Put your hands up if you love the thrill of finding something truly unique and special to wear. Me too. One of my all-time greatest fashion pleasures is to go thrifting and uncover a rare gem for a fraction of the price it should be. I miss my weekends spent on Cheshire Street in East London trying to hunt down a slinky vintage pussy-bow blouse, retro tailoring or gaudy '80s earrings.
Because of this desire for clothes and accessories that tell stories, I'm also very inclined to support up-and-coming talent, indie brands and smaller e-commerce platforms, who all offer pieces that aren't run-of-the-mill. I'm still keen to learn about super-popular new-season items from designers, and I'm not immune to the charms of certain high-street buys (like this & Other Stories dress I couldn't resist the other day), but on the whole, I like to have my wardrobe peppered with more unusual finds.
I bought this Stine Goya dress from Studio B when I was pregnant in 2019, and have worn it on repeat ever since.
Below are a handful of online stores that properly live up to the nomenclature of a "boutique." They are smaller, very focused in their edit and offering items you won't find in bigger shops or online platforms. You'll find newer names that are bubbling up in the UK as well as smaller international brands you'd only otherwise find in their homelands. Many of the boutiques featured celebrate artisanal craftmanship and have a sharper focus on sustainability than their big-business peers. So keep scrolling to discover what I think are the best independent boutiques online and shop my fashion, beauty and homeware picks…
1. BEACH FLAMINGO
If it's luxurious resort wear you're after then look no further—your future holidays are about to get a whole lot chicer. Beach Flamingo co-founder Lily Russo is a good friend and former colleague of mine and you can trust me when I say that everything she curates for her online store is put under rigorous testing. Nothing on this website is a poor fit or of poor quality, and it's of the utmost importance to her that every item—from swimwear to kaftans to the newly launched activewear—exists to make women feel great about themselves. Look out for cool new brands as Lily is often first onto these before the bigger stores spot them. You heard it here first.
Even the name Joan just gets me. This London-based online store was set up in 2017 by Cat Hocking and has proven to be a small-but-perfectly formed hotbed for fresh British and international talent. The edit of contemporary womenswear brands includes names you'll know (Alighieri and House of Sunny, for example) as well as names you won't (Uants and La Manso are two favourites of mine), and it's all shot in a really low-key, super-authentic way which means you can instantly imagine these cute pieces in your own wardrobe.
If you haven't yet discovered the wealth of new design and craft talent that is on Etsy alongside all of the vintage, then let me introduce you! Yes, I love looking for pre-loved pieces on there and have some second-hand shops that I've bookmarked as favourites, but there are a few little indie labels that are well worth checking out too across fashion and homewares in particular…
Founded by London-based PR gurus Charlie Boud and Skye Harrison, it's no wonder that KHOEO has landed with an impressive bang. Only launching a few weeks ago this new site already boasts a heap of influencer contributions and a cool roster of labels we'd like to buy into across fashion, beauty and lifestyle. They've created an one-stop shop where you can fill your basket with everything you desire, rather than hopping from one retailer to the next. There's a certain whimsy or lightness to the overall edit, which means you'll find plenty of soft shades, floral prints and Instagrammable beauty products aplenty.
There are now a few great online hubs with a focus on sustainable fashion (Gather & See, Reve En Vert and Net-a-Porter's Sustain edit are all well worth checking out), but the latest to pique my attention is Cult Mia—a platform that essentially brings local, artisanal goods to you directly. The brand even has a section dedicated to its most sustainable finds. So where you'd perhaps pick up something special on a far-flung adventure you can instead add these items to your wardrobe via your living room sofa. As well as plenty of new-in pieces they also have a Cult Classics section that showcases permanent items from different designers. It's all rather bohemian and elaborate. My kind of site!
Bethany Rowntree is the one-woman power-house behind one of the team's favourite online boutiques: Studio B. She does everything solo, from buying to PR to social media, and right now she's having a well-deserved break to get married! So although you can't get the below pieces immediately shipped to you, she'll be returning to shipping on May 5. Bethany's guiding principle is to encourage her consumer to buy less and buy better, so everything she offers is carefully considered and very, very cute. She's particularly good at spotting the next It dress, so if you're into that category, here's your new go-to.
If over-the-top style is your aim, shopping from Koibird is the game! Both online and with a bricks and mortar store in Marylebone, you can't miss the vibe cemented by founder Belma Gaudio. Whether via the store design and merchandising or the ultra-punchy graphics on-site, the wild clothes and accessories from this bold boutique is reflected in everything they do. You'll find lots of niche fashion brands, as well as event and holiday-specific edits such as skiwear. Not for the shy and retiring.
All the cool girls in America shop from Lisa Says Gah—and I follow them religiously on Instagram to know what's up. As well as stocking some of the most popular cult labels (think Paloma Wool, Susan Alexandra and Meadows), there is also an in-house brand that's full of the kind of kooky basics so many closets can benefit from, like ribbed crop tops in unusual colours, headstock retro claw clips and perfect high-waisted trousers. I'll take it all!
There are now quite a few online marketplace businesses that bring together brands and stores from across the globe, but London-born Wolf & Badger has been setting the agenda in fostering a community of over 1000 brands, as well as its approach to being a more regenerative business overall. The brand offsets its carbon emissions and work hard to make everything from sourcing to manufacturing as transparent as possible for its shoppers. Co-founders Henry and George Graham have gone from a small Notting Hill store in 2010 to a huge flagship in London's Coal's Drop Yard and in New York's SoHo. What to buy? The options are almost endless, so I often zone in on jewellery, homewares and (when socialising is on) cool party pieces.