Independently owned mini department stores are popping up everywhere, from South America to the Middle East. Curated by creative souls, these shops don't react to trends—they start them. Here, a few of our favorites: In Brazil, architect Isay Weinfeld opted for an ultra-minimal wood-paneled façade at São Paulo's Clube Chocolate (913 Rua Oscar Freire; 55-11/3084-1500), where floor-to-roof palm trees offset racks of looks from Brazilian stars Amir Slama and Carlos Miele. • New York's Utowa (17 W. 18th St.; 212/366-0891) is a Zen retail zone that delivers a "complete sensory experience," according to its owner, the former CEO of Shu Uemura. Each season, he adapts the store's art and music to display the latest from Vivienne Westwood and Philippe Dubuc. • At Dubai's Sauce (The Village, Jumeirah Beach Rd.; 97-14/344-7270), rising young designers (Tata Naka, Willow) share the shelves with Euro favorites (Chloé, Vanessa Bruno) and housewares by Karim Rashid in a quirky fun-house space (note the swing beside the main entrance). • Paris, too, has a version of the mini department store. Madame André (34 Rue du Mont-Thabor; 33-1/42-96-27-24) sources vintage jewelry, toys from Japan, and couture collectibles, then parts with them from a closet-sized, boudoir-esque boutique.