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New York's sample sale scene is second-to-none, making it the best city on earth to find a fashion bargain.
The seasonal and constantly changing world of fashion means that brands often have items left over from past seasons, runway shows or the design and production process that they've collected in their offices or warehouses. Sample sales are sales events - often held in dedicated showrooms or event spaces - where you can buy these items at a significant discount on their normal retail value. Many sample sales discount between 70% to even 90% off.
Sample sales are often an experience in themselves - popular sales will frequently have queues to enter, you might have to store your coat or bag in a cloakroom, and you will often be competing with other shoppers to find and buy the items you want before others do. You you'll often find samples come in limited sizes, and you shouldn't expect the perks of proper luxury clothes shopping - many places don't have changing rooms and you're not likely to get a personal shopper!
Items bought in a sample sale are usually sold as is, and you won't be able to return them. Many sample sales accept cash and card, but check before you go, as some will be cash only or card only.
New York has one of the worlds most vibrant and eclectic fashion communities, and the sample sales match! You'll find sales ranging from luxury brands and high street labels through to independent and emerging brands. The sample sales for luxury and high street brands are often quite practical affairs where you are there to grab a bargain as quickly as possible - but the independent and emerging events can be a great way to discover a brand's clothes, meet the designers, and sometimes enjoy entertainment or drinks alongside the sales.
Along with sample sales organised by the brands themselves, there's also a rich calendar of sample sales organised by third parties or collectives. For example Shelly & Renee organise New York sample sales on behalf of many luxury brands and European labels, and companies like Soiffer Haskin and Clothingline host sample sales in their spaces all year round as well.
Because the fashion scene in NYC is so big, you'll find sample sales all year round - but the most common periods, or "sample sale seasons", are when the fashion seasons come to an end. Spring Summer sample sales often happen between April to June, and Autumn Winter sample sales happen October to December. These are the times that you really want to keep an eye on the sample sale calendar, and make sure you don't miss your favourite brands!