01.13.09, 04:00 PM EST
Now is a great time to invest in classic, well-made clothing. Some of the best buys in this dicey economy can be found on racks lined with high-end fashions.
Take Saks (nyse: SKS – news -people ) Fifth Avenue. A Dolce & Gabbana tailored blazer and Chanel trench coat are more than 60% off at the store’s flagship.
Henri Bendel in New York is currently holding an “Almost-Free Sale” with up to 80% off select merchandise. This week shoppers can save up to 70% on both men and women’s apparel and accessories at Bergdorf Goodman.
Versace’s and Gucci’s New York City boutiques both carved out sections for discounted merchandise.
Goes to show that although many consumers are cutting back on luxury apparel and accessories–43% of luxury customers with an annual income over $150,000 surveyed this month by the Luxury Institute, a market research firm, said they have become more practical in their purchases–it is actually the ideal time to pick up classic items like a Chanel suit, Burberry trench coat and Gucci sunglasses.
Not only are they timeless and long lasting, but with high-end department stores offering deep discounts, many designer name brands like these can often be found at reduced prices.
In some cases, though, these markdowns are not advertised. That’s because individual designers are being more discrete than department stores in discounting to avoid tarnishing their brand image.
“It is hard to measure precisely which designers are slashing prices, since it is not being broadcasted,” says Milton Pedraza, CEO at the Luxury Institute. “But we are definitely seeing a difference.”
Many industry experts say that designers’ ticket prices are lower than last year and mark-ups are at a smaller percentage.
Even with less money to put toward new clothes, it is possible to take advantage of retailers’ largesse and build a wardrobe if you invest in some classics. “Once you have well-made quality basics, you can always mix and match with more ephemeral fashion pieces of the moment,” says Linda Fargo, senior vice president, Fashion Office and Store Presentation, Bergdorf Goodman Cynthia O’Connor, founder and CEO of Cynthia O’Connor + Co., a fashion and accessories showroom in New York and Los Angeles, says she bought a Chanel suit on sale at Bergdorf Goodman 14 years ago and still wears it constantly.
“The trick is finding the right combination of luxury and style,” says Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys. “If the item is too trendy, it is more vulnerable to becoming obsolete. Look for items that have an elegant simplicity and ooze quality.” Men should invest in a well-fitting suit and custom-made dress shirts. Brioni and Hamilton make exceptional menswear. “Custom shirts fit much better,” says Doonan. “You don’t want to be able to see through the dress shirt to the undershirt or have any frayed edges.”
Aside from the Chanel suit, women should also have a trench coat. This classic jacket can go over jeans, suits, skirts or dresses. Burberry’s is double-breasted, fully lined with a traditional silhouette and has the company’s signature check pattern.
“These brands have impeccable credentials,” says Pedraza, “haven’t oversold themselves and are more discrete than other luxury brands.” But if you can’t afford to splurge on high-end apparel, a designer accessory like a Valextra handbag, Dior pumps, wellmade English or Italian shoes, a Rolex watch or a Hermes scarf will provide a better value for the buck, says Sass Brown, associate professor of fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
These items can be mixed and matched into your wardrobe and generally get more use than just one dress or shirt. Sunglasses are also a great way to update your look and make you appear polished without spending a ton of money, O’Connor says. At Saks, shoppers can find sunglasses from Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino, among others, for $150. These items normally retail for over $300.
“Creative destruction is all about the fittest surviving,” Pedraza says. “These classics are going to prevail and gain market share. It may be a smaller pie, but they will be getting a bigger chunk of business.”