Independent Edinburgh Guide: Ethical shopping for the design-obsessed

I am a huge fan of independent retailers. I’d choose supporting a new designer working out of their kitchen over a high street retailer any day, and I have a serious Etsy habit. I just love the idea that the dress, bracelet, hat or pair of mittens I’m holding in my hand was made by someone who enjoyed creating it, not some underpaid factory worker in a sweatshop thousands of miles away. That being said, the hippie aesthetic just isn’t for me. So would you buy a product you aren’t in love with, just for the sake of it being ethical? Or would you rather find something that is exactly what you were looking for, knowing that it is also ethical?

I’ve spent years shopping – er I mean “doing research” – at Edinburgh’s independent retailers, and eating cake at independent cafes around the city. This is not a list thrown together using a Google search, these are genuine recommendations from a cake-loving, shopaholic local. 

Shop

Hannah Zakari: This place is one of my favourite shops in Edinburgh. So much so that I’ve actually blogged about them – twice. You can read my thoughts here and here. Every piece of jewellery from here is designed or handmade by emerging designers, and they are all stunning. Sure, you can go buy a necklace from Topshop for about the same price, but why would you want to? If you buy from an independent retailer, not only will you be supporting small businesses (and designers), but you’ll also be getting something unique. It’ll last a hell of a lot longer as well. 43 Candlemaker Row, Grassmarket 

Those Were The Days Vintage: I followed Those Were the Days Vintage on Instagram for months before I realised they were an actual brick-and-mortar shop in Edinburgh. I really should hang my head in shame, because this place is an absolute gem. There are no jumbled racks of ballgowns mixed in with muumuus and crumpled polyester jumpers here, it’s all hand-picked and in impeccable condition. 26 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge 

Godiva: One of my absolute favourite places to shop in Edinburgh, with the most perfectly curated collection of independent designers and vintage. Everything is beautiful, with a quirky twist, from fabulous printed dresses WITH POCKETS to knitwear with flattering sequinned detailing, Little Moo laser-cut acrylic jewellery and the cutest hand knitted mittens. I would very much love to move in. Maybe there’s room for me next to the vintage Christmas jumpers? 9 West Port, Grassmarket

The Scottish Design Exchange: Located in Ocean Terminal, this incredible space houses the works of over 120 designers based in Scotland. You’ll find everything from fashion and textiles to fine art, homewares, accessories, and music, and most of the team who work in the retail space are either artists or makers themselves. There is so much fresh talent here.  First Floor, Ocean Terminal, Leith

Flamingosaurus Rex: I couldn’t write a guide on independent businesses in Edinburgh without mentioning my own place, could I? Flamingosaurus Rex is a new gallery and design shop showcasing the work of up-and-coming Scottish artists and makers.  The idea  came about from numerous conversations with friends over the years about how difficult it is to break into the art scene. I wanted to create a space for awesome artists and designers to show their work, with new exhibitions every few weeks and collaborations with the wider art and music scene in Edinburgh. We also throw a wicked launch party. 22 Bruntsfield Place, Bruntsfield 

Armchair Books: I remember seeing a wee handwritten sign in this cosy second-hand bookshop saying “If you fall asleep reading in here, this is a number to phone and we will come to let you out”. If that doesn’t say all you need to know about this place , then I’m not sure what more I can tell you. Very Black Books-esque, but the owner is far less belligerent. 72-74 West Port, Tollcross

Word Power Books: If activism is where your interests lie, then you definitely need to visit this bookshop. They specialise in publications from independent publishers, small presses, new writers and emerging talent; if you have any questions about LGBTQA rights, feminism, Scottish history or socialism, this is the place to visit. The staff know everything on the shelves and always have the best recommendations. Be prepared to get lost in here. 43-45 West Nicolson Street, Newington

Edinburgh Book Shop: This place is as close to a “local” as I’ve got, and I’ll probably visit at least once a week. Everybody who works in this wee shop is a total bibliophile, and they not only know every single book on the shelves, but they’ve probably read them all too. I once went in looking for a vegan cookbook and they could actually recommend which one had the best butternut squash soup recipe in it. Not that’s what I call attention to detail! These guys will also order anything in that is currently in print, so if you can’t find it in store they’re more than happy to locate it for you. 219 Bruntsfield Place, Bruntsfield

Miss Bizio Couture: When I first walked into Miss Bizio’s, I felt like I was in someone’s wardrobe. Someone’s ridiculously enviable wardrobe. The owner has been collecting vintage fashion and couture pieces for over 30 years, so each piece is something she personally fell in love with. Each item of clothing, each purse, handbag, and pair of shoes has a story behind it. If you ask her nicely, she’ll tell it to you. 41 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge

 

Eat/Drink

Hula: Hula does the best smoothies and juices in Edinburgh, the most photogenic acai bowls (served in a coconut), and the very best avocado on sourdough toast. The cafe is also an art space, featuring works from local artists. Oh and did I mention that they ALWAYS have at least one or two vegan cake options every single day, just in case the art and the healthy juices wasn’t tempting enough? 103-105 West Bow, Grassmarket

Five Degrees Cafe: My friend posted a photo of her pup enjoying a full doggy dinner at this cafe right near my gallery (and my flat), so of course I had to check it out. They’re dog-friendly, they have plant-based milks for your coffee, and they do an awesome vegan avocado and hummus bagel. Oh and every time a new doggy customer comes in, the owner snaps a photo for the wall – how cute is that? 39 Barclay Place, Edinburgh

 

Style

Semper Tattoo: If you’ve seen some of my tattoos, my latest two additions were done by the very talented Michelle Maddison at Semper. This studio looks nothing like the bare bones utilitarian parlours we’re all used to, and these guys are some of the most talented artists in the city. By appointment only. 7 Grassmarket, Grassmarket

Zara Leoni’s Vintage Salon: I’ve been getting my nails done by Zara (owner of Cutie Cool Nails) for as long as I can remember, and she’s the best. Last year she opened up her own place, which also features vintage styling from Vanity Thrills; if you want to have a look at some of her work, I *might* have written a blog post about some of my favourite nail looks by her. 1 Cambusnethan Street 

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