40 Small Fashion Brands to Follow, Shop, and Support
While popular fashion designers may immediately come to mind when you consider what's cool to shop at the moment, don't knock the small retailers and brand owners that are constantly reinventing what's in, offering up unique pieces to add to your closet.
Many of these include lesser-known jewelers, whose creations feel personal and help shine the light on individuality, along with designers that have been celebrity-recognized (see: Saint Mojavi and JW Pei), but may still be in the process of garnering a significant following on Instagram. That's why we're making it easy for you to support these emerging labels: sharing direct links to their pages, but also selecting key pieces that could be recognized as signatures of the brand. That way, when you wear them, they'll double as conversation starters.
Whether it's a standout swimsuit you're in search of, for turning heads on beach day (Andrea Iyamah, Ookioh, and Mikoh will help you there), or a new bag that's eye-catching but still functional from the likes of Susan Alexandra, Mowalola, or Modern Picnic, you are bound to discover what will surely become a no-brainer shopping destination for years to come.
Ahead, learn about how these startups were dreamed up by their founders, find out what demographics they appeal to, and add them to your arsenal to browse through first, rather than immediately jumping to support a world-renowned company. Chances are, you'll be recognized for your originality one way or another.
— Additional reporting by Nikita Charuza
Lisa Says Gah
Famous for her incredible needlework tapestry corsets, Brooklyn-based Kristin Mallison sources fabrics from all over the world to craft her historical creations, which have been included on APOC, an online retailer that blends clothing and art. Mallison has even recently launched an upholstered Home Sweet Home skirt ($375), which suggests she'll be expanding soon.
The Line by K
The Line by K is an LA-based brand created in 2015 by Karla Deras. The designer creates clothes focused on the idea that basics don't have to be basic, just like the Reese mock neck top ($69) and Vana skirt ($149) that come with strategically placed seams to highlight your frame.
Rhode is a collection of romantic, vacation-ready dresses that was started by longtime friends Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers. It's become famous for its flouncy silhouettes — take the Ella dress ($435) for example, which would look equally cool with a pair of low-top sneakers and an anklet as it would with strappy sandals.
Not only does Ookioh make trendy swimwear pieces that are superwearable, the brand is sustainable, too, making its pieces from recycled water bottles. The Como top ($50) and Monaco bottom ($50) are both signatures, and you can shop them in cool color combinations.
If you're looking for a streetwear brand to support right now, check out Aries. The London-based brand has an array of tie-dye sweatshirts and sweatpants that look extremely cozy. We're big fans of the up-cycled premium Temple sweatshort ($155), which looks great styled with a ribbed tank top and sneakers.
For jewelry that'll brighten up your day, turn your attention to Hart Studio. The brand has everything from quirky smiley-face pendants to custom charm necklaces and this 18" Love heart necklace ($158) crafted with a '70s aesthetic from the Charleston-based studio.
Catbird is a Brooklyn-born jewelry shop that has quickly become a staple in New York. The jewelry is made with recycled or fair-trade gold in the brand's studio. In recent years, it's become a popular destination for wedding jewelry, including delicate bands like the Laurie Fleming Daphne ($825).
Frēda Salvador is a San Francisco-based boutique shoe label. The brand's designs are cut and sewn in a small, family-run factory in the town of Elda, Spain. The flats, slides, and espadrilles ($195, originally $225) are unique in craftsmanship and design detail.
Whimsy and Row
Rokh was created by Seoul-born designer Rok Hwang. His pieces often depict "unfinished raw mood" and include deconstructed or avant-garde items like this viscose cardigan tank top set ($210, originally $700). Rokh is stocked at Farfetch, SSENSE, Yoox, Mytheresa, and Shopbop, among others.
Cecilie Bahnsen is always romantic and always dreamy. Even in head-to-toe black, the puff sleeves, airy silk materials, and draped silhouettes give off that elegant vibe we all strive for. Take this jacquard dress ($1,524, originally $3,810) with a tulip skirt and cold, off-shoulder sleeves, for example — it makes a statement that's not for the faint of heart.
Shop boldly colored, tailored work pieces for the modern woman interested in adventure and making a statement. Ama Nwoke features some crop tops, miniskirts, and going-out statement pieces, too, including the powerful Elena yellow set ($228, originally $375).
Phlemuns features gender neutral statement pieces like crystal-fringed denim and head-to-toe cloud prints. These clothes, created by James Flemons, are not for the faint of heart. You might recall that he created outfits for Solange Knowles's "Don't Touch My Hair" video. Expect ribbing, cutouts, and vibrant colors, as reflected in this Pride edition backless tank ($85).
Nigerian fashion designer Dumebi Iyamah launched the first official Andrea Iyamah swim collection in 2013, and as a whole, the brand aims to channel ethnic cultures through design. The bold pieces — there are plenty of avant-garde dresses, tops, and bottoms — are for the most adventurous and fashion forward. The petal-esque ruffles on the Kiara bikini ($210) are recognizable anywhere.
Founded by Alicia Sandve, who moved from Singapore to pursue fashion in NYC, HEYMAEVE aims to support women and sexual assault survivors by donating a portion of proceeds to non-profit organizations that protect victims. The wear everyday jewelry includes some great layering pieces, such as the Ysabel chainlink necklace ($75).