In the last year there’ve been a number of daunting articles and studies highlighting a decline in retail sales, and many experts cite the proliferation of internet shopping, the nemesis of a vibrant business district, as a cause. Larger chain stores are buckling under the pressure and we’re seeing storefront closures from larger companies like J.Crew, American Apparel, and Macy’s. Criticism of shopping trends has been a topic of great debate among economists and sociologists who seek to understand whether this is a result of income disparity, reliance on cheap fast-fashion, ease of purchase, or other factors. Regardless: The future for brick-and-mortars (and thereby real estate in general) hangs in the balance. 

For boutiques, this problem must be tackled with a multifaceted approach, including riding that wave of the future: getting online platforms to go viral. This is a huge and costly undertaking, but the other side of this journey might be a great “leveler” in the larger picture of retail commerce.

There is a call to action here—both for consumers as well as smaller retail operations. For customers: It’s time to vote with your dollar every time you spend and recognize the care, knowledge, customer service, and regional impact your neighborhood brick-and-mortars have. This affects you and your city in major ways, and much more money stays within our immediate economy when your dollar is spent locally.

After spending so much of my time ruminating about this issue and searching for positivity (full disclosure: I’m a shop owner myself), one thing that gives me great pleasure is the number of local retail stores that boast house lines for their shops. These are collections of apparel, jewelry, apothecary, and myriad other things that can’t be purchased anywhere else. Large retailers can stock all the major labels and mass-marketed products they like, but a great “equalizer” is that boutique house lines are less homogenized, more styled, and ultimately more compelling to the modern shopper who covets autonomy when they shop. 

There’s a part of me that actually thinks this could be the precipice of a renaissance in independent manufacturing demands. If cards are played right and independent e-commerce is lifted as much as possible, brick-and-mortars will remain a remarkable feature in each respective neighborhood. With this in mind, I have to say how impressed I am with what I’ve been seeing from local brands like EcoVibe Apparel. Between their two retail locations, online store, and their vibrant house line, this company is hitting it hard.

Their SS17 lookbook features a new line geared toward plus sizes called the “Curve Collection” as well as some incredibly tasteful, versatile staples that employ sustainably sourced textiles. The looks we’re seeing from EcoVibe represent a range of sensibilities and occasions—professional, casual, and evening. With careful attention to their impact as a company, owners Leonard and Andrea Allen give customers good reasons to shop at their store. EcoVibe Apparel focuses on affordable, ethical fashion, and as members of One Percent For The Planet, they also donate one percent of all sales to locally based non-profit organizations that have a positive environmental impact.

This most recent lookbook, featuring photography by Allegra Villella, is a garden-inspired guide shot entirely around Northeast Alberta. “We wanted to create a lookbook that captured the essence of spring in the Pacific Northwest, while highlighting the fun and vibrant Northeast Alberta Street neighborhood where our newest store is located,” says Allen. “With on-trend versatile pieces, timeless silhouettes, and soft luxurious fabrics, our spring and summer collection offers a variety of styles for women of all ages and body types.”

You have options when you shop at independent stores such as EcoVibe. Shopping in-person at either of their retail locations will give you the luxury of meeting their knowledgeable staff, learning where products are made and sourced, testing the fit in person, and getting to enjoy a sunny day in a business district full of rad shops. You can also check out their website for some fast, informative online listings. As customers, we can spend our money with intention and impact when we’re updating our wardrobe.

EcoVibe Apparel, 904 NW 23rd and 1408 NE Alberta; Sun-Thurs 11 am-6 pm, Fri-Sat, 11 am-7 pm