Indulge your “Gilty” Shopping Pleasures with Gilt Groupe

Wish you could hit up the latest samples sales but live miles from New York City?

Well, lots has changed in the fashion world— now to shop samples sales, all you need is the Internet. Founded in 2007 by two female Harvard grads, Gilt Groupe ( revolutionized the way we shop by bringing exclusive designer samples sales online. With “flash sales,” Gilt Groupe presents online versions of samples sales that sell clothing, accessories and jeweley from one designer at a time, at deeply discounted prices, for 36 hours only. And then— the clothes are gone from the site.

Just like real sample sales, Gilt Groupe does not make itself so easily accessible: the site distances itself from other online shopping outlets by limiting access to “members only.” Giving the site an aura of exclusivity, aspiring customers must “apply” for membership into the shopping club. The reward? Designer goods from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, and Vera Wang on serious, serious sale.

Although it was founded when the US economy was at its peak, Gilt Groupe seems to be the perfect business plan for the economic downturn, which has seen the luxury fashion industry brought to its knees. After the market collapsed, fashion designers were faced with an abundance of goods they were unable to sell at full price, and Gilt Groupe was there to take on the surplus and move it into customer hands fast. By now designers have generally adjusted to a diminished demand (and therefore are producing less surplus), so Gilt Groupe also commissions designers to make clothes and jewelry specifically for the site (although they never point out if you are buying a piece from a designer’s original collection or merely their money-making Gilt collection— remember, an air of luxury and high fashion is still the site’s calling card).

In all honesty, it’s not too hard to become a Gilt Groupe member. Simply submit your name and email address and within a few days you too can join the exclusive list. And while seemingly oxymoronic “luxury discount” sites like Gilt Groupe and those it has spawned (Rue La La, Beyond the Rack, ideeli) worry designers and fashion execs, who are concerned that discounting is a self-reinforcing loop that conditions customers to only buy at discounted prices…

…we’re ready to cast our vote in favor of Gilt Groupe. We’re girls, after all— we never met a sale we didn’t like. Join the other “Gilt Groupies” and submit a member request… discounted Marc Jacobs awaits.

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