Mind the Gifts
Photographed by Keisuke Iwama
Now that December is finally upon us, here’s a round-up of our most coveted presents this holiday season. Nothing excessive or extravagant, just thoughtful gifts made by people we know. In a world saturated by mass-produced goods or “luxury” brands which make their products in fair wage-challenged developing countries, we’re resolved to support friends and independent makers who we’re grateful to for running sustainably-minded businesses and creating products with integrity.
Here is a selection of (mostly) gender-neutral products from founder-run brands. It’s a list of personal recommendations made up of labels we know partly because we’re friendly with its founders (and know first-hand how they run their businesses) and/or own the products ourselves. Hopefully there’s something here to get you out of that Amazon rut and make your loved ones feel extra-cared for this holiday season:
Wellness treats for scent, skin, and soul
We had no desire to bring out unnecessarily new products simply to take advantage of the holiday season. Instead, we created a gift box we call “Skin Heroes: The Complete Trio” filled with our three daily essentials: The best-selling Nomad’s Cream cleanser, Paradisi Mist essence, and Magic Drops oil serum. The box is of sturdy Japanese paper (made to be reused) and an obi wrap with a print of a painting. “There is always some madness in love” is graffiti-ed on top of the original sketch of green and blue paint swatches Philippe made years ago for our bottle design. All vegan, all made in Japan.
Available for a limited run online and at Isetan Department Store in Shinjuku from December 12- December 25.
This Paris-based unisex fragrance line is one of our go-to’s for gifts. We personally use number 601 which is a blend of vetiver (the main scent in Magic Drops!), cedar, and bergamot. Over the summer, founder Ludovic gifted us with number 201 – an uplifting, optimistic blend of green apple, lily of the valley, and pear that’s perfect for warmer seasons.
Available online and at Tomorrowland shops in Japan.
Created by Japanese-Austrian duo Shizuko Yoshikuni and Manuel Kuschnig, AOIRO is an olfactory design studio focused on the rituals of scent. Our pick is the Hakudo rain incense, traditionally made by artisans in the Japanese island of Awaji. They’re housed in a wooden box lined with washi – already beautiful on its own and requires no further wrapping. Light one up for a sacred moment to rejuvenate the mind and spirit. The couple gifted us with their earthy ceramic coal diffuser (there’s a charcoal sculpture version that is stunning!), a simple yet elegant objet which has become part of our morning routine. Add a couple of drops of Hakudo botanical essence to the diffuser to bring a calming, soothing scent into the air. Available online.
Jewelry that’s personal; to be exchanged with someone special
Our friend’s handmade pieces are utterly desirable and worthy of a special occasion. Custom a piece for a man or a woman – it takes time to create these future heirlooms so plan ahead!
VRAI & ORO
Ever since founder Vanessa gifted me a diamond solitaire from her brand a couple of years ago, I never took it off. Not only are her lab-grown diamonds conflict-free, they are set in discreet, stylish designs that are perfect for daily wear. Multiple designs are available to suit every budget and style, as well as pieces to commemorate all kinds of relationships. Available online.
Founded by Fiona Morrison (more about her on Stories soon), this all-female company creates handmade, delicate pieces in Vancouver. One of my favorite pieces is a collaboration done with the ceramic artist Rachel Saunders, who crafted a pendant molded in the shape of the female form. Available online.
Style that’s universal, evergreen, and independently made
Everyone needs a knit turtleneck in their wardrobe – it’s a building block of any closet. Giu Giu‘s are some of the best in the business and the color selection is on-point. The fabric is soft and stretchy (you can do Pilates in them!), but never loses shape with wash or wear. A gift for anyone into capsule wardrobes, regardless of gender. I live in the Nonna myself and am eyeing one of her knit trousers next season. Available online and at Super A Market in Tokyo.
WIND & SEA
Created by one of Japan’s most stylish men, Takashi Kumagai, Wind & Sea is a no-brainer as a gift. They’re easy, super-casual pieces with graphic slogans that will immediately place you among Tokyo’s cool crowd. Philippe lives in their T-shirts in the summer and the sweatshirts look cozy for the winter. Drops are limited so act fast if something catches your eye. Available online.
If you’re gifting someone who loves fashion, this is one brand to look at. More than just a fashion label, the founders/designers – Antoine, Jeremie, and Aurelien who happen to be friends of ours – form a collective that independently publishes books and collaborates frequently with fellow creatives, musicians, artists, or companies (The New York Times and Rizzoli being recent ones). They’re great at casual outerwear – Philippe would wear their hoodie everyday if he could! We already placed an order for their denim jackets, cut so well for both men and women. Available online and at their Paris shop.
For well-crafted, well-designed shoes, this is the label to turn to. Dear Frances is a direct-to-consumer business, doing away with wholesale markups. They don’t release a ton of new designs because the aim is to slow down the fashion cycle and create products that are built to last. Our collaborator, Katrina Razon, is an investor in the brand – she supports female-led sustainable businesses and this one ticks all the boxes. On my wishlist? The signature Spirit boots. Available online.
Intimates – this one’s for the ladies
We already share a few collaborators together (Palo Santo Studios, Maly, Danny, and Clare) so it’s no surprise we share similar values with the chic intimates label as well. Founded by Bonita Kye, the Los Angeles-based brand is supported by a local family-owned manufacturer that uses only solar energy. In clean silhouettes and neutral color palettes, these are pieces meant for daily wear. I’ve got my eye on the Georgia briefs in Opal. Available online.
I was introduced to this Parisian label by Kiwha, a dear friend, who happens to be sister-in-law to one of the brand’s founders. I live on the daily in their feminine lace numbers, its delicacy especially lovely at this time of year when we’re covered up in chunky knits. Available online and in their Paris shop.
Founded by luminous Eliana Rodriguez (who we’re happy to share is a Skin Mud enthusiast), Gil Rodriguez is a label that’s focused on the process as much as the product. Respecting the ideals of ethical manufacturing and sustainability, it’s a slow fashion line that releases new items in a considered way. I’ve already placed an order for the Via Unitard, which I’ll wear to lounge around in at home. Available online.
Home is where the heart is – fill it with beautiful things
RACHEL SAUNDERS CERAMICS
Rachel‘s feminine take on ceramics is apparent in the sinuous shapes of her designs. I love her vases for the home (the subdued tones suit any interior style), and her Found collection is also one to look at. For Found, she collects vintage pieces to give them a new lease on life, benefiting greatly from her eye for curation which makes old pieces look super-modern. Available online.
Founder Daisuke is the main man behind this thoughtfully curated shop in Tokyo. From little interiors knick-knacks to larger handmade wooden furniture, there’s something to suit any budget or style. We’re partial to his ceramic selection and already have a Mixed Needs sculptural piece from Bullpen living in our home. Available online and at his Tokyo shop.
Founded by Misako Kumagai, who was inspired by husband Takashi Kumagai‘s vintage collection, Neulo is a label of custom, handknit wall tapestries. Using vintage wool or deadstock (excess fabric that’s been commissioned but left behind to be unused and stored in warehouses or worse, landfills) from all over the world, these sustainably made wall tapestries add coziness and cool bohemia to any home. Available online.
Books that inspire and elevate the printed word
Gypset Style, Gypset Living, Gypset Travel are the brainchild of American journalist Julia Chaplin. Coining the term herself, “gypset” refers to the fusion of the gypsy aesthetic with the jet set, resulting in a three-series tome that chronicles an international nomadic community of artists, designers, and bon vivants. We have the beautiful boxed set at home of all three (a Christmas present from Philippe) but if that’s hard to track down and you had to choose one, the first book in the series, Gypset Style, should be it. Available at Tsutaya shops in Japan.
THE DESIGN HOTELS BOOK
For the insatiable traveler in your family, a book from Design Hotels is the ideal present. It rounds up the best of original hoteliers, architects, and well-designed independent hotels around the world (most of which are within their association such as Trunk in Tokyo and Katamama in Bali) to help steer clear of the big, impersonal “luxury” chain hotels. A few of our favorites from this edition: Tulum Treehouse, Papaya Playa, and Hotel Les Roches Rouges. DAMDAM is a partner of Design Hotels, having teamed up with them over the summer to help launch this book. Their winter edition comes with the chic Bear supplements, which can also work as a stocking stuffer. Available online.
GEORGIA O’ KEEFE AND HER HOUSES
Part artist’s biography, part interiors book, this is an homage to the artist Georgia O’ Keefe and the houses she built in New Mexico: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu. Visuals of the mountains and arroyos, skulls and Jimson weeds, a ladder against a wall, Japanese touches transformed by her own modern American art are all there. If you’re gifting someone inspired by art, interiors, and stunning landscape, this book is it. Available at Tsutaya shops in Japan.