When shopping on a high-street budget, it's all too easy to fall for the trend-smashing charms and regular arrivals at Zara. After all, we're only human. The Spanish superbrand works fast and efficiently and never appears to miss a beat when it comes to the items we want in our wardrobes at any given moment. In many instances, Zara can be credited with setting retail trends that other affordable stores follow. (Remember when every brand scrambled to produce a loose-fitting polka-dot midi when that dress took off a couple of summers ago?) Right now, the store's shoe collection is strong, and the vibrant colours are giving many of us the feels. But there are other shops that provide the same level of inspiration and excitement.
If you want to be truly on top of your consumption, then we'll always be here to chart the top trends you can buy second-hand. In fact, we're pretty obsessed with hunting down affordable vintage items. If, however, you aren't a wiz in the thrifting department, there are some other affordable, agenda-setting stores with pieces just as good as Zara's. But you won't see these pieces all over the streets or Instagram—they're a little too niche for that. From an affordable Swedish brand that's doing impressive work in sustainability (the detail and visibility on its site are really next-level) to a Spanish label you should never ever overlook (especially in the summer months), the below brands aren't Zara, and that's okay! Keep scrolling to see and shop the other labels on top of their game.
Mango's Mediterranean roots mean that easy, breezy pieces are plentiful. Its lean towards crafty, bohemian detail is very obvious during the summer months. Right now, Mango's strengths lie in elevated co-ords, throw-on dresses and statement sandals.
When it comes to tracking down more whimsical, ultra-cute pieces on the high street, I'll always recommend & Other Stories. If you're after printed dresses, basics with a twist or great jeans (even Kate Middleton reps the brand's denim), this is the Scandi store that will provide.
Na-kd is a Swedish label with a strong commitment to sustainable practices. Its site provides credentials and background information for every piece, which makes its commitment to sustainability easy to evaluate. It has pre-loved items and climate-neutral delivery, and there are clear labels on items that are even more environmentally friendly than others.
When it comes to great summer dresses that are perfect for British weather, no other high-street brand is nailing it quite like Warehouse. From broderie anglaise to gingham, all of the most classic hot-weather prints, styles and fabrics are available and favoured by influencers right now.
Zara's older sibling, Massimo Dutti, is a go-to for anyone who wants to opt for more classic, tailored items rather than younger, trend-hitting pieces. Massimo Dutti is still relevant, but it's a bit more grown-up and expensive. The store is full of top-quality basics like linen shirts, tailored wide-leg trousers and leather goods.
Though it's no longer the under-the-radar brand it once was, the beauty of Arket is that its stores don't dominate the high streets of every town. Sure, it's a little annoying if you don't live near one, but it's worth the trip to walk away with sleek, tailored clothing that no one else has. Of course, you can order online, which we do more often than we'd care to admit.
Chances are you might not own anything from 12 Storeez, but we think that's about to change this season. The Russian brand was founded by twin sisters Irina and Marina Golomazdinyand has just been stocked at Farfetch. With achingly cool separates that you can mix and match with ease, 12 Storeez has just as much elevated, throw-on appeal as Zara has.
If Massimo Dutti is Zara's older sister, then Uterqüe must be its cool cousin. Another brand that falls under the Inditex arm, Uterqüe offers up directional statement pieces that are sure to earn you the same amount of compliments that your Zara buys do. But you're significantly less likely to bump into someone wearing the same Uterqüe item at a social gathering.