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May 29, 2024

What’s behind the fashion sample sale craze in the TikTok era

In the bustling world of luxury, where trends change quickly and styles evolve at lightning speed, the once-exclusive empire of fashion sample sales has experienced a significant transformation. 

@highsnobiety How long would you wait in line for The Row’s sample sale? #therow #samplesale #samplesalenyc #tiktokfashion ♬ Benjamins Deli - JRitt

What used to be the exclusive domain of fashion insiders, where the elite swooped in for coveted runway treasures before they disappeared, has now morphed into a public spectacle infused with the unmistakable energy of the TikTok era.

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A post shared by Saheedat (@itssaheedat)

According to Vogue Business, Saheedat Abdul, a seasoned connoisseur of sample sales and an expert content creator, has experienced this evolution first-hand. With her finger firmly on the pulse of fashion’s frenetic heartbeat, she recalls the days when sample sales were small and exclusive gatherings, brimming with leftover items from previous seasons and rare prototypes. Yet, as the tide of social media surged, so did the excitement around these events, attracting a new breed of attendee—one fuelled not just by a passion for fashion, but also by the prospect of virtual stardom and lucrative flips. 

@bigappleshopandeat Maison Margiela Sample Sale at 260 Sample Sale! Lots of Tabis! Shoes & Accessories 60% off clothing 70% off#maisonmargiela #260samplesalenyc #260samplesale ♬ 原聲 - BigAppleShopAndEat

Gone are the days of discreet transactions and whispered exchanges among seasoned resellers. In their place, a cacophony of cameras and a whirlwind of activity now reign supreme as influencers, content creators, and eager bargain hunters alike vie for their moment in the spotlight.

With each garment scrutinised under the unforgiving gaze of smartphone lenses, sample sales have transcended their origins, transforming into sprawling affairs where community promotion and content creation are as vital as the deals themselves.

As a result, brands have started to view sample sales not only as a way to clear their inventory, but as a strategic part of their marketing process. They use these events as activations, leveraging TikTokers to help them reach the ‘right audience’—the younger generation with a deep interest in fashion and luxury. These consumers want access to high-end pieces but often can’t afford to pay full price. After all, who among Gen Zers and Millennials doesn’t love a good discount?

@thecheguevarra On se retrouve une fois de plus pour une vidéo des ventes privées du groupe Kering 😍🥳 avec beaucoup de Balenciaga, Gucci, McQueen, Bottega Veneta #samplesales #venteprivee #bonplan ♬ Calm Down X Love Nwantiti - DJ Drek

In other words, the rise of social media has democratised the once-exclusive world of sample sales, thrusting them into the limelight and granting access to a broader audience than ever before. What was once the domain of individual brands has now become a collective endeavour, as independent organisers orchestrate sales that cater to multiple labels, amplifying their reach and impact in the process. 

@zaracarini Private Sample Sale nella vostra city #greenscreen ♬ suono originale - Zara Carini

Yet, amidst all the excitement and confusion, a note of caution rings clear. As the popularity of sample sales spreads like wildfire across social media feeds, so does the risk of disappointment. Savvy consumers, armed with a discerning eye and a knack for sniffing out inflated prices disguised as bargains, are ready to question the very foundations of this once-unassailable tradition.

But for now, the beat goes on. The allure of discounted designer duds and the thrill of the hunt ensure that sample sales retain their magnetic pull, drawing crowds and camera crews in equal measure.

The question remains: will the viral saga of fashion sample sales continue indefinitely, weaving its narrative ever more intricately into the fabric of our digital age? This phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down—and likely won’t—as long as there are deals to score and content to create.



Angelo Ruggeri
Journalist, Master’s Programme Tutor & Fashion Styling Course Leader, Milan