Sometimes I have to keep myself in check whenever I’m browsing through clothes online. I’ve seen so many outrageous price tags over the years that they don’t even faze me now. This indifference comes from doing a ton of analysis on design, fabric, and branding, as well as business mentalities. At times, I can get carried away, end up looking at a $2000 designer suit, and think offhandedly to myself, I can totally afford that. (I cannot.) Nevertheless, while I may not get overwhelmed by sticker shock, I am always aware of how much a reasonable amount is to spend on something and how much I myself can afford, so I usually end up talking myself out of paying the advertised price if I don’t abandon the thought of ownership altogether. Because I’m keenly aware of what things are actually worth, I have figured out ways to avoid spending full retail on most designer clothing.
There’s a mistaken impression a lot of people have that people who dress well have a ton of money to burn and/or spend a lot on expensive clothes. I’m here to tell you that, along with mainly buying mid-range labels, there are many ways to not spend a fortune while still dressing nice. Sometimes paying full price is unavoidable. For wardrobe essentials, you will likely have to bite the bullet and pay up if you want the best quality. There might also be a case in which a particular cardigan you’ve been coveting for 2 years is only available in your size on one site for full price. Barring these kinds of exclusions, if you are a savvy shopper, keep an open mind, and are willing to put in the extra work, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on designer clothing.
Below are the steps I often take to save money on higher-quality luxury clothing.
1. Shop online
There’s no denying anymore that malls are dying. They and the brands that were built inside their once-hallowed walls have been in steady decline for a number of years, and there’s not much that can bring them back now that the internet is a thing. The fact is, there is so much more variety online that it’s not economically viable to schlep over to a mall on the off chance that a store might have something you’re looking for in your size. Moreover, those brands that populate most malls–Gap, Old Navy, H&M, Forever 21, Zara–are lower quality and usually not worth the prices they charge, even if they’re on clearance. Some deals can be found in person if you’re lucky and happen to be in the right place at the right time, but by and large, the best deals will be found online and you will be assured of getting your size if it’s available.
2. Join email lists
Not sure if you’ve heard, but email is back in vogue. Platforms like Gmail have made it so easy to curate your inbox so that you only receive emails you’re interested in (imagine that). Advertisers in particular have learned how to market their wares better for their clientele. Signing up for a label’s or retailer’s newsletters is now the best way to keep on top of any sales, coupon codes, or marketing campaigns they might be running. Some retailers, like Mr. Porter, give early access to sales through said newsletters, so if you have your eye on something, it’s easier to nab before it sells out while the price is reduced. And speaking of sales…
3. Keep an eye out for end-of-season sales
The fashion industry functions on a rotating basis. As such, many retailers try to sell off their out-of-season clothing semiannually with huge sales. This is the best time to stock up on the things you will need 6 months from then, when the weather turns. Mr. Porter and SSense, among others, notoriously only have sales during this period and the only way to know when it happens is to use tip number 3 and subscribe to their mailing lists. If I had been keeping an eye on my email a couple months ago, I could have saved $150 on the aforementioned cardigan from Wacko Maria. Alas, I missed the notification it was on sale and ended up paying full price because it sold out quickly. You win some, you lose some, but if you stay on top of your email list, you will come out ahead.
4. Do research
Say you have your eye on a specific sneaker. Instead of just looking in the obvious places like Footlocker or Zappos, where the prices may be inflated because many people think those are the only places shoes are sold, do a Google search for the specific brand, model, and color. Make a note of the retailers in the “Shopping” section of the search results. Not all retailers sell their merchandise for the same price, so be sure to compare them.
Next, scroll down to see all the other results listed on the page. Keep going for 3 or 4 more pages and you will begin seeing retailers you’ve never heard of. Some may have websites that look a little sketchy, so be cognizant of that. Don’t just buy something on a whim from a random site at 25% of retail–it is probably fake or they’re just going to steal your money. However, you can often luck out on websites for retailers that are going out of business and need to sell off their merchandise at clearance prices. This is how I saved around $50 on a pair of chinos from Saturdays NYC.
5. Keep an eye on the items you love
If you frequently scrutinize clothing selections, as I do, you will inevitably come across an item that you love and know would fit perfectly in your wardrobe. It’s not super expensive, but it’s just barely out of reach. I’ve given myself many tests in these situations. I will make sure it will go with the rest of my clothes. I will let it go for a week or so and if it’s still on my mind, or I don’t find anything better, I will resolve to purchase it. The way I see it is that it’s meant to be mine.
Whatever you do, give it time, sleep on it, but watch how it performs as far as how well it’s selling. If you keep an eye on it for a month or more and none of the sizes are selling out, chances are good that it will eventually go on sale. Many sites these days will tell you when there’s 1 or 2 more of a certain item, so make sure it doesn’t sell out in the size you want. This is where the email newsletters come in handy because once you find out the item is on sale, you can swoop in and claim it as yours for a reduced price. This is how I saved around $100 onmy cricket sweater from Kent & Curwen.
Even if you had to go ahead and buy something full price because it was the last one and you didn’t want to miss out, if a sale begins within the return period of that item, you can usually reach out to customer service to let them know and they will refund you the amount of money you would have saved had you bought it on sale. This is how I saved $108 on a shirt from AMI.
6. Know which sites to go to for sale clothing
This tip is for men who don’t have a specific brand in mind but just don’t want it to be low-end. If you don’t already know which labels are better quality, it can be easy for unknown brands to swindle you into buying their low-quality clothing. Tread carefully.
If you know what you’re doing, there are many sites that can serve you well. Farfetch’s sale section is wonderful for this. Simply click “Sale”, then refine the results by your size, preferred garment, preferred color, or any other pertinent information, and you should have a few pages to look through. That’s an easy $100 saved as long as you know which brands are good. Plus, there’s little danger of buying the wrong size because they even do returns on sale merchandise.
Another site that works well is Yoox. Unlike Farfetch, which is more like a middle-man between retailers/brands and the customer, Yoox is sort of like an uncurated Mr. Porter (an apt description because they are both branches of the same company, YOOX Net-a-Porter Group). They also have a permanent sale section which has plenty of great deals if you’re not extremely picky. Just refine the selection of goods down to what you’re generally looking for and you’re good to shop.
Lyst is a little different from the other two I’ve mentioned here because it is basically just a powerful search engine made to search for clothes. This site might be a good tool for keeping an eye on specific items like I mentioned in number 5, but I’ve never used for that so I can’t say for sure. What you can do instead is peruse the sale section the same as the others. Unfortunately, you can’t refine the results as much, so you really have to be flexible or be looking for a generic item, like a blue dress shirt. However, the great thing about Lyst is that you can see many different retailers and their prices on similar items, including those on sale, so it’s easy to compare.
If you are unsure about a certain brand, a quick Google search should tell you what you want to know. Researching different brands can also expand your knowledge base and clue you in on newer, emerging designers or budget labels that use higher-quality materials.
7. Don’t buy things just because they’re on sale
This is my mantra for buying anything, not just clothes: if the only reason you’re buying something is because the price is reduced, you are not actually saving money, you’re being swindled into buying something you don’t want. Being convinced that you need something simply because the price is low can lead to wasteful overspending or buying things that will end up gathering dust in a closet. Then, you have to figure out how to donate or sell it because it’s just taking up space.
Before you even start shopping, establish a list of things you want/need either in your head or on a spreadsheet. Keep them in mind as you go through sale sections and collections from labels. This will help keep you from getting carried away in the sale sections.
8. Shop consignment
This is for the fashion die-hards. You may get mixed results, but there are absolutely plenty of deals to be had. eBay is still a great place to go, but can be hit-and-miss. Grailed and StockX are also amazing repositories to explore if you have an open mind. TheRealReal is also at your disposal, though I don’t have much experience with it as their offerings for men aren’t stellar.
This is the one area I would encourage shopping in person if you can, especially if you’re in a fashionable city like New York or LA. In big cities, there is a lot more disposable income, so affluent people are more willing to part with their expensive clothes. Here in DC, there’s a consignment shop called Buffalo Exchange where I picked up a polo from Givenchy for around $30. I’m not sure what the original retail price was, but it was easily 20 times what I paid. Again, a little flexibility, patience, and research can pay off big.
9. Buy less, buy quality
Generally, the rule is that the higher price you pay for clothing, the better quality it is and the longer it will last. The sweaters are warmer and don’t pill as much. The T-shirts are softer and more durable. The shoes don’t fall apart after a year. My experience is designer brands almost always fit better as well. Of course, the trade-off is that the upfront cost is higher, but ideally you will end up with garments that will be more satisfying and cost less over the long-term because you won’t need to replace them anytime soon. Instead of paying $50 for 5 T-shirts that last a year, spend the same amount on 1 T-shirt that lasts 10 years.
Do you have any methods you follow to save on designer clothing? Share below in the comments!
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