New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Luxury on a budget: Build your wardrobe shopping NYC sample sales

Sample sales are trending on TikTok and becoming increasingly popular in New York City. Here’s how you can take advantage of them and find some fun new pieces.
Spencer Mulvaney
260 Sample Sale drops designer at budget prices. (Spencer Mulvaney for WSN)

Almost everything in New York City is expensive, but one of the benefits of living in a fashion capital of the world is having access to some of the most fashionable clothing on every corner. Maneuver the world of sales correctly, and the money you lose on overpriced lattes can be saved for an exciting sample sale. 

Sample sales are large sales where retailers can get rid of excess stock or minorly damaged goods by offering consumers heavily discounted prices. It’s common to see markdowns of over 50% on items from well-known designers and brands like Maison Margiela, Miaou or Reformation. 

Despite the recent downturn in luxury sales around the world, sample sales have actually grown in popularity. What business analysts deemed as a disinterest in brand names may simply have been a disinterest in fully priced luxury clothing. 

While some brands may choose to hold their own sales, others choose to run them through third-party organizations like 260 Sample Sale and Eclipse Sample Sale. I first became acquainted with sample sale culture when I stumbled upon 260 Sample Sales’s Instagram account in 2021. Even though I didn’t go to my first sample sales event until this year, I’m now completely hooked. 

I went to the Marc Jacobs sample sale on a whim one rainy Saturday. The best way to describe the experience is organized chaos. The types of shoppers at the sale ranged from casual fans to bulk buyers, each trying to snag the best pieces as quickly as possible. 

Sales associates roamed the venue, helping customers carry items, answering questions and organizing merchandise. Some events, like the Helmut Lang sample sale I visited later in the week, feature a group fitting room on site. 

Many of the pieces I got from these sales have quickly become staples in my wardrobe, making me excited about the next potential sale I can go to. Not only do I now own pieces from brands that I love, but I’ve also found a community that shares a similar fervor for luxury on a budget.

Gallatin junior Ainsley Woodford, a fashion business student who enjoys shopping samples sales, says that these events allow her to obtain brands that would normally be inaccessible on a college student’s budget. 

“Most students don’t have thousands of dollars to spend at Gucci every weekend,” said Woodford. “However, at a school like NYU, you see so many kids wearing designer stuff and it’s easy to feel out of place.” 

CAS sophomore Reese Moorman has also been making the most of recent sample sales and their affordable prices.

“I enjoy shopping sample sales because it’s the best way to access designers I love,” said Moorman. “Almost half of my closet comes from sample sales.” 

Moorman also finds that sample sales are a great way to find unique pieces, as some items at these sales are experimental and have never been released to the public. 

“There’s this one pair of jeans that I always get compliments on that I got from a sample sale,” she said. “People always ask me where they’re from but since they’re a sample, they don’t exist elsewhere. It feels cool to own this one-of-a-kind piece.” 

There’s also an adrenaline rush to shopping sample sales. Recent Stern graduate Lauren Guo likens the experience to thrifting. 

“Most of the stuff isn’t good, and sometimes it’s hard to find your size, but that just makes it all the more exciting when you finally find a good piece,” she said. 

While the selection of items is the most fruitful at the beginning of the sale, markdowns often increase throughout the week. I went to the Marc Jacobs sample sale on the second-to-last day, and scored a 90% discount on a bag and a pair of shoes. 

Waiting in line at sample sales can be a major annoyance, so getting to these events early or simply timing your arrival properly can make a world of difference. Guo recommends being smart about choosing the time you go to sales.

“Most people shopping these sales are in their mid-20s and working until 5 p.m. or taking their lunch breaks at noon, so if you want to avoid the lines, try avoiding these times,” she said.

That is one of the major advantages of being a college student when shopping sample sales. I stopped by the Helmut Lang sample sale on the first day of the sale, October 17th, during a break between my classes from noon to 3 p.m. There was virtually no one else there, allowing me to browse slowly and intentionally.

Woodford also recommends going into each sale with an open mind. Shopping with specific pieces in mind often leads to disappointment. Part of the fun of shopping sample sales is the hidden gems you can find. 

There are several opportunities to score big savings on well-known designers. Some upcoming sales include LoveShackFancy, Rag & Bone and Alice & Olivia. Most sales are announced a week or two in advance, so keep an eye out for new opportunities and upcoming sales. Following Instagram accounts like 260 Sample Sale, or simply Googling “sample sales in New York City” and making a list of the ones you’re interested in is a great way to start. 

If you want to begin investing in luxury and designer items, even as a college student, sample sales might be your best bet. Beyond affordability, the thrill of finding a piece that you never knew you needed will be enough to keep you going back for more.

Contact Grace Tan @[email protected].

Leave a comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *