They're clever, stylish, and more niche than ever. The new shops of Denver's indie retail scene say something about our evolving town (and taste). Vegan footwear? Handmade papers? Japano-funk? Premium olive oils? We've found your purveyors. Not to mention an influx of fashion hotspots brimming with urban-inspired threads, flirty dresses, and handmade jewelry. If the vibe seems decidedly feminine, chalk it up to our burgeoning tribe of women entrepreneurs. Another trend: the movement toward ecologically and socially responsible merchandise. Here, in no particular order, our 20 favorite discoveries.
Peruse our list of Denver's most venerable boutiques here.
Two Sole Sisters
The goods This shoe boutique brings to Boulder a fashion selection worthy of New York City—but with comfort fit for mountain chicks. We tried on a pair of Modern Vintage stiletto-platform booties that actually felt like running shoes on our feet (well, almost). Turns out the foot beds were injected with silicone.
The wallet damage Scoop up some shoes for $120 and still have some left over for the beckoning jewelry case...or drop $375 on one killer Modern Vintage pair.
Why we'll go back Owner-sisters Laurel and Lindsey Tate also fill the shelves with fun and funky accessories, like the J.P. & Mattie crocheted-flower handbag we were obsessing over a few months back. 1703 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-442-0404, www.2solesisters.net
The goods Eco-excellence spills from this shop, from the local love (Colorado designers) to the manufacturing policies (recycled or organic materials). The owners stock brands that give back to the environment and other causes; purchase a Serendipity tote—which looks stellar over your shoulder—and the proceeds go toward cervical cancer research. The Baggy Shirts reusable bags, made from recycled threads, can double as purses or shopping bags. And the hand-sewn "Be the Change" shirts from KDS out of Boulder seem like wardrobe essentials this election season.
The wallet damage Printed tees will run you $28, while jeans, dresses, and funky blouses can approach $200—but you'll leave with a clean eco-conscience.
Why we'll go back The homey digs. Hardwood floors and a brick fireplace make for a welcoming environment that renders shopping here a relaxing experience, not a chore. 1455 S. Pearl St., 720-570-5076, www.unityboutique.com
Rock the Cradle
The goods You're that hip musician couple that's suddenly found yourselves with a mini-me and too much fuzzy-bunny-cutsie baby attire. This shop's got you covered, from stylin' bibs to Bob Marley-inspired lullaby CDs. Your little guys can rock out in baby and toddler looks by Mini Rotation, Kicky Pants, and Kate Quinn Organic. Find local lines here, too, like DadGear bags, Space Monkey diaper balm and baby powder, and handmade dresses by Bella Sera Baby.
The wallet damage Baby clothing tops out at $40. Affordable DIY option: Buy a blank onesie for $12, pick out a $5 iron-on patch, and adhere it right at the counter.
Why we'll go back Rock the Cradle seems to truly understand its customers; the merchandise is fun—in a trendy, printed-image kind of way—without being cliché and overdone (no message tees or "Spit Happens" here). Plus, there's a kids' corner and even a private nursing station. 18 S. Broadway, 303-733-3707, www.rockthecradlebaby.net
The goods This sun-drenched shop in Olde Town Arvada features ethically and ecologically made goodies from fashion lines like Stewart Brown, Splendid, Ella Moss, and Joe's Jeans, as well as ephemeral jewelry from Lafayette-based Candori.
The wallet damage An über-soft organic cotton frock will easily cost you a C-note, but wardrobe basics—like a $24 Alternative Apparel crewneck T-shirt—ring up as eco-fashion deals.
Why we'll go back Stop in on Sunday mornings and you're likely to get the undivided attention of co-owner Hallie Wastell, who will guide you to styles that complement your body type and your environmental ethics. Plus, all the packaging is made from recycled materials. Kudos. 7405 Grandview Ave., Arvada, 720-379-5739, www.lovelyboutique.net
Oliv You & Me
The goods This tidy olive and espresso boutique in Boulder is jam-packed with as many as 50 extra-virgin olive oils hand-picked from all over the world, plus olive-themed kitchen goodies like ceramic serving platters, cookbooks, and gourmet pasta.
The wallet damage $11 gets you 250 ml of Spanish oil, and so on up to the $48 Italian variety (500 ml). Sure, it's pricier than you'd find in the grocery store, but this stuff is imported, top-shelf quality.
Why we'll go back We never miss an opportunity for a midshopping snack; the boutique is also a cafe that whips up espresso drinks and offers handmade sandwiches with ciabatta, prosciutto, and cheese. 2043 Broadway, Boulder, 303-444-1118, www.olivym.com
The goods Trendy thirtysomethings with slim frames and fat wallets will fall in love with A.Line. Labels like M Missoni, Catherine Malandrino, and Ella Moss hang elegantly along the walls of this chic yet industrial-looking shop. Silky T-shirts from Velvet by Graham & Spencer and killer denim from Goldsign and Genetic offer casual looks, while gorgeous flirty dresses from Gryphon make you wish you had a party to attend.
The wallet damage Ouch. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything for less than $80.
Why we'll go back Whether it's for an ex's upcoming wedding or a 20-year reunion, every once in a while we need a to-die-for outfit. This is the go-to spot for the ensemble of your dreams. Plus, with the new Ella Bleu just a few doors down, we can hit two great shops in one trip. 5375 Landmark Place, Greenwood Village, 303-773-8200, www.aline-online.com
De Stijl Clothing
The goods De Stijl—Dutch for "the style"—is tastefully stocked with a well-edited selection of Los Angeles-inspired urban looks. The store keeps tabs on up-and-coming, underground designers of the sort that celebs are hip to: Think short cotton-silk dresses and artsy faux-shearling fisherman's vests by Charlotte Ronson, Modal and cashmere Kain Label T-shirts, and plenty of funky-yet-functional men's blazers from Amsterdam's Scotch & Soda.
The wallet damage Pieces run around $130 on average; most are under $250, and the occasional find, like a plain tank, goes for as little as $19.50.
Why we'll go back More than 30 percent of the designs are eco-friendly, meaning the garments are made from organic fabrics and sustainable materials. 300 Fillmore St., Suite 2A, 303-321-1585, www.destijlclothing.com
Pink's, Straight from L.A
The goods A bulletin board layered with magazine clippings of the latest and greatest in fashion serves as a little reminder that Pink's is in-the-know when it comes to girly clothing trends, and the shop carries an ever-changing inventory of Los Angeles-based brands like Big Star Jeans and Niki Viki Apparel.
The wallet damage Nothing in the store is more than $100—reasonable enough to give the ol' wardrobe a monthly facelift.
Why we'll go back Trying stuff on is a kick in the hot-pink, tentlike dressing rooms—especially when it looks better on you than on the rack. Bonus: The sales staff keeps bowls of Good & Plenty's and pink M&Ms filled to the brim. 745 S. University Blvd., Denver, 720-570-2486
The goods High-end and rising designers like Lauren Merkin, bocUe, and Treesje fill this unpretentious and super-friendly boutique, known for its collection of one-of-a-kind handbags. Pick out a sweet dress or feminine top to complement your chosen purse.
The wallet damage Find a funky bracelet for $18 or drop a bunch of Benjamins on a lust-worthy bag—up to $800.
Why we'll go back Every time we visit, it feels like we're in on one of Denver's best-kept secrets. It's the only shop in Denver that carries items from the collections of SBG Designs and Jewelry by Beth Lauren: semiprecious stone earrings woven together with delicate gold wire, and sophisticated necklaces hand-layered with 14-karat gold chains, metallic threads, and lace. 2432 E. Third Ave., 303-322-3531, www.dsadditions.com