Whimsical signet rings, sculptural menorahs, rocklike crayons — and more gifts we’re coveting this year.
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Welcome to the T List, a newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. For this week and the next, we’ve turned it into a holiday gift guide, with recommendations from T staffers on what we want for ourselves this season, as well as the gifts we’re thinking of giving our friends and loved ones. Sign up here to find us in your inbox every Wednesday. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In those pandemic years when we were all making — and eating — lots of sourdough, someone gave me a cute bag for storing and toting loaves; this year, I’m excited to pay that gift forward with the machine-washable linen ones crafted in Portugal and sold by Porta, a new retailer focused on international finds. I’d send along with fresh bread and, perhaps, some tangy goat cheese created using FarmSteady’s DIY kit or sweet toppings like calamansi marmalade and coconut spread jarred by Pika Pika, which specializes in Filipino treats. For my friends who’ve mastered bread-baking — or who’ve tired of it — Masienda’s tortilla starter kit, which includes a steel press and two types of masa, is a great entry point into experimenting with nixtamalized corn. And for those who don’t cook, my carb of choice is Gucci’s annual holiday panettone, available this year in two flavors — a citrus-glutted “traditional” one and cherry and chocolate — and packaged in a reusable tin decorated with the Italian fashion house’s pretty archival prints.
Jewelry can be an intimidating category to navigate, especially when gifting. But, like art, it’s an investment that can be wonderfully rewarding when done right. If your recipient is a jewelry enthusiast, lean toward the unexpected with a piece from the whimsical designer Brent Neale’s newest collection, Alice’s Picnic, like these mismatched carrot and radish studs made of carnelian, pink tourmaline and emeralds. For a twist on a classic design, look to the emerging Melbourne-based maker Seb Brown, whose handcrafted, made-to-order signet rings come embedded with colorful gems like sapphires, rubies and citrines. Then there are items destined to be heirlooms, such as the New York-based label Foundrae’s 18-karat gold Strong Hearts Love Link chain bracelet (add a medallion — made to represent protection, strength and resilience, among other tenets — for a personal touch) or Cartier’s iconic Tank Française watch, which, for those who are willing to wait, will be rereleased in January, 26 years after its initial launch. It’s been subtly updated for a more modern look: Among other adjustments, the crown is now integrated into the case and the dials have been redesigned to be silver or champagne to match the metal.
I’m pragmatic to a fault, especially when it comes to buying things for myself. I typically prefer the most practical, the most useful, the longest lasting. But when it comes to gifting, I gravitate toward items that belong in a beautiful dream world. Take these pruning shears from Niwaki, the highest quality purveyors of all things topiary: Secateurs are by nature very functional, but these are impressively extravagant. Handmade in Japan from the most durable carbon steel, the handles are wrapped in a stunning rattan. Or consider this spectacular tulip, the ‘Sarah Raven,’ named after the host of one of my favorite podcasts, “Grow, Cook, Eat, Arrange.” Raven also owns Perch Hill Farm, a garden in the British countryside, as well as a brand name under which she sells a wide variety of bulbs. But how did she select this particular cultivar as her namesake? “It reminded me of a glamorous, rich, almost black, elegant and pointed lily-flowered tulip my parents grew in their garden,” she said. It even changes color, getting darker as it ages. She admits that ‘Sarah Raven’ is not the strongest and most robust tulip, but “there’s something rather nice about even that.” They would be ravaged by the deer and wind where I am, but gift giving is the perfect excuse to choose beauty over common sense. When they’ve bloomed, they’ll go perfectly in the stylist Colin King’s Surround vase, shaped from a single piece of wood.
The patchwork pants from the Brooklyn-based brand Mmoody are as close to perfect as kids’ clothes get: They’re sustainable — each pair is handsewn from a different combination of deadstock fabrics that designer Justine Bronaugh sources from thrift stores and eBay (recent trousers have featured Peanuts prints and Liberty-esque florals) — and built to last, with elastic waists and legs that can be cuffed then rolled down over time. Similarly unique is the ’70s-esque Peter Pan-collar dress made from upcycled floral fabrics by the Atlanta-based designer Alissa Bertrand in collaboration with the New York brand Batsheva. And, though more of an investment, the chore coats sewn from vintage quilts and patterned wool camping blankets by the brand Farewell Frances are made to be treasured for years. The designer Ulla Johnson is also putting discarded textiles — namely the scraps left over from past collections — to good use, with a limited-edition line of cloth elephant dolls handcrafted by an artisan collective of female Afghan refugees in New York; proceeds from the toys’ sales will go to the women and for each doll purchased, a donation will be made to Providence House, a Brooklyn nonprofit that provides shelter for women and families at risk of harm. I also have my eye on these tiny felt bao and dumplings, made by Tracy Kong, from the online children’s store Palomita and this mushroom-shaped surprise ball, which contains 12 tiny gifts within its layers, from the independent California toy shop Merci Milo. On the subject of mushrooms, one of the Los Angeles-based brand Roux’s soft cotton knit blankets woven with tiny toadstool motifs would be a perfect welcome gift for a new arrival.
Christmas trees come and go. But for Jewish families, a good menorah can be passed down for generations — and a great one can double as a sculptural work of its own, worthy of a spot on the shelf year-round. I’m fond of the Swey menorah by the Brooklyn-based designer Virginia Sin, which seems to weave in and around the candles like a delicate ribbon. In Los Angeles, Style Union Home makes another asymmetrical option, the Shayna menorah — its name drawn from a Yiddish term of endearment — with three sweeping, interlocking arches. Both come in several neutral tones, but Judaica Standard Time offers a pop of key lime in its modular design, a collaboration with the ceramist Bari Ziperstein, with nine free-standing candleholders that can be lined up for a somewhat traditional arrangement or collected together to more closely resemble a Rubik’s Cube.
A top-shelf wine is always an appreciated offering at a seasonal fete. For teetotaling and sober-curious guests, the options are increasingly more compelling as the zero-proof movement looks beyond beer and spirits. Among the nonalcoholic wines worth a spot at the table, French Bloom is the latest to hit the U.S. market. Launched in France in 2020 by friends Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger and the model Constance Jablonski, the alcohol-free organic Champagne has earned particular attention for the nose on their sparkling white and rosé — notoriously difficult to achieve without synthetic aromas. After 70 different trials, the women landed on bubbly alternatives with balanced acidity and impressive freshness, made from de-alcoholized organic French chardonnay and pinot noir, organic grape juice, Gensac spring water and natural flavors (no sugar or sulfites). For newcomers in still wines, there’s the Hand on Heart de-alcoholized range from the Californian winery Miller Family Wines, which launched earlier this year with a rosé, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Unlike most free-of wines, the foundational sweetness of these expressive alternatives stems from the grapes, not added sugar. Finally, for a more established, best-in-class option, consider Leitz’s Eins Zwei Zero. The German winery’s crisp and fruity alcohol-free riesling first launched in 2007 but remains a favorite for its flavor and structure that comes wildly close to resembling its alcoholic big brother.
Vermiculite For Mushrooms The ideal stocking is filled with items both unusual and useful. The designer Thomas Finney, who worked with Thom Browne before striking out on his own, exemplifies this intersection with his Brief case, sized to hold cash and cards. A colorful glass straw — whether curved, swirly or bubbly — by the artist Misha Kahn (the partner of our editor at large, Nick Haramis) could be paired with a complementary tumbler to inspire the making of a holiday cocktail. For children, the shiny papers of an origami kit might be a good distraction from the iPad, as might a set of cubed crayons, which take on a rocklike appearance with use, from the Taipei, Taiwan-based design studio Unto. Cat lovers will appreciate a felted mouse toy while the wellness-inclined (perhaps all of us, these days) will be thankful for a botanical throat spray or the Brooklyn naturopath Maria Geyman’s Calm tea. At the top of my own list, as an Oregonian who aspires to one day bring home-cooked lunches to the office, is a bright travel fork and an array of Jacobsen Salt Co. tins. Jacobsen hand-harvests its flavorful flakes from Oregon’s Netarts Bay — I already have some and use it regularly on popcorn, but this new striped packaging is too precious to resist.