When I moved to New York City in 1999, I was just starting in the fashion industry and making peanuts. Nina Garcia, one of my first bosses, asked me during my interview to become her assistant if "Twenty was OK?" I said, "Twenty dollars an hour?" Her response was firm: Twenty thousand dollars a year. You can imagine the pittance that I took home every two weeks; my parents very kindly supplemented my income and my best friend lived with me (he actually slept in a closet -- not uncommon for new residents to the Big Apple). But all the same, I'd find myself up at 5am on my way to the latest Manolo Blahnik or Fendi sample sales, where I'd empty my bank account. Thankfully, I didn't have a credit card at the time or I'd be accruing debt faster than you can say "in over my head." Was I in over my head? Thanks to the parental dole, no. Was I financially irresponsible and naive? Definitely.
I went on to marry a very patient banker who laughed kindly when I'd call him tearfully from a Barney's sale begging to spend my paycheck. At the time we had little overhead (no kids, no mortgage) so these dalliances of mine were tolerable... for a time.
Fast forward 10 years. We now have two children and a home (with a nice, fat mortgage). Our daughter goes to public school (hurray!), but our son is in preschool and both children need after-school care. And with two college tuitions on the horizon and our own eventual retirement to consider, financial stress is high at home. Needless to say, the days of blowing big bucks at a sale are long gone.
Interestingly, I find that I have no desire to shop. As a fashion editor who is surrounded by the latest accessories (not to mention colleagues who are all vying for street style awards), you'd think I'd be tempted to splurge. But I'm not. Part of the reason is that I'm constantly checking our finances and it's very clear that there is no wiggle room for a new dress or pair of shoes.
Moreover, I've found that I have everything. Let's just let that statement sink in for a moment. I have everything. In an industry whose very survival depends on people needing what's "new," my statement is pure blasphemy. But it's the truth. Those years spent sample saling means that my closet is now stocked with every staple a woman could need. The perfect black pants? I have 'em (wool Prada from Woodbury Commons circa 2000 or black Balenciagas slashed at the Barney's warehouse sale from 2002). Blazers, pencil skirts, cashmere sweaters? Check, check, check (from Chloé, Gucci and Louis Vuitton sample sales, respectively).
I will continue to go to fashion shows and presentations, and I will keep admiring this season's latest twist on a trend that I have, no doubt, seen countless times before (another hazard of being a fashion industry veteran: Everything is an iteration of something that has been done before). And what looks shiny and fabulous today will certainly be on Gilt Groupe, Yoox or any of the other sale sites in a few short months.
So I will not purchase. Instead, I will continue to delight in the fact that I took zero money out of my bank account this week while I pull on my Prada pumps from 2004.