It may seem like an odd time to pick up a new pair of shoes or a cushy cashmere cardi, but it’s actually a better time than ever to shop from small businesses and boutique brands. Many of these fledgling companies are worried about going under because people aren’t getting out and shopping like they used to. Even if you don’t have any extra spending money at the moment, following your favorite local boutique on Instagram or sharing your love with a comment or IG Story post can go a long way toward supporting these small businesses. And while we’ve been hearing a ton about bigger brands’ efforts to contribute to COVID-19 relief, the little guys are doing their part too, with many of them donating a portion of sales to relief funds or pivoting production to sewing together masks, gowns and scrubs.
So go ahead and pick yourself up a new bikini for that rescheduled bachelorette party or shout your appreciation for the scented candles that are also providing meals to those in need from the rooftops Twitter. As for me, here are the 15 small businesses I’ll be helping out the best I can during this weird time.
Investing in a new pair of summer sandals each year is a must, especially if you live in a walking city like New York, where warm weather kicks can be torn to pieces before Labor Day even rolls around. The past two years I’ve sprung for sandals from Hawaii-based brand OluKai and this summer I’ll be continuing that tradition. OluKai was founded on the idea of creating comfortable, durable footwear that pays homage to Hawaiian heritage, including the fishermen, sailors and surfers for whom the designs were initially created. It has since expanded to include more fashion-focused pieces too, although they’re just as comfortable for a day of walking (on the beach or otherwise) as the function-forward styles.
I already have a difficult time not spending all my money on silky slip dresses from this Australian brand, and now I feel even more vindicated snapping up another gorgeous piece. Silk Laundry began as a line of simple, ‘90s-inspired dresses but has since evolved to include skirts, blouses, gowns and pants in a variety of stunning colors and one-of-a-kind prints. Even better, they’re all made using sustainable practices. And while they may not be easy on the wallet, each piece is incredibly flattering, easy to care for (yes, seriously) and perfect for hot summer days and nights.
When world champion surfer Kelly Slater started asking how his competition swimsuits were being made, he suddenly found himself with significantly more questions than answers. So, he decided to start his own line of sustainable, eco-friendly and consciously-made clothing. The designs have a minimalist, California-coast vibe without reading too laidback (i.e., no torn-up denim or crop tops). Both the men’s and women’s blanket shirts ($148) are definitely worth the investment (I wore my boyfriend’s as a sort of house cardigan all winter), but right now I’m strongly considering stocking up on a few breezy summer dresses and comfy jumpsuits as well.
Shoes from LMS, an Australian label, are a minimalist’s dream come true. The sleek single-strap sandals and block-heel booties come in both real-leather and vegan leather and a variety of gorgeous colors. I’ve been lusting after a pair of the Lara sandals in crisp white or perhaps the decidedly un-minimalist zebra-striped Lyla. At least now I’ll have ample time to break them in while strolling from one side of my apartment to the other.
This is one of the most clever jewelry lines I’ve come across in a long time. Every single piece can be worn multiple ways, interlocking with or unclipping from other items to create a super-versatile and totally customizable personal collection. Earrings become rings which can also become necklace charms. With Limnia, the world is your pearl-adorned, gold-beaded oyster. (Of course, there are also some easy-to-follow guides on the website with tips and tricks to help you get started playing jewelry designer.)
Calming candles are a hot commodity right now (no pun intended). The women-led team at Linnea’s Lights pours its candles at a small studio in Indiana with an emphasis on giving back to the local community as well as the far flung countries where certain ingredients are sourced. After picking up the Orchard candle and taking a curious sniff I suddenly felt like I was home, but it’s the Heirloom Tomato that really made me believe this brand could do no wrong. You might wonder why anyone would want to have their home smell like food. However, this delicate scent doesn’t smell like a pizzeria but more like my mom’s garden on a July afternoon or a refreshing visit to a greenhouse. Full disclosure: The brand’s workshop is currently closed, however it is still accepting orders (that will be shipper at a later date), donating to Feeding America with every purchase and offering 15 percent off sitewide—if you don’t mind waiting a little while to receive your garden-scented candles.
Of course, nothing is quite as comfy as cashmere, especially when it’s high-quality and affordable. Like many of the brands on this list, Naadam is focused on sustainable efforts and ensuring that the cashmere it sources from Mongolia is obtained in a fair and ethical manner. By the way, Naadam’s signature unisex Essential $75 Cashmere Sweater is not to be missed.
The tropical decor and array of colorful printed frocks in this NYC shop instantly transports shoppers to the shores of Hawaii, the hills of southern California or the tiny beach towns of Mexico—basically wherever it is you wish you could visit right now. It’s long been one of my favorite places to pick up easy, unique and slightly groovy pieces, or just to browse whenever I need a little spiritual pick-me-up (aka early Spring, when I’m growing very tired of gloomy weather). And while the boutique’s full stock isn’t available to shop online (unless you DM owner Winnie Beattie through the store’s Instagram), the in-house brand does have an ecommerce site that’s rather well stocked.
This New Zealand beauty brand’s Stumbled Across Paradise Face Mask ($45) has become one of my regular self-care habits. It exfoliates, hydrates, brightens and softens my skin like no other. Girl Undiscovered puts a major emphasis on using only natural ingredients, like thanaka, kanuka honey and propolis (another bee product), as well as giving back to the community it’s based in. That means the brand helps pay for young women to complete their education and plants additional thanaka trees to offset the ones it harvests.
As of last week, I’ve taken to sending my friends and family postcards and little handwritten notes in lieu of our regular dinners, trips and coffee dates. An added bonus has been that I’m finally working my way through my stationery collection and can therefore justify stocking up on even more floral and cartoon adorned cards from Rifle Paper Co. Of course, if written correspondence isn’t really your thing there are also art prints, phone cases, planners and even Keds, all of which are covered in the brand’s signature blooms. There’s also a new home decor collaboration with another small brand, Loloi, if you’ve been on the hunt for a cheerful new rug or some throw pillows.
As someone who owns a few too many micro minis bags, super bright totes and purses in bold patterns, I’ve lately found myself wanting to invest in a more classic, minimalist handbag that will go with everything and last for years. Enter Imago-A. The NYC-based brand is all about sleek, chic designs that still feel special, like trapeze totes, shoulder bags with circular lucite buckles and oh-so-subtle colorblocking on small (but not too small) half-moon minis.
Each summer I like to treat myself to a new bathing suit, and this year I’m pretty sure that suit will come from Fella. I stumbled upon the Australian label’s Instagram earlier this month and instantly fell in love with the variety of unexpected colors, cool textures, wide range of cuts and styles, that deliver a slightly retro vibe. It doesn’t hurt that the brand also has a cult following among celebs like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Kendall Jenner. There are sexy bra-like tops and cheeky bottoms as well as super-classic one-pieces, high-waisted bottoms and full-coverage bandeaus. There’s also a style guide to help determine exactly which designs are best for your body type
Sustainable and ethical fine jewelry brands are not exactly a dime a dozen, but AUrate is hoping to change that. The NYC-based company specializes in delicate pieces durable enough that you never have to take them off (yes, even in the shower). Dainty bracelets, chain necklaces and intricate rings abound with pieces to fit a variety of budgets (prices range from $50 up through $800). There’s also an at-home try-on service if you’re the type of gal who likes to see something IRL before committing to a purchase. And who couldn’t use a little extra sparkle right about now?
Topanga from Boy Meets World has been my hair idol for about two decades, so when I heard actress Danielle Fishel was launching her own all-natural haircare line I immediately flipped my lid. She was inspired to break into beauty while pregnant with her son and found herself searching for natural products that actually worked. I got to test the line back in December and it’s been my go-to shampoo and conditioner ever since. The slight lemon scent is refreshing without being overpowering and the volumizing ingredients have my hair looking Topanga-approved without any hard chemicals or a ridiculously high price tag.
Basically, everything from this quirky brand looks like it could’ve been plucked from your grandpa’s closet in Palm Beach. Hawaiian shirts served as the launching point for founders Mike Sard and Chris Galasso, but it’s the hotel-inspired cabana shirts that I have my eye on. Almost everything on the site is also unisex, meaning I can pretend this purchase is for both my partner and myself (although, let’s be honest, it’s really mostly for me).
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