By  on January 15, 2008

Sample sale fans may no longer have to trek to the Garment District because of a partnership between the Gilt Groupe and the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Business Services Network.

Gilt Groupe will give CFDA members the option of selling samples via the company's one-day designer-specific online sales. The New York-based company also will host educational events and roundtable discussions. The company joins the ranks of Designers & Agents, Saks Fifth Avenue and the North American Fur Assoc. as the CFDA's other corporate affiliates.

As a corporate affiliate of the CFDA, Gilt Groupe gives CFDA members the option of using this channel of distribution. Gilt Group typically offers three to four sales each week on its Web site, Members must be referred to the site in order to gain access, but once accepted, there is no fee.

Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA, said, "Their corporate affiliation with the CFDA will provide tangible benefits for our members."

Gilt Groupe executives estimated that only 1 percent of U.S. residents have access to sample sales. To give members a better sense of what the individual designers or brands are all about, they can watch trailers online.

In November, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson founded the company. Maybank, who serves as chief executive officer, most recently worked as general manager and director of business development for AOL's e-commerce business. Before that, she launched and ran eBay Canada, and helped start eBay Motors. Wilson, who acts as chief merchandising officer, was most recently retail operations manager at Bulgari overseeing its 15 North American stores.

Marchesa and Rachel Roy are among the labels that have teamed with Gilt Groupe for online sample sales. Behnaz Sarafpour, Sari Gueron and Erin Snow have sales in the works. Gilt Groupe's focus is women's, but there are plans to introduce men's, children's and home products this year. Gilt Groupe does not sell excess products to any third parties, as most sample sale resources do.

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