Groups of friends shop together, model their possible purchases for each other and whoop with excitement when they locate that one great bargain that makes their day. From stylish college students on a budget to young professionals who need smart work clothes to fashionista wannabes who enjoy the thrill of the hunt, women of all ages, economic backgrounds, races and religions eagerly await the bargain-fest known as Designer Days.
Benefiting the National Council of Jewish Women, the Nov. 5 to 9 event will showcase products from Dolce and Gabbana, Escada, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin and many other designers — as well as furs by the well-known, downtown furrier, Carl Herrmann Furs —at a fraction of their usual cost. And Lynn Tomasits, director of retail operations for Designer Days, shares that she has set aside a special “boutique section of exquisite, high-end fashions.”
Women rave about the “real finds” they have picked up at Designer Days, she said, and the excitement of having so many upscale fashion options available at affordable prices is palpable.
For 44 years, the local chapter of NCJW has been holding this yearly sale of new and gently used clothing, shoes, pocketbooks and jewelry, but this year there are several differences. What was an annual event is now held twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, and the event has been moved from the Monroeville Convention Center to a new, more convenient location in nearby Swissvale Plaza in the annex of the NCJW Home Consignments shop. This provides customers with storefront free parking and an opportunity to peruse the shop’s furniture and home furnishings when they have finished shopping for clothes.
Bear Brandegee, chairwoman of NCJW’s Social Enterprise Committee, explained that the move provides many advantages for the customers.
“Having an event twice a year means that the merchandise is fresher and more seasonal,” she said. “Also, because this is a smaller location, we are able to cherry-pick the best quality items” and move the more ordinary products to sister store Thriftique, located in the same shopping center.
“Shoppers may not be aware of all of our retail stores, but now they can go from one to the other,” continued Brandegee. “Thriftique will be open matching hours with Designer Days, and all Thriftique merchandise will be 50 percent off.”
This year, personal shoppers will also help customers locate what they are looking for.
Sara Twerski, one of several enthusiastic shoppers, said, “It’s a wonderful fundraiser for the good work that the National Council of Jewish Women does.” She raves over the beautiful things she’s gotten for herself, her kids and her grandkids. She notes that she’s gotten compliments on “gorgeous jewelry” she’s bought there, found brand-new clothes that still have the price tags on them and seen friends come away with fur coats.
“It brings in everybody,” she said of the sale. “We have a lot of fun, and we know that our money is going to a worthy cause.”
Andrea Kline Glickman, executive director of NCJW Pittsburgh, points out that every sale benefits other, less fortunate women. The Pittsburgh chapter uses monies raised from Designer Days, as well as the income from the other year-round shops, to fund local social welfare projects. One of them is the Center for Women, which offers low-cost programs and workshops in areas such as job-search skills, financial fitness and family and self-care. The center reaches out to “women in transition,” such as those recently divorced or widowed or returning to the workforce.
Other community service programs include children’s rooms in the local courts; a back-to-school store that provides needy elementary school children with school supplies and a new outfit for the school year; Standing Firm, which educates managers and employees on domestic violence and its impact in the workplace; shopping vouchers for women in need; book collections and distribution; and an oral history of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community.
The Jewish values of giving back and making the world a better place are what drive the organization, but as Glickman said with a smile, “You don’t have to be Jewish or a woman to volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women.”
The law firm of Pollock, Begg, Komar, Glasser and Vertz is a sponsor of the event.
This year’s Designer Days has three phases. The first is a patron event on Nov. 5, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Carolyn Jensen, Designer Day chairwoman, calls the event as “a fun, social, kick-off party for the people who want early access to the best merchandise.” The $40 entrance fee includes wine and hors d’oeuvres and a ticket for a raffle.
The second phase is Nov. 6 to 8 when Designer Days is open to the public, and admission is free. The hours are: Thursday, Nov. 6, noon to 8; Friday, Nov. 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The last phase, Sunday, Nov. 9, from noon to 4 p.m., is a bargain hunter’s dream: Everything is half off, but there is a $10 admission charge.
All three events occur at the Designer Annex at Home Consignments, 1913 Monongahela Ave. in Swissvale. For more information, call 412-421-6118 or go to ncjwpgh.org.
Simone Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.