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During those adrenaline-filled months of slogging through crowds and waiting in weather-inclement lines during the Sample Sale Onslaught of 2010, we seemed to find ourselves at the same spots, over and over again. For this, we have a small and powerful cartel of sample and overstock sale organizers to thank (or blame, depending on your outlook and bank balance in early 2011). As we take this retail respite to reflect and regroup, we think it's the optimum time for a review of the Fab Four of Sample Sale Sites.
The calm before the storm inside the 260 Fifth DVF sale
1.) 260 Fifth (officially known as Misorena), 260 Fifth Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets
The skinny: This permanent sample sale location on the ground floor at 260 Fifth Avenue is known for a rotating roster of sample and overstock sales. Shoppers will find a range of retail experiences, from a random mish-mash of overstock items (like Steven Alan, Miss Sixty and Kenneth Cole all sharing space) to big banner designer sales that inevitably draw winding lines down Fifth Avenue and around the corner onto 28th Street. Every once in a while there's a surprise, too, like when we dropped by the Louis Féraud sale and found a secret stash of Richard Chai, Mara Hoffman, and a smattering of Manolos sprinkled throughout the shop.
The usual suspects: Diane Von Furstenberg, Calypso St. Barth, Hanky Panky, La Perla, Earnest Sewn
Standard operating procedure: With the big sales, the line is clearly demarcated into two sections via rope and stanchion. Inside, there is always a bag and coat check. Ladies, no need for leggings as there is a communal fitting area in the back of the sale that is usually open for apparel sales (sadly, La Perla is a fitting room no-go).
Friendliness quotient: It really depends on the sale, since each brand brings in its own staff. For example, we were on the receiving end of a shove at the riotous DVF sale, but were pleased to find good-natured and helpful staffers at the always-hopping Hanky Panky sale. Misorena also has permanent staffers there to help with check-in. Since we stop by so often (damn, our cover is blown!), one of the bag check guys always greets us with a smile and hello.
A wide shot of French Connection and friends at Clothingline
2.) Clothingline/SSS Sales, 261 W. 36th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues
The skinny: This second-floor Garment District sale space has been in operation for over two decades. The sales tend to be well-attended and occasionally frenzied (one time the cops were called to the queue outside a Tory Burch sale). The rosters usually feature established brands, but every once in awhile a newbie, like Whit, joins the stable.
The usual suspects: Theory, J. Crew, Tory Burch, French Connection, Milly, Free People
Standard operating procedure: Be prepared for coat and bag check. There are also communal fitting areas for both men and women.
Friendliness quotient: This is a true New York City sample sale experience, with staffers ranging from mildly apathetic to downright surly, but hey, what won't we endure for a discount?
The well-organized Hermès sale at Soiffer Haskin
3. Soiffer Haskin, 317 West 33rd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
The skinny: If 260 Fifth is for the downtown go-out set and Clothingline is for fashionable biz cas types, then Soiffer Haskin is definitely for the lady (or gentleman) who lunches. Self-described as a private sale company for luxury goods, Soiffer Haskin has proven itself a high class enterprise.
The usual suspects: MaxMara, Cole Haan, Tourneau (featuring Cartier, Bulgari, Harry Winston, Dior, Gucci, Chopard, Breitling, and Piaget timepieces), Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Bulgari and, of course, Hermès
Standard operating procedure: Such swanky sales do come at a price, as near-Draconian level rules do apply. For one, kids under 12 and strollers are strictly forbidden—that is, unless it's the Hermès sale (clearly Soiffer Haskin knows its shoppers). The bag and coat check on the ground floor even applies to accessories, namely hats and scarves (we witnessed one security staffer relieve a shopper of her silk Louis Vuitton scarf right at the entrance). Also, no photos allowed, hence the dearth of wide-shots from past sales. While fitting areas are available, there are stringent dressing room restrictions. There is, however, a perk to shopping in a police state. If nature calls while you're in line (hello, Hermès), a staffer will escort you to the very clean restroom on the ground floor.
Friendliness quotient: Did we mention that this is a super classy operation? Despite the über-strict rules, the staffers inside the sale are just rays of shopping sunshine. At the Hermès sale (a.k.a. Leatherpocalpyse), a staffer went in the back to search for leftover skinny ties without us requesting and of his own volition.
Inside Savvy & Co.'s Catherine Malandrino sale (imagine the wondrous sounds of Glee tunes playing in the background).
4. Savvy & Co.
The skinny: While Savvy & Co. doesn't have their own permanent sale space, the company does organize a number of high-profile sales throughout the city, so we're including them on the list. Savvy's well-stocked sales can take place in spaces such as the Metropolitan Pavilion and a designer's own showroom.
The usual suspects: L.A.M.B., Catherine Malandrino, Elizabeth & James/La Rok, Rebecca Taylor
Standard operating procedure It's worthwhile to note that Savvy has mobilized on Facebook and Twitter to further promote its sales. For the last Catherine Malandrino sale, people who RSVP'd via Facebook received 10% off their purchases and there were further promotions and gifts via Facebook and Twitter. We would also like to note that at an earlier Malandrino sale, the organizers were playing multiple Glee soundtracks on shuffle. More, please. Back to the logistics though—bag and coat check and fitting room situations are dependent on the venues.
Friendliness quotient: We have to admit that we've never come up with a super strong impression. However, in the greater scheme of things, that's probably a positive since there weren't any bad experiences (like the pushing mentioned above) that we can remember.