Last Updated on 19th October 2013

Elaine Foster Gandey

There are often details of one sample sale or another practically every week. But at one time (not so long ago), sample sales were hard to come by. Indulging in designer pieces meant spending a small fortune, high fashion was and unashamedly for the elite. Being one of the few in fashion to not frequent sample sales, I decided it was time I found out more about the sample sale phenomenon and made arrangements to get together with founder of one the first and most established sales in the UK “Designer Sales UK (DSUK) Elaine Foster Gandey.

By the time I arrived to Brick Lane, late after losing my way and walking round in circles for over half and hour, I had literally lost the will. Vowing (although I still haven’t) to get myself a pocket A-Z I waited feeling slightly nervous. A couple of minutes later Elaine emerged from the back, striding towards me confidently with a smile, putting me totally at ease and erasing all my earlier feelings of complete and utter distress.

Elaine Foster _ AAfter settling down to a cup of coffee at the local cafe, conversation came effortlessly and it became easy to get totally engrossed in her fascinating stories of creating couture hats from telephones, breaking her way into the industry as a van driver for Jasper Conran, being pushed to tears from frustration when handling all of Conran’s p.r and of her dealings with the nasty fashion women who “can tear you to shreds.

After paying her dues, Elaine spotted a gap in the market in the 80’s. With designers having a lot of excess stock and far from keen on having the general public traipsing through their studios, Elaine took advantage of an opportunity, borrowed a friends studio in Soho, called in favours from her contacts and put together a sample sale which had fashion junkies literally queuing in droves. Starting off with just 10 designers, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, Rifat Ozbek & Jasper Conran amongst others. The sale was such a success, has been going strong for 18 years and now sells up and coming designers alongside the established.

Proud of herself and her achievements, Elaine was neither egotistical nor arrogant, but appeared to be extremely satisfied and content. Unusually, her goals seemed to be driven more from passion than profits…

“I wanted to bring fashion to the masses, my biggest joy today, is to see people walking out with a bag full of gear, and a big smile on their face and they spent £100 and they’ve got 4-5 outfits.

And her thoughts on the recent crop of competition?

“I think if you’ve got a good foundation in life, whatever you do you can build on that, competition comes and goes. I remember reading an interview with Anita Roddick, and she said basically work at what you’re good at; see where you’re special in the market, and we (DSUK) are special because of what we do, it’s because of what I’ve brought to it as an individual.

If it’s in your heart, and it’s meant to be, it will happen. But if it comes from a desire to make money, purely to make money or a desire to just rip someone else off, it ain’t gonna work, because everyone has to find their true hearts desire, I mean that’s what we’re all here to do on this planet.

We need to follow our goals and not run after someone else’s dream or idea. Everyone has their destiny what ever that is, you know there are so many people that just follow other people like sheep, but everyone is unique, everyone has an idea, it’s just having the courage to do it. And everyone can do it, I did it….


Elaine’s three top tips for snagging yourself a bargain,

1) Get to the sale early on the preview day and have a budget worked out.

2) Have a clear idea of what you’re looking for and stay focused, however, always be open to the unexpected!

3) Go to the rails which look most exciting and scan them for designer gems at incredible prices!

Next DSUK sale will be on Friday 1st December , Sunday 3rd December at Studio Brick Lane London E1. Check out for more information

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