- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 19, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of the fashion world’s favorite secrets has become public: It is possible to buy top-quality designer merchandise at a fraction of the price.

Sample sales, as they are called, often are reserved for industry insiders. On the rare occasions they are opened to regular shoppers, they’re still held only in urban fashion centers, such as New York or Paris.

However, in the name of a good cause — the fight against HIV/AIDS — a huge sample sale will be conducted online through Dec. 7 on EBay (www.ebay.com/7thonsale).

Contributing designers in 7th on Sale include Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren and Kenneth Cole, all of whom are honorary chairmen. The Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue are the sponsors.

What kinds of bargains can be found? Huge discounts and limited-edition merchandise, according to Constance White, EBay style director.

Sample sales used to be just for manufacturers to sell off their samples, but they have evolved to include a huge array of merchandise — and sizes.

Pricing on EBay will begin at 10 percent of the wholesale price, “and then we’ll let the market decide,” Miss White says. More than 6,000 pieces of women’s, men’s and children’s clothing and accessories will be sold. Lanvin, Oscar de le Renta and Prada are among those contributing items.

“Look for prestigious brands at great prices,” Miss White says. “It’s a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water and try a designer that might have been too expensive for you before.”

Some of the most coveted pieces are likely to be collectibles, including limited-edition pieces that Tom Ford has done for Estee Lauder, a perfume bottle signed by Beyonce and a book signed by Mr. Lauren.

It’s a good idea to know not only your size, but also your measurements before you bid because size varies from designer to designer, Miss White says. You even could go to a nearby store and try on pieces so you’ll be able to bid on items with the best fit, she suggests.

The CFDA and Vogue started 7th on Sale in 1990 to raise money for the New York City AIDS Fund and have collected $10 million since its debut. However, the initiative went on hiatus in 1995 as drug therapies and awareness shifted the focus on the disease in the United States. This new sale will raise funds for education and prevention programs worldwide.

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