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5 Independent Shops for the Independent Dallas Fashionista

Dallas is a city full of excitement. This up-and-coming town is far from what an outsider would expect from a southern city, but it is rich in delicious restaurants, a vivacious nightlife and unbelievable shopping. Being from Chicago and moving to Dallas in 2012, I did not have any high expectations considering I grew up in one of the largest cities in the United States, but I was wrong, especially when it came to the shopping.

1. Nicole Kwon

One of the first stores I went to in Dallas that intrigued me was Nicole Kwon Concept Store in Uptown’s West Village. NKCS is a must-go-destination when either visiting Dallas or just looking for all your essential fashion needs. From an exquisite collection of jewelry to high-fashion swimwear all the way to various styles of clothing.

 “I carry a mix of big and small brand names,” owner Nicole Kwon said. “I think probably 60 percent of the merchandise are the brands that are carried in Barney’s New York and the rest, I try to find independent designers, which are not carried in any other stores.”

The store does not consist of one set style of clothing or jewelry, it is a place you can go to and be introduced to a wide variety of different types of looks and brands. When Kwon travels the world to buy merchandise for her store, she doesn’t only buy one particular style.

“It’s a destination place, where both mom and daughter can come and shop,” Kwon said. “Also young professionals that are looking for a versatile outfit that they can wear from work to a night out.”

So it is no surprise that NKCS was awarded D-Magazine’s Best of the Big D: Best Women’s Clothing Boutique in 2013 and the magazines 100 Best Shops in 2014.

“Nicole’s Store feels like an oasis in the sea of basic Dallas stores that sell basically the same thing,” recent employee and current model of the store’s website, Trish Weisberg, said.

While shopping at NKCS, you will feel the fashion inspirations of Paris, Italy, New York, London and L.A., it is almost like stepping out of Dallas and into a world of fashion you never knew existed. Of course it has recognized brands, but it also carries things that are not sold at any other shops in Dallas, and that makes it a one-of-a-kind store. NKCS is a shopping experience everyone can enjoy and I highly recommend visiting the store in Uptown Dallas.

2. Elements

On the corner of Lovers and Armstrong sits an exquisite store called Elements. Elements is a specialty store with the emphasis on small European designers that Dallas shoppers can’t find anywhere else. If you want to find beautiful unique clothing, accessories and jewelry this is one of the local shops you need to visit.

“The value proposition for the store owner is that she wants to provide Dallas shoppers with clothes you can’t find anywhere else in the area,” sales associate, stylist and assistant buyer Whitney Bassarear said.

Although the store is a bit pricey, it is worth the visit because of the elegant atmosphere and beautiful way they display their products. Their median price range is about $400 to $500, however they do carry jewelry pieces that are around $100.

D Magazine voted Elements the Best Jewelry Story in Dallas in 2014 and were just recently voted Best Designer Store in 2015. Besides those two more recent awards, Elements continues to be featured in the “Best of the Big D” and only continues to thrive as a local, independent store in Dallas.

Elements carries several name brands that are only sold at their store. “We also carry Valery Kovalska, whom we discovered on the streets of Paris,” Bassarear said. “She is a 19-year-old prodigy and makes everything by hand, so very eccentric, architectural pieces that have really done well in the Dallas market.” Valery Kovalska was recently picked up by Barneys New York earlier this year, but before that, she only sold to one store in the United States and that was Elements.

Even if the prices are out of your range, it is definitely one store you should check out. Besides its rare collections, it offers a distinctive vibe for the fashion obsessed person.

3. Canary

Venturing past Eatzi’s on Lovers Lane in Dallas is not something I have ever done or thought of doing, but one store changed that. While asking a number of people what their favorite local shops are in Dallas, one name continued to come up: Canary. Now as much as I consider myself a “fashionista” this was a store I had never heard of or seen in the four years I’ve lived in this city. I quickly found out why that was, it was on the west side of Lovers Lane.

 “Canary is definitely off the beaten path,” store director Molly Bruder said. “I think that it is kind of an up-and-coming area because it is actually really central to Highland Park, Preston Hollow and North Dallas.”

Although the three-year-old store, Canary, seems to be in an unknown area, especially for people who are not familiar with the Dallas area, it happens to have a long list of clientele. In 2014, Canary won two prestige awards from D Magazine. In 2014, Canary won the Best of the Big D award for the Best Shop for Designer-Label Women’s Fashion and was listed as one of the 100 Best Shops in Dallas.

“We definitely had some more exposure after being recognized by D Magazine,” Bruder said. “For the most part we get our customers from word of mouth because we are in a new area.”

Aside from the vibrant yellow entrance and windows of the shop, the inside is full of fashionable items ranging from casual shirts to one-of-a-kind dresses made by one of their private designers, including Roksanda Ilincic and Stella Jean. In addition to clothes, Canary also carries an assortment of jewelry, purses, shoes and even sunglasses. Since Canary is on the higher end of the spectrum when it comes to price range, their accessories are more affordable for the perfect birthday or hostess gift. Plus, you won’t have to worry about giving the same gift as someone else because of their rare selection.

Canary does an excellent job of creating a serene environment with comfortable seating throughout the store and a trouble-free, effortless display of all their items so you don’t miss a thing. Besides the welcoming atmosphere, the owner and employees find it particularly important to create and maintain client relationships.

“We emphasize client relationships so we are constantly reaching out to clients, helping them find pieces for special occasions, or knowing their figures and what they like,” Bruder said. “We find that the more laid back our store feels, the more it feels like you are shopping with a friend not just a salesperson.”

Visiting and shopping at Canary was undeniably one of the best experiences I have encountered throughout this adventure and my time shopping in Dallas. It is a store worth visiting and venturing to.

“Our mission is to find new and unique lines all over the world that nobody else has and curate a really interesting and visually exciting experience.”

4. Dear Hannah

For the girl on a college student budget, Dear Hannah is the perfect boutique to shop and truly get your moneys worth. Dear Hannah is not only priced well but is also just five minutes walking distance from SMU’s campus. Located in Snider Plaza, Dear Hannah is a laid back, more casual local business that has been open for two years.

 “Our clients love shopping here,” owner of Dear Hannah, Hannah Caillier said. “They feel like we bring a different style and a different vibe to Dallas.”

Dear Hannah’s style is a little more bohemian, beach-y and laid back than most high-end stores in the area. They try to bring a different style and a different vibe to Dallas. Caillier makes sure that her store stands out, in more ways than one.

“We only carry six of everything, so once that item is gone, that’s it,” Caillier said. “You come in here and you know you’re going to get something different and something everybody else doesn’t have.”

“I have lived in Dallas for a little over a year and because of my job I am expected to always be dressed well,” assistant buyer at Neiman Marcus, Annie Rolfe said. “But I just got out of college and can’t afford that, so Dear Hannah is my favorite place to shop and I always look my best.”

Dear Hannah is very affordable with the price range anywhere from $18 to $68. “Our accessories are $16 to $42 and are always buy one get one half off,” Caillier said. “And our apparel ranges from $28 to $68.”

In addition to reasonable prices, Dear Hannah also provides four brands that are exclusive to their store. You can only find the designs of Wanderlust, Confetti, Bow + Arrow and Elizabeth Ryan at Dear Hannah, which lessens the opportunity for you to be wearing the same thing as something else.

“Our mission is being known for our customer service and our laid back, really fun atmosphere,” Caillier said. “We are very easy going, helpful, on trend with a low price point.”

5. Bask Boutique

Being from the Midwest, I am blessed with only a few good weeks of tanning and bathing suit weather each summer, but that is not the case down here. When I moved to Dallas the amount of swimsuits I owned tripled in size, but unfortunately I wasn’t in love with the process of buying bathing suits. I only knew of a limited selection of stores, and they were mostly all online, so when I did receive new suits, they usually didn’t look like I thought they would or they just didn’t fit. The process of shopping for and buying a bathing suit was torture, until Bask Boutique.

Bask Boutique is a boutique specialty store specializing in designer swim. Located in Snider Plaza, Bask has been open for a little over two years. Megan Gembler, the owner of the boutique, saw that there was a huge need in the marketplace for designer swimwear targeted towards the under 40 demographic.

“The only other store right now is Everything But Water and they target a different demographic than what we target,” Gembler said. “Their demographic is over 40 and our demographic is under 40, so we were able to fill that niche in the market.”

Bask Boutique added to the contemporary stores in Snider Plaza that cater to SMU students. “I love being in Snider Plaza because a lot of the businesses are local,” Gembler said. “I love that this is right in the middle of Highland Park and it’s right across from SMU; SMU students are probably our main shoppers.”

Gembler orders a limited stock of swimwear, including bathing suits, cover-ups, dresses and sandals. Bask doesn’t carry a huge stock of every style that comes in because that is why their customers are not shopping at big department stores, they want something different and something no one else has.

“I only buy my swimwear from Bask Boutique now,” Dallas resident Jordan Duval said. “I shop here twice a year and they always have something different.”

When it comes to their shoppers, they have a great customer return rate and a huge factor is from social media, especially their Instagram. Bask has never paid for any advertising since they opened, everything has been word of mouth and referral, but they are looking to change that. Gembler’s next step is teaming up with bloggers in Dallas to try and get their name out a little bit more and advertise their unique selection of brands.

“I couldn’t believe we didn’t have a store like this in Texas already when its hot nine out of 10 months out of the year, so when I started working on the business plan I wanted to open a boutique that sells everything. I wanted it to be different and more specialty.”

Bask Boutique was born.

Photographs by Avery Hansen

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