Confessions of a fashion addict: How to shop like an editor, avoid buyer’s remorse and never pay full price again

Shopping Addict Zeina Esmail
Photography by Chris Nicholls
Shopping Addict Zeina Esmail
Photography by Chris Nicholls

“It just started today. Everything’s an additional 50 per cent off,” I overhear our fashion editor-at-large, Zeina Esmail, telling a visiting New York publicist about a nearby end-of-season sell-off. “You can score a pair of Manolos for 200 bucks.” I make a note of this (I could use some new pumps) and share a knowing glance with my FASHION editor colleagues. Lunch plans have just been made. Esmail, meanwhile, is on to discussing another fashion find: a $2,000 Proenza Schouler sweater she scored online for $89. By now, the shopping tips are coming fast and furious, and a small crowd has formed around our resident style sage. This is Esmail in her element.

At the FASHION offices, Esmail is known for her cool style, impeccable taste and complete and utter obsession with shopping—an occupational hazard of being a stylist and professional shopper. “It’s definitely part of my job. I shop for work all the time, so I stumble on sales, but I’m a constant hunter,” she says. “I’m always looking for things to buy and watching for when I can score a major deal. It’s kind of a weird mental illness in a way, because I can’t stop.” Case in point: At a recent designer shoe sale (where styles by Nicholas Kirkwood, Alaïa and Balmain were marked down to a frenzy-inducing $99), while the rest of us were splurging on two or three pairs, Esmail went home with 22. “I couldn’t just buy three. I went back and I went back,” she says. “I have an addictive personality, so if I get an idea in my head I don’t know how to let it go. I got home and my husband was like, ‘What did you do?’ I get carried away in the moment. It’s my biggest enemy and my best friend.”

Buyer’s remorse is an inevitable consequence of shopping addiction. To compensate for her bouts of fashion delirium (and keep her marriage intact), Esmail consigns some in-the-moment mistakes. “I don’t even care what they go for,” she says. “I’m happy if I break even”—although making a few dollars helps mitigate the regret. “I consigned one pair that were too tight, and they went for $280,” she says. “If I were to sell three more, that would make up for all the shoes I bought… but I can’t part with them.”

Classic shopping math. We’ve all been there. Faced with a gorgeous Céline handbag or a perfect Balenciaga coat and an extravagant price tag, our style-smitten minds race to crunch the numbers, desperately trying to justify the purchase. Esmail’s pro trick? Skip the extravagant price tag. “I never buy anything full price,” she says. “I think I get it from my parents. They bought us whatever we wanted, but we had to wait until it went on sale.” Which means that when she falls in love with an It item, she waits. “A lot of people don’t have the patience to rustle through a rack, or 12 racks, full of clothes. For me it’s exhilarating, but it’s not for everybody.”

Esmail also has the luxury of using her job as an excuse to shop. “I use a lot of my own stuff for my job, but you justify things with whatever makes you feel better, right?” she says. “I’ve just tried to find a smarter way of buying things.” And, as our editors return, bags laden with $100 Jonathan Saunders trousers, $200 Giambattista Valli dresses and $80 Prada pumps, it’s clear that when it comes to scoring deals, we could all use a bit of rehab.