Nathalie Massanet, founder
of luxury online boutique Net-A-Porter, once said, “The most important thing is
to follow the consumer.” A new group of e-tailers is taking this to heart by
catering to discerning customers who obsess over impossible-to-get collectibles
and runway exclusives—and who like to browse the latest Paris collections from
the back of a New York City taxicab.
“It’s not about going
to Barneys and finding something to wear,” says Julia Chaplin, author of travel
blog–cum–boutique Gypset, who scours the globe for fabrics and sartorial
inspiration. Instead, these shopkeepers trawl the souks of Marrakesh for the
perfect caftan, haggle with vendors at Massachusetts’ famed Brimfield’s Vintage
Show and woo celebrity designers to create unique capsule collections.
Gone are the days of
sifting through department store webpages for the latest Louboutins or battling
deal-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 also
be inspired, which adds value to the shopping experience,” says 25-year-old
Brooks Cook of Community Collection, a new designer-stocked site that donates
20 percent of its sales to charity. “The trend in discount sites worked great,
but now they’re oversaturated.”
showcasing an emerging atelier in Milan or procuring products from far-flung
locales (Bogota, anyone?), these shopkeepers weave together glossy editorial
and 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 a
one-of-a-kind tweed Chanel jacket? Click this link.)
From an online Mecca
of designer vintage to a digital global marketplace to a members-only site that
takes runway to real life, here are a dozen new online shopkeepers who shun
mass markets in favor of highly curated selections for today’s cyber-shopper.