Heels & Picks: Weekend in Waikele

Aug. 27, 2013 | 0 Comments

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BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Last Saturday, Aug. 24, my boyfriend and I took an afternoon trip to the Waikele Premium Outlets. It’s hard to believe this was my first trip, being that I’m into fashion — and having grown up in a family of six, I’m always looking for a good deal.

This deal-finding style of life has been further ratified now that I live with Trouble, who is like an eBay ninja, adept at stealthily finding the best deals and making the most outrageous sales. Case in point, I smashed my iPhone 4 at the gym; by the end of the same day, he had sold the phone — WITH the smashed screen — on Craigslist for $100. I don’t know how he does it.

Feathers are always the best. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

Feathers are always the best. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

That being said, I also appreciate quality. As I get older, I realize the value of buying a good, well-made article of clothing that will last, just as much as I realize the value of eating a good, healthy meal made from wholesome ingredients.

Being from a Canadian family with four kids, we shared a lot of hand-me-downs (the BEST way to clothe your children; we all know a four year old grows out of a GAP shirt in two months anyway) and most definitely didn’t do much outlet mall shopping. When Trouble asked me if there are outlet malls in Canada, I had to Google the answer (because everything you read on the Internet is, of course, true).

I’ve been to a few outlet malls on the mainland, but it’s been a hot minute since I rolled up my sleeves to dig into some serious discount shopping. My impression of outlet malls was they carry the same items you find in a major stores, just at cheaper prices due to slight imperfections or overstocking.

As it turns out, my vision of outlet mall shopping was largely way off base. Which led me to ponder the question: “Outlet malls. Deal or no deal?”

Among the dozens of brands at the shops of Waikele, only a few offered what I thought to be anything close to a good deal. And here’s why: rather than stocking the same quality of goods found in regular stores, the outlet mall shops carry items of much poorer quality at nearly the same price.

Some of these brands are tried and true in my wardrobe. I love Bebe, being a mini-dress fanatic, and every time I check out their Ala Moana store I discover at least three dresses I’d like to buy. They are well-made, well-cut and super cute.

A Russian spy hat, or only something George Costanza from “Seinfeld” would love? (Courtesy Erin Smith)

A Russian spy hat, or only something George Costanza from “Seinfeld” would love? (Courtesy Erin Smith)

WHEN I entered the Bebe outlet store in Waikele, my usual excitement fell away quickly as I flicked through row after row of sub-par dresses made with cheap material and not cut even remotely as well. One of these maxi-dresses was “on sale” at $99, the same as the sale price on a top-tier dress I recently found at Ala Moana. Not even close to a deal.

The GUESS store is a bombshell’s dream store, with all the fixings for a sexy outfit for any occasion. But the GUESS store at the outlet mall had a system mirroring that of Bebe — not really very inexpensive, with lots of sub-par quality clothing.

A few shops offered genuine deals, but they are few and far between and you have to dig for them. Coach is one of my favorite brands, and in Waikele I found a couple of high end purses whittled down to major deal prices, considering what they originally retail for.

There was a hot pink calfskin purse, one I have long drooled over at Ala Moana, in the sale section. It was 70 percent off the original price of $1800, or around $500. THAT is a deal. I would trash a calfskin purse in no time, so it is not the deal for me, but I salute whoever picks that purse up. SCORE.

One trend I did notice was most of the shops intersperse the occasional item from their regular lines, just to tie the two stores together and support the illusion of name brand shopping on a budget. While most of the stores executed that strategy to their advantage, a few rocked that equation by including a higher percentage of items from their main collections at a discount.

BCBG had a much higher percentage of high quality items in their outlet store. The heels in the shoe section and several of the dresses were from the main collection, and I stumbled upon a blue snakeskin print maxi-dress I had found and loved at the BCBG in the Eaton Center in Canada. The dress was down from $178 to $52. Deal.

Waikele's international man of mystery. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

Waikele’s international man of mystery. (Courtesy Erin Smith)

I also realized after 45 minutes of shopping and digging that there is a severe lack of places in which to get a decent glass of wine, cheaply or not. We all need a shopping respite, am I right? It would be a gold mine for whoever opened up a bevy joint here. The absence of such places makes me think the shopping center is zoned for no alcohol. Trouble and I ended up at Chili’s, which is highly out of character for us and will make my gay-boy bestie Ty’s life when he reads this blog. (He adores Chili’s. We tease him constantly.)

After a while, our lack of enthusiasm over what the outlet stores had to offer led us to get silly with it. I sent my boyfriend photos of me in a what I called a “Russian James Bond spy fur hat,” and what he referred to as “The Costanza.” We found a few awesome, silly feather headbands that I actually might wear in real life, and he complimented my Russian spy look with a few silly trench coat shots.

Out of all of this bargain shopping, what did I end up leaving with? A sports bra and workout pants from Adidas. Ooh la la, such fancy treats. But a girl’s gotta get her hustle on.

SO WHAT’S my ultimate take on the Outlet Mall in Waikele? Deal or no deal?

No deal.

If you’re prepared to dig, you WILL find a few good bargains on top of the line items. But be sure to take a good look at what you’re buying, examine the quality and cross-reference with the stores websites to gage what you’re spending your hard earned money on. Ultimately, I think shoppers and fashionistas, would do better to keep an eye on sale items at the flagship stores than buy items made on the cheap under the umbrella of a major chain.

If you have a rainy afternoon, sure, have at it. You may be the one to find that pink calfskin purse or the maxi-dress from the main collection. Just be prepared, when shopping outlet-style, quality control is left to the consumer.
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Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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