secretmissionsnap.jpgEver wondered how things work behind the scenes at a private sale websites? I was recently invited on a secret mission with, to see how things work behind the discounted fashion sales.

Vente-Privee is the pioneer of online private sales, and it's huge in France and several other European countries. The concept was conceived in France, where sales are limited to a couple of times a year. To get around this limitation, retailers would create 'private sales' (which is Vente-Privee in French) to sell off their end of season products. Vente-Privee now sells everything from discounted designer clothes to bargain holidays.

Here's what I learnt on my trip behind the scenes:

These online sale companies are usually a tiny team in a tiny office, right?

The team is huge! There's different sales teams for all the different countries Vente-Privee operates in, an in-house recording studio, a busy team of motion designs and graphic designers, dozens of photography studios and a big customer services department.

In France, it's a household name in the same league as H&M. An estimated 1 in 3 French residents own something purchased on Vente-Privee.

The clients must just send images over to be uploaded

Naively, I assumed that all the images of the products and models came from the clients, so all VP had to do was upload them. The reality is, it's all done in-house, with freelance photographers, designers, models and stylists. There are even photoshoots taken place in the trendy corridors.

Squealing every time I saw a box overflowing with designer bags or a rail packed full of Liberty dresses probably wasn't my coolest hour...

Taking control of photography gives VP the editorial and creative freedom it needs to get the most out of each sale. The attention to detail is pretty amazing.

Models are photoshopped to the max

I spent some time in the motion design department, where they let me loose with the digital airbrush tools. Their airbrushing skills are limited to the basics though. Body shapes or sizes are never altered, as it's essential that the online shopper sees the item as it is (to make sure they get the right size when they order!). Moles, scars and eye bags might be removed, but a size 12 dress on the model, stays a size 12 dress in the picture.

As well as creating photo shoots for the product images, Vente-Privee also creates a trailer for each sale. This 40 second clip is used to promote the range in the days before it goes live. These clips take around five days to create, which includes creating an individual music score for each trailer in the music studio and getting busy with animation and graphic design.


What you see on the site is just the tip of the iceberg. So much effort goes into each sale, reflecting the value they place on their clients.

By Emma Cossey