As a former market editor, a job where I often joked I “shopped for a living,” I came across more brands and retailers than one could ever thoughtfully bookmark on Instagram. The online retail market is extremely saturated, and while doing research for editorials and market stories, it became clear certain retailers control Google searches, leading customers to specific sites and guiding them in what to buy. Those aren’t always the sites that will satisfy you as a buyer, though.
In my extensive market searching, I often found that I was better off heading to some smaller niche retailers to find goods that suited my needs and requirements when online shopping. That includes: mindful sourcing, sustainability, price points, and varied ownership.
Ahead, I’ve laid out 30 online retailers that, whether you’re familiar with or not, are the best places to shop online for items you feel a connection to and know a little bit more about.
A sustainable-focused multi-brand luxury shop that is a mix of basics and very eclectic pieces. You will likely find a new favorite brand or two when scrolling through Antidote’s assortment. It’s good for just browsing or hunting for a very original gift.
Identifying as a platform for fashion, design, and art, APOC offers some really eclectic pieces, including one-off hand-made gems.
Based in Lisbon, this concept store stocks vintage archival items and contemporary pieces from emerging brands. Their in-house brand also offers made-to-order pieces, a way of limiting extra production.
This online shop is a mix of in-house label and a tight edit of several other brands with a focus on sustainability. They are best known for knitwear and don’t forget to peep their most comfortable clogs.
This New York concept shop is a labor of love: the owners–two Brooklyn natives–carry designs (many one-of items) from designers they know and personally love. Their Instagram is a real joy for discovering new young designers, and when you purchase, you know you’re investing in a piece of artwork. It’s a great place to look if you’re experimental with dressing and style or just want inspiration.
Likely not the first time you’ve heard of Etsy, and most certainly not the first time you’ve heard it from me. Etsy lands my list because it is the greatest place to search for artisanal and vintage goods if you know exactly what you are looking for. The key is to be as specific as possible in your searches and use several names for an item (i.e. sweater versus knit versus cardigan). It can take time, but man, is it worth it. It is a treasure trove for both vintage and independent sellers, which means you can find many local, sustainable, and hand-made goods. Etsy also lets you shop within your budget via their price range feature. It is also a favorite of mine for interior design.
This boutique is on the higher end, with locations in both Paris and Downtown NYC. It is a favorite of mine for not only really great investment pieces and basics but also a source for cool styling tricks from their online product shots. It skews trendy with “it” brands and styles. Much of the outerwear is quite timeless and is a category not to miss.
This Black-owned shop focuses on sustainability. The founder, Dechel Mckillian came from the world of celebrity styling so has an eye for what’s cool with a focus on socially conscious fashion. The items you’ll find here aren’t trend-focused. My personal favorite category is jewelry and accessories so peep that for some pretty affordable options. Note: this shop does very fantastic sales so look out for those.
Garmentory carries products from over 1,000 independent boutiques carrying over 3,000 designers from around the world. You can see the exact boutique you are purchasing from when you buy an item. Think of it as a boutique marketplace. Every purchase you make goes through the designer or boutique directly. I’ve found incredible sales on designer items at Garmentory, plus items that are elsewhere totally sold out.
This boutique carries the latest in African fashion. You can shop a curated edit of the African fashion industry's key new and emerging brands that are otherwise often not available online. The website makes it easy to shop sustainable with a clearly marked sustainability icon on items that are indeed sustainable, which many are. The website also lets you shop by “edit,” which is helpful if you’re looking for something like a gift or a specific thing like a suit or set.
JOAN is an independent online store based in London showcasing emerging and established brands including hot brands with items often sold out at larger shops and also emerging brands that you won’t find elsewhere.
A highly curated shop for the “elegantly understated” customer. La Garçonne carries luxury brands with a specific style in mind: mostly timeless and minimalist. It carries a mix of well-known and under-the-radar luxury brands with products that won’t tire after a single season. Don’t sleep on their sale section! If you loved Totokaelo (RIP) you may find solace in La Garçonne.
Based in L.A., this high-end shop is an independent concept store that focuses on emerging contemporary designers from around the world, with a focus on sustainability. A mix of accessories, beauty, homeware, and fashion, LCD is a really good place to go for gift giving.
LSG focuses on environmentally-conscious female-owned brands. It has a lot of trendy items from “it” brands and their in-house label is reasonably priced and very, very cool.
A luxury Black-owned multi-brand shop that cites itself as a global platform for sustainable fashion. They have icons next to products so you know if the brand the item you are buying from includes categories like BIPOC, female-owned, made in the USA, recycled, and charitable. There are really, really good items -- both trend-driven and timeless–if you want to purchase an investment piece that is of quality.
A shop of independent artists who use unique methods, reimagined materials, and vintage pieces in limited quantities. You WILL discover a new designer when shopping here and it’s truly eye candy with items that are very innovative, original, and incredibly creative (think: bungee cord tops and handmade patchwork pants). While items can be pricey (you’re buying art!), you can also find items for great prices (a $50 bucket hat and really cool $40 hand-made one-of-a-kind frilly socks) if you scroll along.
Based in Canada, New Classics is a sustainability-driven luxury online retailer embracing the idea of “slow fashion” and allowing their customers to know exactly where the product they’re purchasing is from with a comprehensive “standards” index, useful for knowing details about the item like if it was handmade, organic, fair-trade, recycled, made in the U.S.A. or Canada, etc. And beyond that, they carry really cool new labels of clothing, accessories, beauty, and homeware.
A mix of vintage and contemporary goods, No. 6 also has an in-house label of clothing, accessories, and footwear, most famous for their iconic clogs in various styles. The store is, in my opinion, synonymous with upscale Downtown NYC style. I personally found the coolest pair of recycled denim–two different jeans made together–back when I was in college that I still treasure today. I can also confirm their clogs wear well, and you’ll have them for life. Be on the lookout for sales, as it is on the pricier side and the sales are very, very good.
With a roster of over 35,000 brands since it’s birth in 2008, NJAL is an online shop with brands you will not find elsewhere, coming from over 150 countries. You can even search by country of origin. NJAL invests in artists -- from wearable everyday items to statement pieces. Because the brands are small and independent–with product that is often hand-made–the items skew on the pricier side.
The holy grail of designer items at serious discounts. I have found archival designer gems at The OUTNET for a fraction of their original cost, including items I had coveted from the time it walked the runway. Think: Net-a-Porter (it’s sister site) but at a fraction of the cost. The OUTNET also has seasonal sales, which discount these items even further. Sizes and quantities are limited, which can certainly be frustrated, and during sale season, items sell out very fast. Similarly, the sister website Yoox is also a great place for the same sort of thing (though their product imagery isn’t quite as good).
This Instagram-popular shop is popular for its accessibility and low-priced goods. I love their flats, loafers, and knitwear. They have limited sizing.
A multi-brand retailer with a focus on contemporary trends. It was founded just this year and has since been a popular shop for trend-focused wallet-friendly items. One thing to note: there are limited sizing options available.
Known for the “uncommon,” this shop is a limited and eclectic mix of goods. They specialize in experimental and progressive clothing, accessories, art objects, and printed matter. It’s kind of like going to an online art fair, but with a focus on fashion. Prices reflect the artistic and often hand-made quality of the items.
Founder Telsha Anderson began T.A. as a luxury concept store, providing products that are all personally sourced by Telsha herself from countries around the world. You’ll find brands–both established and new–that you won’t find in many other places, all in line with Telsha’s incredibly cool style. Its community on Instagram is like a fun group you want to be a part of.
The Break is a shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, that carries both vintage and contemporary designs. The founder Hannah Richtman sources everything herself, and the shop has some of the best vintage jeans and outerwear in a vast range of sizes. The shop holds flash sales and Instagram Stories sales, which are first come, first serve. I personally have notifications turned on.
Based in NYC, The Folklore carries luxury and emerging African fashion brands. There is limited stock of each product, which boasts a mix of both statement pieces and everyday basics.
Thrilling is a network of local vintage boutiques across the country. All 150+ stores on the platform are independent businesses and 95% of them are women and POC owned. It has an extensive amount of really eclectic statement pieces and staple items including incredible knits and statement jackets.
VASQUIAT is a membership-based online platform where members can pre-order next season’s collections at a discount. VASQUIAT carries the coolest new international brands and trends -- accessories and clothing included. The pre-order system also helps reduce the excessive production of goods.
An online center for over 1,000 global independent designers. It’s a place to go if you want to find a specific item you’re looking for (think: “oversized collar blouse” or “double-breasted checkered overcoat”). They also hold some of the best seasonal sales out there.
Originally based in London but has now expanded to NY, Wolf & Badger is a marketplace exclusively for independent designers–over 1,000 of them–that manufacture and source sustainably and ethically. To help you know what you’re shopping, W&B attributes icons to brands who have achieved a certain minimum standard across the different verticals of conscious retail and production.