I waited in the queue for the Alexander McQueen sale two lunch breaks in a row without getting so much as a glimpse of a stiletto or skull-print scarf. There was just not enough room for the snaking lines of savvy fashionistas who'd received the heads up from any of the countless fashion blogs listing this season's sample sales.
I began to wonder whether luxury brands have gone too far in democratising access to their products. By opening up the sales to everyone they are risking the alienation of their core (full price) consumers, and diluting their appeal for the rest of us anyway. What happened to producing a limited supply of high quality products and, if it comes to it, "destroy rather than discount" with what's left over?
This points to a bigger issue for luxury brands that is getting a fair bit of attention at the moment - how to use social media in the right way. While news of a sample sale spreads like wildfire, the effect of its aftermath on brand equity can be enormous. Brands are confusing brand love with brand attention - giving people cheap gifts might keep them on the radar but it won't grow affection for the future.
However, sales or not, there are some luxury fashion labels that are embracing their loyal fans and building relationships in a very positive way:
First, the big news at September's fashion shows was the number of fashion bloggers who have trumped celebs and established publications for front row seats. Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Rodarte, among others, prioritised people like 13 year old fashion devotee Tavi Gevinson who live and breathe fashion and have a dedicated readership of their personal fashion news.
Brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney tweeted throughout the shows, delivering gems of tantalising detail to followers. Going a step further, Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen streamed their shows live online. Giving away unique content allows them to reach a broader group of people who care about fashion enough to be listening, and are more likely to build enough desire to buy the product in the future.
Gucci has recently launched a new range of sunglasses online via guccieyeweb.com, however online buzz suggests that it has been well and truly trumped by Burberry's Art of the Trench. This site is a fantastic example of a brand that understands its appeal to people and it chooses to celebrate them for it. By collaborating with the Sartorialist's Scott Schuman, they're also ensuring that they involve the fashion elite from the start.
So right now, luxury fashion is an interesting sector to be watching. Let's just hope that some of these brands will think of a tactic to delight their queuing sale-goers in the future…