The T List: Holiday Gift Guide, Part I


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 are coveting 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 [email protected].

I have an affinity for almost all things tiny and colorful, including Daiyo’s tree seed wax candles. Daiyo is a Japanese family business that dates back to 1914, and the wicks of these candles are made of washi and silk; as a result, they burn brighter and with less smoke than your usual paraffin options. Each one lasts for only 15 minutes, so they’re perfect for a meditation practice or could be used as a whimsical method for measuring one’s screen time. On another note, and in keeping with the old tradition of giving an orange for Christmas, I recommend a crepe paper orange, handmade in Oregon. The citrus is made to be if not peeled, exactly, then at least unraveled, and tucked inside the layers of ribbon are prizes that range from a faux gem to a confetti popper to a temporary tattoo. If you were feeling especially celebratory, a large bowl full of them would certainly be pleasing to the eye.

A few shiny, happy accessories might just make your stay-at-home holidays a little brighter, even if you’re the only one to admire them. These handcrafted velvet moccasins with gold embroidered bows certainly qualify. They’re part of a new line by the Istanbul-based designer Serena Uziyel (formerly of Sanayi 313), who’s opened a flagship shop in Istanbul and is launching a few new styles exclusively with Net-a-Porter in early December. Then there are these gold vermeil earrings from Jameel Mohammed, creator of the New York jewelry line Khiry. Inspired by the African diaspora and the shape of calfskin water jugs, the small-but-special drops (1.5 inches, to be exact) can’t help but bring beauty and maybe even cheer.

You may already know Sabah on account of its artisanal Turkish leather shoes, which come in a rainbow of hues, but the brand’s backgammon board is my new favorite travel companion because it’s just as delightful to look at as it is to play. Made in Istanbul from high-quality leather and offered in three colors (blue, red and pink), it arrives ready to unroll for any picnic, dinner party or weekend getaway. I’ve used my set ceaselessly this year, and have discovered that, over time, the Sabah leather only acquires a beautiful patina.

It had always been my experience that only hand creams that look and smell faintly medicinal, as if they were originally developed by Swiss doctors for treating frostbite, can do anything to salvage my chapped skin in winter. But I recently came across an exception. The London-based brand 79 Lux’s version is intensely hydrating — it leaves hands feeling soft and protected but free of any greasy residue — and smells, subtly, of rose geranium, with a tangy top note that suggests the ample amounts of vitamin C with which the formula is enriched. What’s more, the cream is made with local, mostly organic ingredients and comes in an elegant black aluminum tube (the company eschews plastic packaging almost entirely), making it both a chic and sustainable gift.

Andraab was started in 1996 by two brothers from Kashmir, India, Mubashir and Muzakir Andrabi, who wanted to revive the pashmina for a more contemporary customer without sacrificing craftsmanship. Working with skilled weavers and embroiderers from the Vale of Kashmir, the brand produces cashmere shawls that will remind you why Mughal rulers from the 16th to 18th centuries were so fond of collecting these luxurious textiles. They come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, colors and patterns, including checks, stripes and chevrons. My personal favorite is the oversize Dussa shawl, which is available in a striking fawn tone with red or blue hand-embroidered borders, or in a crisp white with red edges. For those who prefer a bit more color, there’s the two-tone, double-sided Do Rung, in both deep fuchsia and orange, and ink blue and red.

Like many who found themselves in search of an alternative to public transit this year, I have a renewed appreciation for the benefits of the bicycle. But as my rides became more frequent, I realized I needed to soup up my wheels for functionality. The Baba Tree Basket Co. offers cheery straw bike baskets hand-woven by artisans in Ghana. Not only are the products fair trade but the weavers are paid an extra commission, on top of their regular rate, for items sold. And for those planning on staying closer to home, the brand also offers an array of decorative baskets, flower pots and pet beds.

Though we can’t gather for meals, I still want to feed my friends and family. For those who like cooking, I plan to send the Omsom Bundle, an ingenious collection of East Asian and Southeast Asian “starters” — packets of ingredients and corresponding recipes made in collaboration with Asian-American chefs — that help home cooks create meaty Filipino sisig, tingly Chinese ma la salad and four other regional dishes. For the less kitchen-inclined, I love the ease of the New York restaurateur Ariel Arce’s new Cavi-air, which demystifies caviar and makes it more affordable; she offers several varieties and holiday sets, some with champagne, but my current favorite is Siberian sturgeon, which is briny and black, and best enjoyed, tradition be damned, on a Lay’s potato chip.

The artist-launched Beirut Editions is a campaign selling limited-edition artists’ prints to fund relief efforts in Lebanon in the wake of the August 4 explosion in Beirut. All proceeds from the sale will go to “providing emergency relief to marginalized communities in need of immediate assistance,” according to the campaign website, and in an amazing display of solidarity, artists, illustrators, designers and photographers all contributed to the cause. Of particular note is the illustrator Nadine Redlich’s colorful “Smile,” as well as the illustrator Iman Raad’s more Cubist-like silk screen “Still Life With Oranges, Errors and Checkered Tablecloth.” The sale runs until December 10 and the prints are both beautiful and affordable, with prices starting at $10. I ordered several for family and friends — and a few to hang in my own home.

“I was encouraged by friends who were enthusiastic about the tea I was giving them,” explains the writer (and former T editor in chief) Deborah Needleman about her new tisane blend, Garden Tea, “and I found it irresistible that I would enjoy the process of making it while others would enjoy drinking it.” Needleman’s limited-edition mix — made from the leaves and flowers of 10 different herbs such as lemon verbena, chamomile and lavender — transports me back to a warm summer day with each sip. Every step of the tea’s production, from sowing and planting to harvesting and drying, is done at Needleman’s home in New York’s Hudson Valley. The resulting blend comes in a compostable bag and is available through Saipua, whose communal farm in upstate New York, World’s End, hosts workshops and residencies, and produces handmade goods, including its own line of soaps.

These days, capturing a moment is as simple as pulling out your cellphone, but not so long ago you actually had to plan ahead. Back then, my camera of choice was always a Polaroid Instamatic. I was such a fan that I often brought one along as I celebrated the birthdays of friends, and would simply leave it on the table and let the point-and-shoot begin. In time, finding film became too difficult and simply using a phone too convenient, but in this moment where feeling connected is especially crucial, the instant camera seems more relevant than ever. In fact, Polaroid has started a program to save its vintage cameras, refurbishing them and giving them new life. It seems they are destined, once more, to be the life of the party.

Knowing that I won’t be able to see certain loved ones this season makes me want to spread as much cheer to them as possible — and what better way than with chocolate? Over the past year, Richard Christiansen, the founder of the agency Chandelier Creative, has turned his home in Los Angeles, Flamingo Estate, into a bountiful garden and orchard, as well as a test kitchen, where he has begun creating a new line of goods in collaboration with local growers and culinary makers. Among the many offerings are three varieties of chocolate bars, made with Nick and Peter Dale of Condor Chocolates, featuring farm-fresh ingredients such as fennel pollen, sesame seeds, black mission figs, puffed buckwheat and ginger root. For every product sold, the estate promises to grow one new plant on its grounds — and these bars, made with 72 percent dark chocolate, are arguably a healthier option than most.

Sarah Brown founded the U.K.-based beauty brand Pai in 2007 when she couldn’t find the organic, effective products she wanted to use on her own sensitive skin. The line has since developed a cult following for its range of chemical-free cleansers, tonics and serums, including its especially beloved rose hip oil. For those in need of some direction, Pai offers a free digital skin-care consultation (you can choose either a 10- or a 30-minute session). I had mine with Kate Burton, one of the company’s team of experts, who was sympathetic to my desire to stick with a low-key routine. After your appointment, the brand offers a 10 percent discount on any purchases you choose to make. Otherwise, I recommend the Nellie gift set, a limited-edition collection of all of Pai’s most popular items.

It may be a long time before my family and I can make it back to Hawaii, but whenever I miss the stellar produce of the archipelago’s farmers’ markets, I remember that a lot of the fruit readily available there — most of it nearly impossible to find at home in New York — can also be ordered from Miami Fruit, a Florida-based purveyor. The company, launched by Rane Roatta and Edelle Schlegel in 2016, began as a way to distribute the bounty of tropical fruit cultivated by farmers outside of Miami. More recently, the couple bought their own farm and built a packing house to help ship what they’ve been growing themselves and gathering from others. When my wife gave me a subscription to Miami Fruit’s Variety Box last year, that first, very heavy package of sapotes, sapodillas, sprouted coconuts and other hard-to-source fruit was the best surprise gift I’d received in years.

Last but not least, there are hundreds of nonprofits and fund-raising initiatives to consider donating to this season. T’s writer at large Nancy Hass is planning to give to Well Constructed, which partners with local communities to provide clean drinking water in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Contributing editor Monica Khemsurov has recently been focused on organizations combating climate change, and recommends donating to the Solutions Project, the Center for International Environmental Law and the ever-growing Sunrise Movement. Features director Michael Miller suggests supporting Reclaim (“they work to keep abortion legal in my home state of Michigan”), as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which fights to dismantle white supremacy, among other injustices. Assistant to the editor in chief Kristina Samulewski has gotten behind Soul Fire Farm, an Afro-Indigenous farm community committed to ending racism and inequality in the food system. Finally, senior digital features editor Alice Newell-Hanson is eager to support In Good Taste, an initiative raising money for immigrant and BIPOC communities in New York.



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