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Nathalie Massanet, founderof luxury online boutique Net-A-Porter, once said, “The most important thing isto follow the consumer.” A new group of e-tailers is taking this to heart bycatering to discerning customers who obsess over impossible-to-get collectiblesand runway exclusives—and who like to browse the latest Paris collections fromthe back of a New York City taxicab.

“It’s not about goingto Barneys and finding something to wear,” says Julia Chaplin, author of travelblog–cum–boutique Gypset, who scours the globe for fabrics and sartorialinspiration. Instead, these shopkeepers trawl the souks of Marrakesh for theperfect caftan, haggle with vendors at Massachusetts’ famed Brimfield’s VintageShow and woo celebrity designers to create unique capsule collections.

Gone are the days ofsifting through department store webpages for the latest Louboutins or battlingdeal-hungry shoppers on flash sale sites for last season’s Balmain jacket.“People are looking for a destination where they can get something new but alsobe inspired, which adds value to the shopping experience,” says 25-year-oldBrooks Cook of Community Collection, a new designer-stocked site that donates20 percent of its sales to charity. “The trend in discount sites worked great,but now they’re oversaturated.”

Whether it’sshowcasing an emerging atelier in Milan or procuring products from far-flunglocales (Bogota, anyone?), these shopkeepers weave together glossy editorialand hysteria-inducing It items with a hi-tech spin such as posting sales on Twitter.(In the market for an $80,000 crocodile Birkin? Sign up here. How about aone-of-a-kind tweed Chanel jacket? Click this link.)

From an online Meccaof designer vintage to a digital global marketplace to a members-only site thattakes runway to real life, here are a dozen new online shopkeepers who shunmass markets in favor of highly curated selections for today’s cyber-shopper.


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