Cutting through the clutter. A conscious gift guide.
Fashion hauls, limited edition “drops”, collaborations, yet another celebrity-founded beauty brand… It seems like every time we open Instagram, we’re being told we need this, need that, resulting in a never ending cycle of consumption. And it only gets worse during the holiday season with random merch items, unnecessary seasonal trinkets, and festive collections that don’t stand the test of time.
Aja Barber said it best: “I just want us all to step back. Reassess. Make the corporations dispose of their cheap crap themselves… Realize all this crap actually makes our lives sometimes more miserable. Buy things people will actually use.” Afterall, 61% of surveyed Americans admitted to getting at least one unwanted gift over the holidays and an estimated $15 billion dollars are wasted on unwanted gifts each year.
Gifts and giving gifts can be a really beautiful thing, though. It can be a way to show someone you care and that you’ve taken time and consideration to really think about what they’d want or need. And it’s incredible to see the ways the internet has been able to give us access to these things, especially those created by small businesses, marginalized communities, or with thoughtful materials. As someone who has come across way more brands and products than most, I’ve compiled a gift guide that will hopefully help you cut through the clutter and also give people what they really want.
New or secondhand books: Books are inexpensive yet such an intimate and thoughtful gift to give and receive. They can also easily be borrowed, re-gifted, or donated for someone else to enjoy once finished. Instead of picking a book off of a top 10 list, really consider what your loved one is interested in, or in need of – whether it’s a lighthearted story when they need a laugh or a more substantial book centered on an interest like nature or business. While Amazon may be convenient to purchase from, opt instead for secondhand sites where you’ll be able to buy multiple books for the price of one new one. Better World Books is a great secondhand source with a give-back initiative – they’ve “raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills, created jobs for hundreds of people, and provided wonderful books to millions of readers worldwide.” If you’re looking for new books, Bookshop exclusively supports independent bookstores to help them maintain their presence in local communities. And if you want book recommendations for the woman on the internet in your life, we suggest: Consumed by Aja Barber, Beauty Sick by Renee Engeln, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, or The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.
Gift card to a locally-owned shop: Gift cards may feel impersonal, but that may be because it often seems like a last minute decision – choosing from hundreds of plastic cards near checkout from various chain stores or restaurants. When chosen with intention and thoughtfulness, gift cards can be an opportunity to enjoy and support a small locally-owned business, whether it’s a coffee shop, family-run restaurant, or corner wine shop. For those in Los Angeles, here are some personal favorites: Kindness and Mischief Coffee, Wanderlust Creamery, and Wood Spoon, all owned by women of color.
Skin and body care products: It seems like a new beauty or skincare brand emerges every day, most claiming to be sustainable or “clean,” when in reality, they are far from that. Self-funded, women of color-owned LESSE and Klur are skin and body care brands that make the effort to walk the walk rather than just talk. LESSE offers a “discerning edit of only the essential” organic skincare products – no unnecessary ingredients, no unnecessary packaging, and packaged in paper or glass. Klur approaches their business by “formulating with long-term sustainability in mind” and having strict rules for ingredients – “if it’s not accessible and it doesn’t give back, we’re not using it in our products.” NOTO Botanics is a gender inclusive brand with a strong give-back program. I especially love that they offer a refill system at their store in efforts to cut back on packaging and waste. A few products we personally love are LESSE’s Ritual Serum and Lip Balm, Klur’s Body Oil and Delicate Mask, and NOTO’s The Wash and Multi-Bene Stick.
Paid subscriptions to your favorite newsletters: A paid subscription, whether it’s for Substack or Patreon, is a convenient and thoughtful gift for a coworker or loved one
Card games: In a time where connection seems to be equated with social media interactions, it’s never been more important to get together with friends, family and even acquaintances for real conversation. The We’re Not Really Strangers card games encourage just that, with questions on cards that help “deepen existing relationships and create new ones.” I’ve played this game with my partner and with friends and came out of it learning so many new things about them.
Gifts you can eat: Food brings people together and makes for a gift that doesn’t go to waste. The holidays are already full of leftovers from parties, so pantry foods are great to give as they don’t go bad and can be enjoyed once festivities have died down. Brightland is an Indian-owned company that offers consciously crafted olive oils, vinegars and honey — all sourced from family-run US farms and made with no preservatives or fillers. Fishwife is a female-founded and led locally based tinned fish company that sources delicious fish from responsibly managed fisheries and aquaculture farms. The Smoky Trio is a must-try. Tache is a woman of color-owned pistachio milk brand, “a better for you, better for the planet” milk that tastes good and uses much less water than other nut milks. They also give back by donating a portion of all profits to support education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship for girls and young women in local communities.
Fine jewelry: Not all jewelry is created equal and female-owned Kinn Studio and J. Hannah make sure to let their customers know that. Kinn uses “recycled 14k gold whenever possible, creating from existing jewelry” and “prioritizes strict guidelines for developing and manufacturing their pieces” to ensure workers are fairly compensated and work under safe conditions. J.Hannah does something similar – “every piece is cast from 100% post consumer recycled 14k gold or sterling silver” and all of their diamonds are recycled. Each one is also individually hand-fabricated in Los Angeles, allowing them to “carefully oversee the craft, quality, and detail that goes into every piece… while avoiding wasteful mass-production techniques.” When choosing with intention, jewelry can be timeless, lasting for years to come and can be passed down for generations.
Home objects: Whether it’s a journal to encourage self-reflection or alone time, or simple candle holder with candles to allow for intimate nights in with friends, women of color-owned Space of Time offers a variety of well-curated items that are as beautiful as they are useful. Wanting to “focus on the beauty of everyday things and routines,” they offer a variety of hand-picked objects that lend themselves to slowing down and connecting, either with oneself or with others. If you want to go the secondhand route, Fig and Oak is also family and woman of color-owned and offers gorgeous vintage homeware and decor.
Timeless clothing pieces: Gifting clothes is usually a hard no, as everyone’s styles are completely different and you never know how things are going to fit. Small business and woman-owned and run James Street Co. just might be an exception to that. They’re a “knitwear brand designed to be effortless, created with purpose and respect for the environment,” and made with ethically sourced and produced fabrics. They also don’t overproduce – all of their collections are limited drops with no restocks in order to reduce waste. They even sell secondhand and archive pieces for a fraction of the cost. Some pieces that will look good on just about anyone? Their genderless Sloane V-Neck, Klein Trouser, and beanies.
Real-life activities: Some gifts can’t be wrapped. Sharing an experience with a loved one is an out-of-the-box way to give and won’t end up in a landfill in a few months. Woman-owned Tea at Shiloh is a late night tea house that offers an alternative to nights out at a bar or club, providing workshops or evenings for tea and conversation to encourage community. Woman of color-founded Hike Clerb organizes hikes and provides tools, education, resources and experiences to collectively heal in nature. Floral arranging workshops could also be fun – Black-owned floral shops like DNA Floral and True Vine Studios offer them on their sites. Other easy, fun ideas: a styling session with my stylist friend Patricia Lagmay, cooking classes, drive-in movies, tickets to a show or concert, or a membership at a local garden (I got my mom one for Huntington Gardens).
Educational courses: Giving the gift of education is a great way to encourage someone you love to go down a path they’ve been wanting to take for some time. Filipina-owned and led I Love Creatives offers a variety of online courses for creatives looking to expand their digital skills with a welcoming community. Whether it’s graphic design, copywriting, website designing, or video creating, they have classes that are just as fun as they are educational.
Something you make or can uniquely offer: Think about the things you love to do or are good at – whether it’s baking a loved one their favorite dessert, giving your new parent-friends a night out by babysitting, or taking the time to make something with intention. 6 years ago, my husband made a scrapbook of photos of us, handwritten with funny and sweet notes about each memory. Every year, he adds to it and it’s hands down my favorite gift each year. One year, Ford gathered a bunch of iPhone videos she had taken of her and her partner over the years and edited them together in iMovie. It didn’t cost anything and it became a fun moment watching it with her family.
Whatever you choose to gift, whether it’s for a birthday or for the upcoming holiday season, resist the urge to impulsively add to cart. Put your blinders on and try to ignore all of the Black Friday sales and the cutesy seasonal items. Instead, take the time to really think about the person receiving the gift and where that gift will be in a year, a few months or even a few weeks.
The most thoughtful and well curated gift guide I have seen thus far 🤎
Thank you for sharing this beautiful and thoughtfully crafted gift-guide. <3