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Samples for Sale the L.A. Way


In New York, you walk down Broadway and 7th Avenue in the central fashion district and gather up hand-out flyers advertising sample sales. Here in L.A., you just check to be sure your fax machine is on.

Drive-by shopping at yard sales is an L.A. phenomenon, but when it comes to advertising sample sales, the whole system moves underground, well out of the public eye. It travels via fax, e-mail, mail and word of mouth. Just as club-hopping requires that you have your name on "The List," you have to be on "The List" to get notified here.

How you get on these lists is another matter. Here are a few ways to get in the door.

* Check store mailing lists and seasonal promotions .

The ultra-hip sportswear designer Mossimo has huge parking lot sales outside his Irvine factory in February and August. Announcement flyers are sent to those on the mailing lists at his retail stores in Pasadena's One Colorado and Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza.

Designer David Dart used his Montana Avenue store to sell off samples. He shipped over things to sell at greatly reduced prices during this year's spring sidewalk sale.

* Go to big benefit parties with fashion ties .

Richard Tyler doesn't have sample sales because his one and only set of samples stays in his personal archives. But you can get Tyler's impeccably tailored clothes at reduced prices at two huge charity sales. Tyler is one of many designers who donate clothes from past seasons to 7th on Sale in New York and its West Coast equivalent, Divine Design. This year's local Divine Design, beginning Dec. 1, honors Todd Oldham. Those who have already signed up to donate samples include Tyler, Oldham, Dakota Smith sunglasses, Rampage, Misc., Gregory Poe, Romeo Gigli, Andrew Fezza and Moschino. Local stores such as Traffic and Maxfield also donate clothes for the cause. It costs $20 to get in the door of this giant public sale, but once you're in, all the clothes around you are 50% to 75% off retail, and profits go to Project Angel Food and DIFFA/Los Angeles, the local chapter of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.

Another local benefit event with the sample-sale theme takes place every other year. The Fashion Industries Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center held its Manufacturers' Charity Sale recently and raised $65,000 for the new pediatric AIDS wing. Guess, Bongo, Platinum, Karen Kane, Rampage and Esprit donated clothes. The next one: 1997.

* Other charity links.

Manufacturers sometimes tie in privately with charities to sell off samples, and volunteers for those causes get opportunities to buy. One example: AIDS Project Los Angeles volunteers were invited to join insiders, stylists and press at the Dr. Martens L.A. showroom for its private sample sale. They sipped English ales, ate chips and plunked down $25 to $35 for boots normally going for $85 to $120. The London-based company gave 100% of the sample-sale take to APLA.

Manufacturers are also putting a new spin on the outlet route. Excess stock and leftover samples usually end up at factory outlet stores, jobbers or discounters. Now some are donating these goods to the Ultimate Outlet. This South Pasadena store is a training facility for adults with learning disabilities or mental illness. "We make donations to the Ultimate Outlet as a charitable organization, or sell them clothes at a reduced cost so they can make a profit," says Barry Sacks, chairman and CEO of Chorus Line, maker of All That Jazz and related labels. The store is open to the public, sells clothes at a discount and plows its profits into education programs.

* Nose around Downtown at the end of the month.

The California Mart reinstated its open-to-all Super Sale on the last Saturday of the month--the next one is July 29--to eliminate public traffic inside its doors on Fridays. "People think this is a mall," says Dana Valenzuela, public relations coordinator. "They wander around trying to return things." Clearly, the mart doesn't approve. It is instead encouraging its tenants to sell off samples and extra goods during the Saturday sales in the Exhibition Hall, 110 E. 9th St. An admission of $1 is charged to shoppers. For more info, call (800) 979-0949.

Across the street, showrooms at 127 E. 9th St. have samples for sale the last Friday of each month. Not all showrooms participate, but the dozen or so that do have clothes or accessories for sale are listed on a sign by the first-floor directory and have signs on their doors. No checks, no credit cards, no returns.

* Make friends with people in the business.

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