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Here's how to bag a Phillip Lim at Target

Phillip Lim
Neilson Barnard | WireImage | Getty Images
Phillip Lim

Shopping the forthcoming 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target collection could require a Black Friday-esque plan of attack.

Fashion experts expect that the collection of men's and women's clothing and accessories, available Sunday, will fall among the more popular in Target's hit-or-miss track record of designer collaborations. Its 2011 Missoni line quickly sold out—and crashed Target's website—while much of the 2012 line with Neiman Marcus ended up on clearance racks. (Target did not respond to requests for comment.)

"The excitement about [3.1 Phillip Lim] has probably surpassed Missoni," said Connie Wang, senior global editor for fashion trend site Refinery29.

Lim's aesthetic is a big draw. The collection doesn't skew as casual or as young as other Target lines, said Leslie Price, editor of retail and fashion site Racked. "There are some notable statement pieces that speak to the crowd that wants that," she said, "and there are a lot of really well-tailored, understated basics as well."

The collection is also unique for including several items that hearken back to Lim's full-priced lines, said Michelle Madhok, founder of sale site SheFinds. There's a $30 graphic sweater that says "Boom" that compares with a $425 "Ka-Pow" from Lim's 2012 pre-fall line, an $80 trench coat with colorful lining resembling $950 ones from his 2013 pre-fall line, and new takes on his notable Pashli satchels, starting at $35 rather than $650.

Granted, there's a difference in quality as well as price. "For Target, the bags aren't leather, the dresses aren't silk," Price said. "Even with that, I felt the hand-feel of the clothes was very nice." They're well made for the price level, she said.

Wang, Price and Madhok all predict the bags will be first to sell out. At a New York preview and pre-shopping event in early September, "that was the thing people were grabbing," Madhok said. Recognizable items such as the "Boom" sweater and items in the leopard and floral prints are also likely to go fast.

Jewel Hazelton, 27, of Atlanta, is prepared to pull an all-nighter, or close to it, to get the items on her wish list, including a $30 sheer green blouse and one of the satchels. She'll start checking online at midnight. "I think this is one of the best collections Target has come out with so far," said Hazelton, who writes about food, travel and fashion on her blog EatDrinkShopLove.com.

Hazelton's plan isn't far off the mark from what experts recommend. Here's how to strategize:

In the store

  • Arrive early. For previous collections, stores have staggered shoppers' entrance, allowing them in a few at a time. "There's really no way to make up for being first in line," said Price. "If you're not in the first group, you might have waited in vain." Some shoppers have said they plan to be in place by 6:30 a.m. for stores' 8 a.m. opening time.
  • Shop the suburbs. City-based Targets tend to draw bigger crowds, said Madhok, who plans to head to a (hopefully) less-crowded store on Long Island instead of into New York City. In a similar vein, ask friends who live in other states to look for favorite pieces on your behalf.
  • Watch for discards. Early birds tend to grab multiple sizes and items, and then scale back after a trip to the fitting room, said Price. Check there to see what comes back out.

Online

  • Use social media. Target hasn't announced when it will make the collection available after midnight on Sunday, and it hasn't been consistent in the timing with other lines, said Wang. Follow Target on Twitter and Facebook, and keep an eye out for the hashtag #PhillipLimforTarget for fast notice when it's available.
  • Search the site. Typing "Phillip Lim" in the search bar might give you a few minutes' edge. Oftentimes, items are added to shoppable inventory before there's a landing page for the collection or a link on the homepage, Madhok said.
  • Download the app. It can be a good backup if the website is slow to load. When Target's site when down during the Missoni sale, Madhok used Target's phone app to successfully place an order.
  • Shop up. "Target's algorithm puts the most popular items first," Wang said. Shopping from the bottom of the page up could increase the likelihood of getting items into your shopping cart.

In either case, try again if at first you don't succeed. "If you really like something, chances are you're probably going to see it a week later," said Wang. Stock in stores and online may be replenished a few days after the first rush, with even more available later as shoppers return unwanted items.

There's always eBay, although it's tough to anticipate whether there will be more deals or markups. "We don't know how much stock Target is going to have," Madhok said—and that's the determining factor that drives up listing prices. Consider it a last resort.

By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant. Follow her on Twitter @KelliGrant.

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