An eCommerce platform like Shopify lets you start selling immediately and makes it easy to manage both online and real-world transactions. However, whilst Shopify takes care of things like payment and stock management, building a unique website is down to you. Choosing the best free Shopify theme is key to establishing your brand and growing your business.
Choosing the best free Shopify theme is the first step towards building a successful retail website. The right theme will give you a professional image and make it easy for visitors to buy, increasing your conversion rate and improving your customer experience.
There are some technical factors that any business should consider when establishing an online store. For example, your Shopify theme should always provide the following:
- A professional design with user-friendly navigation
- Full customization options
- Mobile responsiveness and fast page loading
- Options for SEO optimization
- Support and automatic software updates
- Compatibility with most Shopify apps
All of the free themes within Shopify’s theme store are optimized for mobile browsing. They support each of the Shopify plugins in the app store and come with dedicated support. For example, a theme like Debut would integrate seamlessly with a landing page builder like Pagefly or a Shopify Social Proof app. Third-party themes (like those from Template Monster or Colourlib) may not integrate with every app store plugin and do not include the same level of technical support.
What retail and fashion websites should look for
There are some details that affect retail and fashion more than other industries. For example, fashion websites usually have high return rates (over a third of clothes bought online are returned). With that in mind, fashion websites need a free Shopify theme that makes it easy for customers to find items that will fit. You should pay particular attention to these key factors:
- The amount of detail (including HD images) provided by product pages
- How easy it is to add and remove products from your site
- The ability to catalogue large numbers of products with numerous variations
- How flexible the menu is and how easy it is to find the right products
Choosing the best Shopify theme can involve some technical questions. Elsewhere, we have published detailed advice on how to choose the best Shopify theme.
Each of the themes we selected were built for fashion and retail websites. In each case, we measured the page speed for the preview and gave the theme a rating for performance, appearance, and how flexible it is.
Appearance: 6/10 Flexibility: 6/10 Performance: 8/10
Preview Debut theme
Debut comes in a “default” and “light” layout. Both of them are simple, attractive and suitable for any store. The theme allows you to build professional pages with high-quality images and conforms to a traditional website layout.
Unfortunately, the theme does not provide either a sidebar or a mega menu, so it won’t accommodate a large catalogue. The product pages are also quite basic, and you will have to use plugins to provide features like customer ratings.
Reasons to choose Debut
- A clean and professional design with searchable category pages, a multi-level menu, and a promotions banner.
- SEO and mobile-friendly structure
- You can display different versions of each product
Reasons to avoid Debut
- The lack of a mega menu or side bar makes product discovery less efficient
- The structure is clear and coherent but the design is quite basic
- There are very few customisation options for the header and footer
- The product pages are restrictive and limit the information you can provide above the fold
Appearance: 7/10 Flexibility: 7/10 Performance: 9/10
Preview Minimal theme
Minimal offers a dedicated “fashion” layout with products arranged in a grid format. Like Debut, the theme comes with searchable category pages and HD product images can be magnified by a visitor. If you’re looking for simple and clean store design, with a limited number of products, Minimal is the best option.
Reasons to choose Minimal
- The slideshow block supports large HD images of your best products
- Category pages provide flexible search and filter options
- Product pages are reasonably complete, with the ability to zoom on product images
- You can increase average orders with a “related products” module.
Reasons to avoid Minimal
- The design is still recognisable as a Shopify theme, and there is a limit to how far you can customise it to suit your brand
- The shopping cart and login links are contained in a top bar, rather than with the menu options
Appearance: 7/10 Flexibility: 7/10 Performance: 9/10
Preview Supply theme
Supply is a theme designed for stores with a large inventory. This makes it one of the best free Shopify themes for jewelry stores, fashion stores, or any other time you’re trying to make a large number of items easily navigable. Both layouts, “blue” and “light” are clean and elegant, and the grid layout makes it easy for browsers to view a large number of products quickly.
Reasons to choose Supply
- Category pages can be filtered according to a number of different criteria
- The slideshow feature is more functional than other themes
- It supports all currencies and currency overrides
Reasons to avoid Supply
- It is not especially mobile-friendly
- The sidebar only allows users to view categories (not individual products)
- There is no ability to zoom on product images
Appearance: 8/10 Flexibility: 6/10 Performance: 5/10
Preview Brooklyn theme
Brooklyn is one of the best free Shopify themes for pop-up fashion stores. The theme provides two styles to choose from (“classic” and “playful”) and gives you more flexibility to customise the appearance according to your brand. The layout of the product grid is dynamic and will automatically change depending on how many products are displayed.
Reasons to choose Brooklyn
- Slide-out cart format allows customers to add more items to their basket without leaving the page
- Ability to feature a YouTube/Vimeo video front and center on your home page to engage with new customers immediately
- Slideshow header allowing you to showcase multiple product/brand images at the top of your home page
- The styling is more bespoke than most free Shopify themes
Reasons to avoid Brooklyn
- The menu is restrictive, making the navigation difficult (especially for stores with a large number of products)
- There is limited customisation for the shopping cart
- product images on the product page are arranged vertically, making it difficult to scroll through multiple images
5. Debutify (Third-party theme)
Appearance: 8/10 Flexibility: 9/10 Performance: 2/10
Preview Debutify theme
Debutify is a a free Shopify theme provided by external developers. It provides far more design flexibility than the options from the Shopify theme store and you can add different kinds of functionality by paying for a Premium version.
Reasons to choose Debutify
- Debutify themes are optimized for dropshipping
- There are a large number of add-ons available for Premium users
- The theme is available in 20+ languages
- The theme comes with helpful beginner courses
Reasons to avoid Debutify
- If you want to add functionality to your store, you need to pay a monthly subscription fee of $19-97.
- Since the theme is more complex, it is not as user-friendly as Shopify’s own themes
- We measured slow loading speeds for the theme preview
Appearance: 6/10 Flexibility: 4/10 Performance: 9/10
Preview Simple theme
The Simple theme is clean and beautiful with plenty of white space. All three layouts (“light”, “beauty”, and “toy”) stick to the sidebar menu, which makes this ideal for specialist stores with a large number of product categories. Helpfully, the theme allows you to showcase recommended product pages.
Reasons to choose Simple
- Accordion-style sidebar menu allows you to display products and collections easily
- Product recommendations provide opportunities for upselling
- Image zoom gives customers a closer look and extra product details when they hover over an image
- Simple has the most complete basket page of any Shopify theme
Reasons to avoid Simple
- The absence of a header is unconventional and makes the theme look unfinished.
- The absence of a drop-down menu makes it difficult to browse all of your products quickly
Appearance: 7/10 Flexibility: 6/10 Performance: 9/10
Preview Boundless theme
This theme comes in two styles (“black and white” or “vibrant”) and is designed to showcase your product photography. The home page features slideshows, fading effects, and a stick category bar. It is also one of the best free Shopify themes for displaying product galleries.
Reasons to choose Boundless
- Sticky navigation keeps the menu fixed at the top of the page as you scroll
- Slideshows, product galleries, and collection images make it easy to showcase your products
- Reach your clients personally with a YouTube/Vimeo video on your home page
Reasons to avoid Boundless
- It is difficult to resize images
- Product variants are difficult to showcase
Appearance: 9/10 Flexibility: 8/10 Performance: 7/10
Preview Thalia theme
Thalia is a visually appealing free Shopify theme by Athemes. The navigation elements are flexible and include both a top menu and sidebar. This is also the most professional-looking free Shopify theme on our list and provides more features than most of the options in the theme store. For example, you can customise the typography, colors, and layout (which is not possible with many of the other options).
Reasons to choose Thalia
- Attractive professional-looking design
- Advanced filters for product types and specs
- Swatches for displaying product colors on a specific product page
Reasons to avoid Thalia
- Some display errors on mobile phone
- Do not have 24/7 support.
Appearance: 9/10 Flexibility: 8/10 Performance: 3/10
Preview Fashe theme
Like Thalia, Fashe combines a top menu with a sidebar, making navigation easier than any of the options from the Shopify theme store. The theme was created by external developers Colourlib, who specialise in WordPress templates but also offer Shopify themes. Unlike Thalia, there are some question marks over the loading speed for this theme on mobile devices.
Reasons to choose Fashe
- Flexible menu design with drop-down top menu and sidebar
- Built-in top bar for promoting sales and offers
- Parralax background images
Reasons to choose Fashe
- Limited support available
- Potentially slow, especially for mobile devices
Appearance: 10/10 Flexibility: 9/10 Performance: 8/10
Preview Suitup theme
Suitup is a multipurpose theme listed on Template Monster. It provides far more functionality and design flexibility than any other option on this list, with a full mega menu to make product discovery more efficient. Unfortunately, the added functionality comes at an additional cost. Although you can download the theme for free by sharing the page on your social media channels, support and updates will end up costing you as much money as a paid theme.
Reasons to choose Suitup
- Exceptional flexibility and functionality
- Easy-to-navigate site design including fully functioning mega menu
- Added features to improve your conversion rate
Reasons to avoid Suitup
- Limited support unless you pay for a subscription
- Some functionality and pages will incur additional costs
Appearance: 8/10 Flexibility: 2/10 Performance: 8/10
Preview Narrative theme
Narrative is an unusual theme because it is designed for stores with a limited range of specialist products. Accordingly, the page layout is restricted to a few basic formats and the navigation is limited to a single hamburger menu. However, the theme does allow you to display a few products in stunning HD detail.
Reasons to choose Narrative
- It is a simple theme with lots of ways to display your product images
- The theme is well-suited to mobile devices because of its vertical arrangement
Reasons to avoid Narrative
- The menu is very basic, so product discovery is limited
Shopify is not as flexible as a website builder like Wix, which offers real drag-and-drop editors so that you can design (rather than simply customise) your store. Similarly, Shopify’s free themes provide fewer options and less functionality than those created by external developers. However, no other eCommerce platform is as robust and scalable as Shopify is, at such an affordable price, and external developers do not offer the same support as Shopify’s own team. So, if you want to build and scale a fashion or retail website without in-house developers, your choice is between a free Shopify theme and a paid one.
The limitations that come with each of the free Shopify themes in the theme store make them unsuitable for a successful retail website. Luckily, switching your store’s theme is not a problem, so you can start with a theme like Minimal or Supply and graduate to a paid theme once you have enough recurring revenue.
Of Shopify’s paid themes, the best options for large fashion stores are:
- District – full basket page but basic product pages ($180)
- Canopy – flexible structure and excellent product pages ($180)
- Impulse – variety and flexibility but uses a slider cart ($180)
- Prestige – best styling of any featured theme, but uses a slider cart ($180)
- Fashionopolism – complete product pages but uses a slider cart ($180)