Expert says designer clothes at T.J. Maxx, other off-price retailers aren’t actually overstock

JHVEPhoto/ShutterStock @kingkattoo/TikTok (Licensed)

‘So you’re not getting the real thing?’: Expert says designer clothes at TJ Maxx, other off-price retailers aren’t actually overstock

'Was a manager at Ross for 2 years this is 100% true.'


Jack Alban


Posted on Jan 26, 2024   Updated on Jan 26, 2024, 9:03 am CST

If you love that Ralph Lauren sweater you got at TJ Maxx for a deal because it’s the same thing you’d purchase at one of the designer’s flagship stores, then you may be upset.

But if you bought it just because it says Ralph Lauren on it and doesn’t really care too much about the quality, then carry on and enjoy your label.

That’s what a TikToker who goes by Kattoo (@kingkattoo) said in a viral clip that’s garnered over 673,000 views as of Friday. Her video was a response to another TikToker who talked about the practice of designers manufacturing clothing distinctly for off-brand retailers like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, and others.

Kattoo’s video combats the idea of “overstock” products and says that holding companies will directly contract them to make specific pieces at a specific price point. These designers will then go and make these pieces which are designed to sell for a set amount of money, which are then sold by these budget retailers.

In her clip, Kattoo says 99.99% of all the garments at TJ Maxx are manufactured for that store, because the way people think that the “overstock” vertical of the clothing industry works…really isn’t the case. They may think designer brands end up making way too much of a specific item of clothing that they then ship off to stores like TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less for shoppers to purchase at a discount.

Kattoo says that as a designer and someone who operated in the line of work that provided clothing to retailers like TJ Maxx, she explains how it works.

She says that it starts with a “holding company” that speaks to “designer A,” a company like DKNY or Calvin Klein, and asks them to manufacture clothes for Macy’s.

“…You know their price point is like $50 to $100 for a sweater depending on how complicated it is,” Kattoo says. “So you go in and you know where your clothes are gonna be sold when you start designing.”

From the get-go, Kattoo says that the designer knows precisely who they’re making it for. This means that they also know the amount of work, quality of materials, etc. that will go into the item for the amount of it’s being sold.

But the holding company then goes to another designer to ask for products at a different price point meant to be sold at different stores.

“They go to Designer B and they’re like, ‘OK, design some stuff that we can show to some of these off-price retailers for let’s say $20 retailer,'” Kattoo says. “So they go in and from the very start they are picking their yarns, and deciding on the technique, picking their trims, finishing, lining, everything, they are designing the goal of reaching that $20 retail.”

“And then the brand, the retailers, they come in, you show the designs you have, and they’re like we like this, and this, we’ll take you know 200 of this, 1,000 of this, 200 of this, right?” she continues. “And then you produce exactly the amount of clothes that the retailer wants to sell.”

@kingkattoo #stitch with @Lauren ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim

This dispels the idea that there are clothing manufacturers producing items in a warehouse and then selling them in different stores all across the world.

Kattoo says that her mother, who is a “die-hard Maxxinista” was “shocked” when she heard this information, exclaiming to her daughter that customers aren’t getting “the real thing” when they shop at stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. The TikToker responded by saying that it ultimately depends on what a person thinks that “the real thing is.”

The moral of the story, Kattoo says, is that consumers “get what they pay for” and that if you’re shelling out less money for clothes at a budget retail store, you’re getting the lower-tier offerings they were contracted to make.

“It’s made by the same brand usually or at least the same holding company to be that lower price point,” she says. “So if you really, really want Calvin Klein to get your money that bad don’t worry he’s getting your money. But you are buying a $20 top instead of a $50 top.”

She says people should get the idea out of their heads that they’re “getting one over” on these “big brands” by purchasing their items at a lower price. She adds that if folks like an item and think it’s well made and worth their money then they should pay whatever they want for it, but ultimately they should be leery of seeing designer labels for sale at budget retailers.

Her post sparked a litany of comments. Some viewers who claimed they previously worked at specific overstock stores for high-end chains said they distinctly remember packing clothes at the end of a season into a box to ship off to their overstock variant.

However, as other commenters pointed out, this happened years ago, suggesting that the nature of the clothing industry has changed considerably since then.

“I worked at Nordstrom and at the end of every season we would package the old stuff to transfer it Nordstrom rack,” one person wrote.

To which another TikToker replied, “Yes. I worked for Nordstroms in the late 90’s and this is what they would do. Before they went to Rack, employees could buy them at a crazy discount like 70% off.”

However one user on the app specified, “In the 90s.”

Another person asked Kattoo if Nordstrom Rack and Off Fifth operated this way and she said that this was certainly the case.

But it seems that there were still people who were convinced that Nordstrom Rack and Off Fifth still had some of the higher-end goods.

“Nordstrom rack has its own brand and things created for the rack but some items are things returned from full price Nordstrom,” one wrote.

Someone else penned, “I OFTEN buy *identical* things you can get full price at Bergdorfs, Bloomies, etc at Off Fifth. Overstock is not 0.01%. Prob like 20%.”

“No I used to work for Nordstrom once items were marked down to a certain point and weren’t selling they would be sent to Nordstrom rack,” another TikToker averred.

Judging from most of the comments, however, it seems that whether or not Kattoo’s assertions are 100% true depends on who you ask. One user was almost certain that they could find the same higher-end clothes at their budget retailer of choice.

“IDK about 99.9% is true because I find items from Free People and Theory at my local TJ Max that is also sold in the actual stores,” they said.

But one user who worked at Ross Dress for Less attested to Katoo’s claims, writing, “Was a manager at Ross for 2 years this is 100% true. the only overstock items we could get were makeup and skincare items.”

While there very well may have been a time when budget retailers carried the odd higher-end designer items, it seems like those days may be a part of the ghosts of consumerism’s past. NBC4 Washington is one of many outlets that have discussed the phenomenon of shoppers getting hoodwinked by designer deals, aka, being sold an item with a high-end designer’s name, but isn’t tantamount to the showroom offerings sold at the designer’s flagship stores.

The Daily Dot has reached out to Kattoo via TikTok comment.

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*First Published: Jan 26, 2024, 11:00 am CST