new sale is featured daily at 9 a.m. PST and lasts 24 hours, or until everything is sold. Members receive daily emails when a sale goes live, plus weekly emails on upcoming sales. Obtain membership by receiving an invitation link from an existing member or requesting one from customer service (I tried the latter, and it works). Benefit: Excellent customer support. And a one-time $25 credit is added to your account for purchases made by your member referrals.

HauteLook: In addition to popular women’s apparel, Hautelook.com offers beauty discounts from brands like Stila and Philosophy. Sales are up to 75% off and run 36-72 hours, starting at 8 a.m. PST. Members also receive daily notification emails when sales go live. Referrals automatically receive a $10 credit once they sign up, and $10 is added to your account once they make their first purchase. Benefit: Membership is free, so no need to hunt for an invitation. Hautelook also hosts periodic sweepstakes. For instance, to launch their upcoming men’s division, one lucky member will receive two tickets to the NCAA Final Four, roundtrip airfare, and luxury hotel accommodations for two in Detroit! Finally, a reason your man will actually thank you for shopping.

Rue La La: A sister site of Smartbargains.com, Ruelala.com offers discounts on in-season apparel and accessories for men and women, up to 80% off. Two to three designer boutiques run for 48 hours at a time, starting at 8 a.m. PST, and continue to run until everything is sold. Like the other two sites, members receive daily notification emails. Rue La La also offers the same referral system as Hautelook. Benefit: If you want to stay ahead of the game on an upcoming boutique, sign up for reminders, and they’ll send you an e-mail or text message three hours before the sale goes live that day.

I recommend becoming a member of all three programs because brands occasionally distribute their merchandise across each site. For example, once I entered a Diane Von Furstenberg sale too late on Gilt, and everything was sold out. Little did I know that a few weeks later, the same DVF sale would be featured on Hautelook. I knew better this time. Strategically entering the sale the minute it started, I found exactly what I wanted in just my size, made my purchase, and nobody got hurt.

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