$20 item no one can believe is Kmart
We've heard of the glamorous gifting suite at The Oscars, laden with expensive goodies for the celebrities to take home.
But it's not just the rich and famous who get to load up on free swag these days. Social media stars now regularly feature at the top of luxury brands' hit-lists thanks to their huge followings and power to encourage people to buy their products.
Kmart is no different, with the budget retailer recently hosting an exclusive gifting suite for over 40 affordable fashion influencers on the weekend - and news.com.au scored an invite to take a peek inside.
Set at The Calile, a five-star luxury hotel in Brisbane, the lush cream decor is a far cry from the usual chaos of a Kmart store. There's no harsh lighting or clothing strewn on the floor (a normal sight at my local) - in fact, the vibe is pure luxury.
With the clothing hanging neatly on multiple rails and a neat and tidy display area, where one of each item from the brand's new Summer Daze fashion line was hung up for everyone to check out, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd just walked into the personal stylist suite at David Jones.
"Let the fun commence," Julie Miller-Sensini, Kmart's general manager of apparel and design, told the crowd of eager fashionistas, encouraging everyone to "have a play" with the outfits, which that morning were being rolled out in stores across Australia and New Zealand.
"This is so exciting," one woman turned to me and said, as Julie told the room you'd be allowed to "keep your favourite outfit".
So far, so classy. But you have to remember the majority of these Kmart influencers are real women (and a few guys too) who genuinely shop at their beloved department store then share photos of themselves wearing the items.
They are not paid by Kmart for their posts. It's for this reason I fear things may get a little vicious later on.
As everyone starts to trickle into the room, there's an accessories corner where a large table has been set up to hold the new season of bags, earrings and hats.
It seems the piece everyone is after is a $20 woven bag, perfect for the beach, and that looks way more expensive than it actually is.
"I can't believe this is Kmart," one person said to me, and I had to nod in agreement. It definitely didn't look cheap. Within a few minutes, they'd all disappeared - along with the miniature $12 strappy version. If you snooze, you loose in these parts.
Despite my genuine fears about being elbowed in the eye (I'm 158cms) everything was pretty calm. Most of the girls here knew each other, not through meeting in person, but chatting online, bonded by their mutual love of cheap clothing - so there's no snatching or grabbing going on.
But there's some major disappointment over the lack of items available. There's only one of each size of a pair of white $20 cropped jeans resulting in some seriously sad faces.
"These jeans are so versatile," Dani from affordable Instagram page Luxeandlemonade tells news.com.au. "You can dress them up with a pair of heels or keep it casual with some pumps.
"The high waist is also super forgiving. I like to style mine with an oversized cotton shirt."
It quickly becomes clear no one is paying attention to the "keep your favourite" rule, with everyone filling up the large plastic Kmart bags you're usually given to do your shopping with in store.
"My mind is being blown," one person says to me, as she hauls her overflowing bag of goodies into one of the special change rooms, which btw, are like nothing I've ever witnessed in a Kmart store.
They're massive for starters, but that's actually not unlike a normal Kmart change room. However, these have comfy cushioned benches to sit on and a huge floor to ceiling mirror to take the perfect "try on" selfie with. There's even a hashtag encouraging everyone to share their snaps.
As well as being super comfy, there's also a long clothing rail and a hat stand to hang all your loot on. They really do want you to try as much stuff on as possible.
Many of the girls then posed beside the swanky change rooms in their new get-up, clearly delighted by their Kmart gifts.
Despite being rows and rows of clothes at the start, they all were looking pretty bare in hardly any time. Even I scooped up three outfits, two bags and a bikini - a blatant disregard for the one outfit rule we were given at the start. I guess we're all a sucker for a freebie.
Everyone was leaving with bags overflowing, commenting: "I don't know how I'm going to get this all in my carry-on case."
Though it seemed like a lot of stuff, the value in total for my loot came in at just $124. Hardly reaching those Hollywood heights.
But the small overhead costs of giving away the clothes pay dividends for Kmart. Though the company haven't actually said it, it's pretty clear the unwritten agreement here is that everyone will take photos with the products, causing followers to go out and buy them.
"The Kmart followers have been so great to us, and so loyal as well, and so committed to the brand and really want to see us be successful in apparel so we just wanted to be able to spoil them a bit," Julie Miller-Sensini, Kmart's general manager of apparel and design, told news.com.au.
"Working with these women is so important to Kmart because they love the products and they share the love.
"We're really delighted and surprised by how they put looks together sometimes and the effect we see their posts have on the stock on our shelves."
Julie - who in case you're not aware, is the woman at Kmart behind the brand's homewares transformation a few years back - told news.com.au part of her plan with her first ever apparel line was to make sure people stop and go, "wow I had no idea that is Kmart".
Which judging from my recent trip to two Kmart stores on Sunday (I went to both Broadway AND Marrickville) to try and pick up a few things I'd seen but couldn't snag - everything was sold out.
So we certainly think she's ticked that box.
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And that’s a wrap on a whirlwind @kmartaus press trip 💃🏽 Wearing a little DIY twin set, yep from @kmartaus 😍 All the goodies and details are over on my Instastories but I’ll keep you posted as they hit stores 🤗 DETAILS: $27 Unlined Jacket (Size 8) $17 Button Pleat Shorts (Size 10) Old @ninewestaus shoes Old @yourockstyle_ cami