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Secret sales fashionistas don’t want you to know about

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The year is 2002 and I, as a wide-eyed 25-year-old writer from the Midlands, am fighting and contorting my way into a crowd of sharp-elbowed London fashion insiders.

It’s intimidating, uncomfortable and overpoweringly perfumed, but will be worth every bruise because, in this small room, lies treasure.

You see, this is the Mulberry sample sale, and I, fresh to the world of glossy magazines, am hellbent on buying a large Scotchgrain holdall, coveted by my mother, for a fifth of its usual price. That’s still half my rent — £100 for the £500 bag — but picturing Mum’s face lighting up on Christmas Day delivers a shot of oxytocin to my brain and an instant addiction to sample sales.

In those days, access to such bargain designer goods was jealously guarded — invitations came straight from fashion brands and PRs to selected journalists, stylists and ‘friends’.

The bunfights were ruthless, but the rewards great: an Anya Hindmarch bag for £70 not £700. Gina shoes for £150 instead of £500. Joseph cashmere cardigans for £40. A Diane von Furstenberg dress for £10, just before closing time. It was how most fashion journalists afforded the products we wrote about.

Nearly 20 years later, things couldn’t be more different. Because, last weekend, Jimmy Choo held its first sample sale in Birmingham, selling shoes and bags at 80 per cent off, with prices starting at £60.

To go, all you had to do was sign up for an alert from one of the apps or websites keeping fashion lovers informed of sample sales, such as Chicmi or Showcase.

Art imitating life: Isla Fisher in Confessions Of A Shopaholic as women run for the sales

Art imitating life: Isla Fisher in Confessions Of A Shopaholic as women run for the sales

Art imitating life: Isla Fisher in Confessions Of A Shopaholic as women run for the sales

You couldn’t get much less ‘fashion type’ than tech entrepreneur Jamie Brown, who runs Chicmi. The site launched as a place to find fashion events and news, but what’s really taken off is the service notifying members of sample sales.

Thanks to changes in how fashion seasons work, now anyone can access the bargains.

‘We got into sample sales almost by accident,’ he says. ‘We just saw people get so emotional and passionate about them. We’ve got a big set of devoted shoppers, who post on the app about what’s in each sale, how good it is, price lists. It’s not about exclusivity any more, but it’s definitely a community.’

For the old-school fashion crowd, exclusivity was the point about designer sales, and many are seething that everyone now gets a look-in. But how clothes are manufactured and distributed has changed beyond recognition.

Once, sales were a way to get rid of old catwalk pieces and press samples. Now, fast fashion and internet shopping mean clothes are produced year-round in huge quantities. And, since fashion companies have been rightly condemned for sending excesses to landfill or burning them, sample sales are seen as the best way to clear stock.

‘Now, fashion brands plan for sample sales as part of their business,’ says Brown.

Crowds gather for the opening of the new Debenhams store in Watford in 2018 to see what bargains they can grab

Crowds gather for the opening of the new Debenhams store in Watford in 2018 to see what bargains they can grab

Crowds gather for the opening of the new Debenhams store in Watford in 2018 to see what bargains they can grab

Kim Winser, founder of Winser London, does exactly that. ‘The problem with selling online is that when you’re down to half a dozen pieces in stock, you have to take them off the site, as it’s frustrating for people trying to order them. So this is how we sell them, alongside manufacturing samples.’

Perhaps, surprisingly for an upmarket brand worn by actresses Gillian Anderson, Emma Watson and model Yasmin Le Bon, her sample sales take place in village halls in places like Betchworth in Surrey and Whixley in Yorkshire. 

‘People travel from Central London to the sales,’ says Kim. ‘But it’s our way of giving people around the country the opportunity to try our products before they disappear. They can discover the fabrics, check the fit and take a risk on something different without having to spend too much.’

WHERE TO GO TO BAG A BARGAIN

Being on brands’ ‘best customer’ lists is a surefire way to hear about sales, but some labels use mailing lists, local magazines and online message boards.

Chicmi.com

The site now includes events across the UK, particularly in Birmingham and Manchester. However, as these aren’t frequent, you will have to sign up for London sales alerts to hear about them. VIP status grants access to previews and exclusive sales. Upcoming sales include Ted Baker, Jenny Packham and Anya Hindmarch.

Arlettie.co.uk

This super, high-end French sample sales company recently expanded to the UK and holds sales for the likes of Alexander Wang, Fendi and Kenzo, plus chic Parisian brands Sonia Rykiel, Bonpoint and Sandro Paris.

Showcase.co

Operating largely in London and Birmingham, Showcase recently held sales for Reiss, Mulberry and Roland Mouret, but also works with emerging designers.

Samplesaleguide.co.uk

Not one of the more polished sites, but extremely comprehensive for sales beyond London. It also covers smaller brands and specialist sales such as bridal.

Curate-sales.com

Curate holds well-organised invitation-only sales in London and Manchester, with such brands as Joseph and Etre Cécile.

But how big are the discounts? Kim says you might find a wool coat for £199, reduced from £499, or a Gillian Anderson-designed cashmere-blend roll-neck for £79, down from £195.

Meanwhile, Chicmi’s community of sale-goers gleefully share best buys on the site. One was thrilled with her £350 Chloe tote (originally £1,220); another filled bags with Karen Millen tops, skirts and dresses priced between £4 and £8.

Other great buys included Mulberry shoes for £75 (normally £300 to £600), Ted Baker shoes for £35 (usually over £100) and Whistles dresses for £40.

But before you ask why shop full-price again, it’s worth considering less positive comments, too: ‘all the good stuff had gone’; ‘hardly any sizes’; ‘clothes look tired and have defects’; ‘staff were rude’.

There can be limited stock, items may have hung around for a season or longer, there may be lower-quality manufacturing samples and you are unable to return anything — so you are paying a price for a discount. Plus, occasionally, there’s an entrance fee of £2 or more, so you might pay to shop, but find nothing.

Chicmi’s Brown has some good tips from its message boards. ‘The more familiar you are with a brand, the better,’ he says. ‘If you can, try on their clothes to work out your size, and browse the website first so you have an idea of what you’re looking for.

‘Come wearing something sensible, because there may not be a changing room. Seasoned shoppers often wear athleisure, or even a swimming costume, so they can try on in the open.

‘Take both cash and cards. In the first hour, you’ll get the best picks, but the last hour often yields extra discounts.’

Regular sample-sale-goers would add: don’t panic-buy. That Marni dress might be £45, but if it’s cut asymmetrically so you can’t lift one arm, is it a good buy? (Reader, I bought it.)

While sales happen year-round, it can be a seasonal game. Jamie says, with spring and winter the best times. ‘Right now, you could easily fill a few days in London with back-to-back sample sales.’

With Christmas coming, savings on gifts could justify a festive trip to London’s sample sales.

If my mum’s Mulberry holdall is anything to go by, it’s worth it: the bag is still in regular service — a good return for a few elbowed ribs.

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Powerball: Winning numbers for $40 MILLION jackpot are revealed   

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One lucky Australian could be $40million richer after Thursday night’s Powerball draw.

The division one prize has soared over the past five weeks, with no winners of the major prize in that time. 

The numbers for draw 1227 are 1, 12, 3, 2, 25, 13 and 23 – and the Powerball was 1.

One lucky Australian could be $40million richer after Thursday night's Powerball draw (stock)

One lucky Australian could be $40million richer after Thursday night's Powerball draw (stock)

One lucky Australian could be $40million richer after Thursday night’s Powerball draw (stock)

The Lott spokesperson Matt Hart said any division one winners tonight would join the 12 other Australians who have won a multi-million-dollar Powerball prize so far this year.

‘2019 has been a historic year for Powerball, with record-breaking jackpots offered and a delighted dozen receiving more than $477.5 million worth of life-changing prize money,’ he said.

‘But the year isn’t over yet! We’re eagerly anticipating our next Powerball division one winner, who will be our 13th for the year. Being 13th never sounded so good!

‘Will we crown that winner tonight? Only time will tell.’

 

 

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UK’s Salmond pleads not guilty to rape

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Alex Salmond has pleaded not guilty to attempting to rape a woman at Bute House, the official residence of the first minister of Scotland, during the independence referendum campaign.

The 64-year-old appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday to face allegations of offences against 10 women.

They include a charge of attempted rape, 11 of sexual assault – including one with intent to rape – and two of indecent assault.

The charges span a period between June 29 2008 and November 11 2014, with one sexual assault said to have taken place in the month of the historic referendum.

Salmond attempted to rape a woman at Bute House in Edinburgh in June 2014, the indictment alleges.

It is said he placed her legs over his, repeatedly kissed her face and neck, groped her, then blocked her path.

Salmond is then said to have pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her on a bed.

The former MP is also accused of sexually assaulting a woman with intent to rape in December 2013.

He is alleged to have forced a woman to lie on his bed at the first minister’s official residence then pulled up her dress with intent to rape her.

Both incidents were said to have taken place between the date of the Edinburgh Agreement in 2012 and the day of the independence vote in September 2014.

Meanwhile, the first of the charges involved incidents where Salmond allegedly indecently assaulted a woman by kissing her mouth and groping her on various occasions around Glasgow between June 29 2008 and July 24 2008.

It is also alleged he sexually assaulted a woman on various occasions between May 2011 and June 2013 at the Scottish Parliament, Bute House and elsewhere by touching her bottom and stroking other parts of her body.

Salmond – who was Scotland’s first minister from 2007 to 2014 – is also accused of taking off a woman’s shoe and trying to kiss her foot in October 2013.

The indictment states that in September 2014, Salmond grabbed a woman by her shoulders at Bute House, repeatedly kissed her face, tried to kiss her lips and touched her leg and face.

Several charges involved the accused allegedly groping women, including one incident at the Ubiquitous Chip restaurant in Glasgow in March 2012.

Gordon Jackson QC, representing Salmond, said his client denied the allegations.

Judge Lady Dorrian continued the preliminary hearing until January 22 and set a trial date for March 9, which is expected to last four weeks.

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Terrorist who helped mastermind 2002 Bali bombings could soon be a free man

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A terrorist who helped orchestrate the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings could soon walk free, with authorities revealing they will support his parole application. 

Umar Patek helped mastermind the atrocity which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, nearly one year after the September 11 attacks on October 12.  

His Filipino wife secured Indonesian citizenship on Wednesday as a ‘thank you’ to Patek for denouncing terrorism while serving his 20-year sentence.

Prison authorities who attended the citizenship ceremony at Porong jail in East Java said they will support Patek’s application for parole when the time comes.  

Umar Patek (pictured while being escorted by security guards in Bali in 2011), could walk free from jail by 2023

Umar Patek (pictured while being escorted by security guards in Bali in 2011), could walk free from jail by 2023

Umar Patek (pictured while being escorted by security guards in Bali in 2011), could walk free from jail by 2023

Police and onlookers view the site of the bomb blast in Bali on October 13, 2002

Police and onlookers view the site of the bomb blast in Bali on October 13, 2002

Police and onlookers view the site of the bomb blast in Bali on October 13, 2002

Porong prison Governor Tonny Naniggolan said Patek will first need to served two-thirds of his sentence, which means he could be released in 2023.

‘Not only me [will support the application], but also the National Agency for Combating Terrorism… and others,’ he told 7 News, noting Petek had been a ‘well-behaved’ prisoner.  

As officials watched on, Patek addressed the crowd at his wife’s citizenship ceremony and shared a message about terrorism. 

‘My message is clear, don’t do any terror acts because the Indonesian Government maintains the safety and comfort of all regions to perform worship,’ he said. 

Patek (left) with his wife Ruqayyah Binti Husein Luceno (right), who was granted Indonesian citizen on Wednesday

Patek (left) with his wife Ruqayyah Binti Husein Luceno (right), who was granted Indonesian citizen on Wednesday

Patek (left) with his wife Ruqayyah Binti Husein Luceno (right), who was granted Indonesian citizen on Wednesday 

Patek, who was nicknamed ‘Demolition Man’ by Indonesian investigators, fled the country for nine years to the Philippines and Pakistan after the bombings. 

He was captured in January 2011 in Abbottabad – where Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S Navy Seals just a few months later.

Patek was one of Asia’s most wanted terror suspects at the time, with a AUD$1.47million reward for anyone who could find him. 

He was extradited back to Indonesia where he faced trial over the attacks – as well as his role in the Christmas Eve bombings at churches in 2000 – and jailed for 20 years. 

He married his wife Ruqayyah Binti Husein Luceno in Mindanao, Philippines – an area with a large population of Muslims – while he was a Jihadist. 

Buildings and cars are seen burning after bomb blast that left 202 people dead

Buildings and cars are seen burning after bomb blast that left 202 people dead

Buildings and cars are seen burning after bomb blast that left 202 people dead 

Patek gives a thumbs up as he leaves court under heavy security after his trial in Jakarta on February 13, 2012

Patek gives a thumbs up as he leaves court under heavy security after his trial in Jakarta on February 13, 2012

Patek gives a thumbs up as he leaves court under heavy security after his trial in Jakarta on February 13, 2012 

During the terror attack, a 700kg bomb hidden inside a van parked outside Sari Club in Kuta Beach had exploded.  

Most of the victims were foreign tourists. 

Patek, whose real name is Hisyan bin Alizien, was recruited into Al-Qaida-linked terror group Jemaah Islamiyah by Dulmatin, a fellow militant.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has been battling militants since the Bali bombings. 

Attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces and local ‘infidels.’ 

More than 200 people, including 88 Australians, were killed in the blast after a bomb hidden inside a car parked outside the club exploded on October 12, 2002

More than 200 people, including 88 Australians, were killed in the blast after a bomb hidden inside a car parked outside the club exploded on October 12, 2002

More than 200 people, including 88 Australians, were killed in the blast after a bomb hidden inside a car parked outside the club exploded on October 12, 2002

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