When starting out in the industry, your clothing budget won’t be enormous, so clever purchases that can be used with more than one outfit will be necessary to carry you through the season.
Head to up-market charity shops - by this I mean the charity shops in the most affluent areas of the city. Established It Girls will discard any outfits that have made an appearance on the social circuit, so look out for designer labels or quality items that you can customise.
Markets are also a great option with many young designers showcasing their latest collections at a snip. Every designer needs to start somewhere and you might just happen upon the next big name in fashion.
Specialist vintage stores are great fun to dress up in, but more often than not their prices will be extortionate as the owner’s cash in on limited supply of original pieces.
My route to fabulous fashion was (and still is) sample sales – so much so that I launched a sample sale business and ran my own store in Notting Hill for years. NB: To secure my store, I called the current occupier, a jewellery designer, and asked if she was ever thinking of leaving to please let me know. She was! She was looking for someone to take over her lease and wanted to vacate asap. After some negotiations on dates and rent, the store was mine. What did I tell you about not being afraid to ask…!
Sample sales attract ferocious buyers so be prepared! Arrive an hour before the sale opens – come torrential rain, shine or blizzard, you must be one of the first through the door if you want to secure the best pieces at the best prices. There will always be a section of damaged items that can be mended with the help of a tailor or your own fair hands. Head to this area first. Designer frocks at a fraction of their retail cost will be waiting for you to pounce and you could be leaving with seriously discounted Dior if you play your cards right. Be first, be fearless and remember, fortune favours the brave!
The online second hand sales market has boomed in recent years and where it used to be possible to buy bargain Balenciaga, you’re now competing against savvy buyers from every corner of the earth who know their stuff. From eBay to The Real Real, it’s a game of luck if you’re going to nab yourself that knock-down Chanel you’ve been coveting. With sites such as Vestiaire Collective and eBay, where you upload images of items yourself, it’s often a case of terrible pictures leading to terrible sales prices. Research your products and seasons, know which collections showed on the runway in which year - when you see the hint of a coveted Saint Laurent dress hidden within a dimly lit pic, you’ll know to watch carefully and bid wisely. It pays to set an alarm for yourself just ahead of when an item you’re watching ends. On auction sites, bid within the final 10 seconds if your nerves will allow – I have a 99.9% success rate with late bids and often secure things at far lower than expected prices this way.
Accessories count for a lot when making an outfit look worthy of a bona fide fashion insider. You’re not going to be sporting the latest Chanel crossbody yet, so search for a simple style that will leave those around you wondering where you found this gorgeous little bag. Clever vintage buys are always the best option – a bag with the perfect construction and no obvious labels will add that certain je-ne-sais-quoi you’re looking for to finish your look. Always go small - until you’re carrying that Hermes Birkin, a discreet little number will be all that’s needed.
The hottest high street buys are absolute no-no’s – everywhere you turn you’ll see your bag hanging from every other girl on the block and the fashion crowd will know exactly where you bought your wannabe-Prada pochette.
If your bank balance will allow, rent! There are clever sites where you can rent the latest looks at a snip of the retail cost. It’s always worth investing in a hot little rental when you’ve secured an invite to a major event – but only rent when the party is worth the payment!
Never, ever buy a fake. It will be spotted at a hundred paces and in fashion, a fake equals unforgivable.
A simple trick to dress up even the simplest look is with statement earrings. Source the pre-loved sites (see above) for designer clip-on styles, or head to the high street where the stores take inspiration from runway looks. It's hard to tell designer from high street when the pieces are perspex, so buy a few styles you love and always have a pair in your bag for when you need to elevate an outfit.
For shoes, obviously seasonal pieces won't be within your reach until your wages see a healthy bump-up, so stick to a classic pair of black pumps - the safest option for going from day to night.