HOW I BECAME A SMARTER SHOPPER
Trust me to be more strategic with shopping rather than my career! Over the years my approach has definitely changed, from buying as much as possible and making snap decisions to becoming more patient. The democratisation of fashion was probably a main factor. We can create our own style templates, save for later and search for discounts, instead of feeling the urgency that magazines and brands used to create.
When I worked in high street fashion, it meant that I was looking obsessively at trends and seeing how they evolved each season. I would buy the items I loved in the sales and feel slightly smug when I’d still spot them on the catwalks a year later. Pink coats are probably the best example, they first made an impact for Jil Sander AW12 catwalk and they’re still going strong. Sure they’re not the newest thing, but if you like pink, you’re bound to find an option out there.
My main thing is that I don’t just stick to basics that are guaranteed to have longevity. I’ve figured out what I’m drawn to (basically florals, embroidery and metallic pops) and I see my wardrobe as components that can be updated and refreshed each year. Ultimately if I really love something, I’m going to buy it regardless of whether Vogue says it’s a must-have (though I’m more likely to listen to the almighty Edward Enninful). My belief is that you can wear anything, as long as you have conviction.
My thought process when shopping
Do I love it? Is it one of my preferred trends or will it help evolve my style in some way?
Will I still love it in a year? If I sell it, is it a brand that people are looking for?
Can I style it in multiple ways?
Does it fit comfortably or will I have to keep the Beyonce moves to a minimum?
Do I have another item that does the same job?
How long have I been thinking about it for? Has it popped up in several dreams?
Can I afford it? Will I need to eat baked beans until payday?
Do I need it right now?
Since it’s Black Friday, I thought I’d share the main ways I shop depending on how patient I can be. I’ve been able to buy some amazing discounted pieces that I’ve been wearing for the past five years but then I’ve also been blinded by discounts and wasted my money. Here’s my tips so that you can make the best decisions and hopefully find something you love, whether it’s today or in a few months time.
1. ASOS dress (20% off with WIN20), 2. Gap jumper (40% off with BFGAP), 3. Mansur Gavriel Circle Bag (30% off with BF30), 4. Weekday skirt (20% off with WIN20), 5. Design Letters board (20% off with SELFCCE), 6. Nike trainers (20% off with WIN20), 7. Whistles jumpsuit (25% off), 8. Weekday kickflare jeans (20% off with WIN20), 9. Monki rings (20% off with WIN20), 10. J.W Anderson bag (25% off with BLACKFRIDAY), 11. Vagabond boots (20% off with SHINE), 12. H&M Coat (20% Off)
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I NEED IT RIGHT NOW!
Although you may be experiencing Black Friday fatigue (I am feeling cheated by the lack of turkey), it is a great opportunity to get money off gifts, permanent beauty collections, Christmas party outfits and items that never tend to go on sale (think designer handbags in ‘safer’ colours). It’s the only time that certain brands discount outside of end of season sales, so the 20% off at Selfridges can be a godsend.
I’m constantly browsing and saving items, so I’m never too stumped when Black Friday comes around. My tip is to look at your wardrobe or beauty situation and have a bit of a plan. There are also exclusions to beware of (*sobs at Fenty Beauty*), so hold the excitement until your order confirmation comes through.
ASOS – 20% off with WIN20
Boden – 30% off with N6D5
La Redoute – 40% off with BLACKFRIDAY
H&M – 20% off
Urban Outfitters – 30% off selected items
Glossier – 20% off
Mango – 30% off with BLACK17
Oasis – 25% off everything
Office – 20% off with SHINE
Warehouse – 25% off everything
Whistles – 25% off
Sweaty Betty – 20% off with BLACK20
The White Company – 20% off with AS313
Anthropologie – 20% off with ITSYOURS
Selfridges – 20% off
Luisa Via Roma – 30% off with BF30
Liberty – Up to 20% off
Farfetch – 10% off with 10BF
Immediate Newsletter discounts – If you think the item will sell out quickly or is likely to never go on sale, then it’s worth seeing if there’s a newsletter discount off your first order (I also won’t judge you if you have 20 different email addresses). & Other Stories, Liberty and Nasty Gal offer this option, plus there’s no harm in googling discount codes. If you have a student in your family, utilise them! This is where the 13 year age gap between my sister and I comes in pretty handy…
Pictured – The Weekday jeans I bought without any kind of discount. Was I feeling okay?
I CAN WAIT A FEW WEEKS!
This is the main way I tend to shop. It’s rare that I need items urgently, so I tend to have a Pinterest board of items I like and wait to see if offers come up. The key is to understand the discounting calendar with certain brands, you need to almost predict what is realistic. Zara tend to be pretty stingy (though occasionally things will pop up reduced and hidden in their sidebar) whereas ASOS are the most generous.
Most of my favourite high street brands tend to have midseason discounts. The main way I find out about them is by following on social media, subscribing to newsletters or signing up to loyalty schemes.
The Ways High Street Brands Discount
Magazine offers – Brands like ASOS, Whistles, French Connection and Warehouse will occasionally offer vouchers in publications such as Elle, Red and Grazia. You may need to spend a couple of quid on a magazine for in store discounts, but some will be kind and share codes on social.
Random 15-20% off – ASOS are the main brand that do this quite frequently, either by discounting specific categories, via A-List, student discount or just a standard sitewide offer. Since beauty is included, you can get staples like Nars, Eyeko and The Ordinary for a little less. Warehouse, Oasis and La Redoute often offer this treat too and John Lewis will price-match throughout the year.
Snail mail – A bit old school, but Sweaty Betty sends me the odd £15 voucher from time to time.
Newsletters – Even if there isn’t an introductory discount, it’s worth signing up for offers throughout the year. Create a separate email account if you have to and check for deals. Try and work out whether discounts are popping up during specific months.
London shopping nights – Sign up to Carnaby, Seven Dials & St Martin’s Courtyard emails as they offer 20% off nights twice a year. Fenwick also do 20% off once a year in early November (this is when I stock up on beauty).
The Ways High End Brands Discount
Random Newsletters – Matches will usually email me a £100 off £300 voucher at the start of every season. I’m hoping I can use this to buy a Self Portrait dress for Liv’s wedding.
Text offers – Monnier Freres is always trying to tempt me via iMessage. Extremely dangerous.
Loyalty scheme – Liberty offers double points every so often and Harvey Nichols has extra perks if you have their Rewards App. Fenty Beauty may never be on offer but at least I can get free delivery (I am not queuing for two hours again).
Referral schemes – A bit cheeky as you may have to refer yourself (or find a likeminded pal), but Matches, Farfetch & Space NK offer you 10% off if you refer a ‘friend’. The prompt usually comes up when you make a purchase, but you can always Google.
Pictured – The Y.A.S dress I bought with 20% off after waiting a few weeks
I CAN WAIT A FEW MONTHS (OR EVEN YEARS)!
Are you open minded or willing to take a chance on a long-lost item turning up at 80% off? Then you need to play the waiting game. It’s a risk that can either save you a lot of money or leave you heartbroken. In the past I’ve bought trend pieces that I’ve worn constantly.
End of season sales – If you want to find the Net a Porter gems, then check out their final reductions in July and January before everything disappears into Outnet land. Harrods will also do an extra 10% sale sometimes if you have a Rewards Card. Don’t be afraid to buy out of season, you may find the perfect dress for your hols in the January clearance.
Sample sales – I used to get overexcited in the early days and buy all sorts of horrors. Now I go with a plan and use sample sales as a chance to buy into a brand I couldn’t ordinarily afford. Usually I find out about them sales by following the specific brands on Instagram (Bella Freud are pretty good though be prepared to queue). They do tend to be London-centric however, which can be annoying if last-minute train fares end up being more than the item itself. If you’re down for the day, then double-check to see if anything is on (June-July and October-November tend to be key months).
I found out about a recent Sophie Hulme event via A Sample App and rocked up on the last day when they reduced everything by an extra 50%. It’s worth turning up later if you’re not fussy about colours or specific styles, I got two cross body bags for £85 (and probably should have bought more as gifts).
Clearance sections – Never underestimate the ASOS outlet. They often stock items that never appeared on the site full price and you can find gems from the likes of House of Holland and Ganni (my blue checked coat was bought after two years of waiting). John Lewis also hide all their clearance offers on the latter pages when you search for a brand (this off-the-shoulder dress is great if you’re getting some January sun) but my favourite win has to be via Coggles. I spotted someone wearing this Ganni dress in Copenhagen and found it in the sale with 60% off.
Outlets – Bicester Village and I go way back. I used to visit with my Mum ever since it opened (she’d always pick me up from Uni and justify a detour there) and it’s where I bought my first designer bag by Luella. Now it’s tripled in size and there’s Kenzo, Gucci, Chloe, Kate Spade, Acne and Loewe outlets that always catch my eye. Again it can be a bit of a risk and sizes can be limited (I could have cried when my dream Temperley dress didn’t fit). Give staff your details if you’re after something specific, like a dream Chloe handbag.
What’s your shopping strategy? For me it’s about the long game. In the past I’ve been really obsessed with items and waited patiently for up to 2 years (trust me and my photographic memory). I’ll probably buy a few ASOS bits for Black Friday but long term I’m hoping for a Free People dress, Loewe Barcelona or Mansur Gavriel bag. I’ll let you know if I manage to get them, plus the strategies I used!
I also posted my tips for buying the perfect handbag last year!