The Outnet is the high-fashion-focused Net-a-Porter’s outlet site—which pleases us because, while we love perusing Net-a-Porter’s designer offerings, we just can’t justify (or afford) the prices. And, in this economy, it only stands to reason that high-end retailers will diversify to tap into the budget shopping market (theOutnet.com calls it “chic discount shopping”, a phrase which, in designer circles, would have been a major oxymoron just a couple years back).
Granted, like any other outlet, what you find is typically not going to be the first run of any trend, but savvy shoppers like us know that when it comes to designer, we’re really looking to invest in solid staple or statement pieces anyway, not on-their-way-out trends.
The Outnet: Our Review
Our review: Visually, the site branding is what you’d expect from Net-a-Porter—clean, trendy, just this side of upscale; let’s just say it’s pretty clear you’re not shopping the Target website (which we still wish would find it’s way out of 1996) and, let’s face it, part of the pleasure of online shopping is the visual experience. That being said it’s the goods—and the prices—that will keep us coming back, so moving on . . .
Clean design means, by extension, easy navigation—the Outnet allows you to search by designer, category or sale from the very first page. We headed straight for designers (that’s what Net-a-Porter is all about, after all) and skimmed down the alphabetically broken-out list to Lela Rose (a fave for the clean-cut, feminine garments we’re craving at the moment) where we found 20 items on big discounts, including this kind of to-die-for cap sleeve silk dress, now just $453.25, at 65% off the original $1,295 pricetag. (Note: We realize this is NOT a true budget price, but for a designer silk dress that started out over a thousand bucks? It’s all relative.)
But wait, what if we’re not a US size 4 or 6? On this particular item, we’re out of luck—but of course that’s the downside of outlet shopping. Sizes are limited. So can we search by size? Sort of—that is, not by number size but XS-XL. Selecting “L” under the “clothing” category, we came up with 125 items, including this very cool 100% silk MINT Jodi Arnold colorblock sleeveless dress, for $225 (half off).
Search results can be modified, too, on each page with just a quick click or two, by designer, color, category (tops, dresses, jackets, etc.). So if you’re looking for a size M blue Fendi skirt, you’ll know in 5 seconds if they have one or not (and just for the record, at this writing they do not).
Okay, so you can search for and purchase designer clothes at a discount—but we already have Bluefly.com for that. So what else? If you enjoy more of a shopping challenge, the Outnet features “Flash” and “Pop Up” sales—on a timer—which, quite frankly, we don’t recommend. As budget fashionistas, buying something because “quick, it’s only on sale for 10 more minutes!” isn’t the best way to watch your bottom line. But there’s also the “Going Going Gone” sale, in which the price drops as supplies drop—so if you have a little time to kill watching the clock and waiting to see how low it will go (and if you’re fast enough on the click), it might be worthwhile.
The verdict: Yea. Revolutionary online shopping experience? Not really. Easy-to-navigate, visually-appealing, and featuring big designer discounts for the designer-addicted among us? Absolutely. Designer addicts, bookmark away.