Discover the lesser-known brands we're obsessed with.
It's hard to escape the flood of sale emails that stream into our inbox just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday from every major retailer and e-commerce platform. Yes, the deals are good. But there's a lot to be said for supporting a small, emerging brand when it comes to the holidays, and it's not just because it's a conscious way to shop.
As evidenced in the gifts from the brands ahead, shopping small businesses opens up a world of creative, unique, and sometimes rare gifts that simply aren't found on the floor of every big-box store. Think beautiful vintage home decor and handmade treasures. Of course, shopping small also means directly supporting the success of businesses most vulnerable in a struggling economy. It's a harsh reality that the Covid pandemic has brought to light but also an opportunity for consumers to think differently about the power of their purchase.
Now, on the heels of Small Business Saturday—a term first created by American Express in 2010 in response to the recession—the spirit of shopping small feels as relevant as ever. And best yet, the market is filled with gems. Considering they're lesser-known names, allow our team to introduce you to a few favorites.
Caroline Dunn, Associate Manager of Affiliate Partnerships & Content Strategy
It feels like the majority of the time that I come across a super-eye-catching, colorful piece of home decor on TikTok, it ends up being from Coming Soon NY. The Lower East Side boutique is like a playground for the interior maximalist, but the selection of eclectic pieces of varying price points (like this $12 statement hand towel or $150 lucite pastel Jenga set) can also largely be found on the site.
You may have never thought of this before, but the chemicals and ingredients that go into many of our beloved candles may not actually be safe for our pets to breathe in. Thankfully, Companion Candles' founder and CEO, Loren Lewin, thought of it for you, bringing us a line of both staple and seasonal scents that are safe for the whole family. An ideal gift for the animal lover.
Some of my most-loved and best-worn pieces have come from Etsy shops like Renie Knit, where every piece is handmade in Ukraine. These sweaters are both unique and high quality, so they are sure to be loved by anybody you choose to gift them to (or buy for yourself!) for years to come.
Nick Papa, Senior Manager, Brand Partnerships
We all know the holidays really are about the little ones in our lives. The Little, which has arguably the cutest brick-and-mortar location in East Hampton, has everything you could possibly need to spoil the children in your life. Personally, I am obsessed with the holiday pajama sets and the assortment of books and toys. They have a service they're offering for the holiday where you can share your budget, a little bit about who the gift is for, and any must-haves, and they will assemble a fully wrapped basket for you and ship wherever you need.
Perfectly proportioned cocktails...what's not to love? I discovered this brand on a recent flight, and I will say, I think the flight attendant may have been judging me by my exclamation when I saw the can. Not only is the branding irresistibly good, but the contents within the can are out of this world. After my flight, I immediately googled the brand and found it ships to almost all states, so you know I had to order a case (or four). Anyway, these are the perfect gifts to give to your mixologist friend or someone who, like me, can't mix a drink to save their life. The margarita is *chef's kiss.*
This highly curated home goods destination has beautifully crafted pieces by artisans from around the world—ceramics from Barcelona, hand-thrown lamps from Los Angeles, and unique candles poured in Belgium. Viewpnt is the perfect shop for the design-lover in your life who appreciates true craftsmanship and distinctive, worldly gifts.
Leya Kaufman, Head of Brand and Publisher
I'm in love with this family-owned jewelry startup based out of Antwerp. In 2020, Idyl launched a brand around the pillars of individual style and sustainability. Its classic studs are crafted from recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds. I would gift Idyl studs to anyone as the foundation of a fine jewelry collection because they can then be styled with add-ons like this one. The "Lucia" is my favorite piece!
I'm a huge fan of the Black mom boss behind IMperfect Apparel, Dani Elle Moore–and I love her designs! IMperfect Apparel celebrates individual style, gender-neutral clothing, and fashionable "rebellion." This Aliccia sweatshirt is the perfect addition to anyone's weekend wardrobe. I customized mine just like the design featured here. For anyone leaning more into giving than receiving this holiday season, IMperfect Apparel is great for customizable gifts, too.
Zany & Shy was founded by another mom boss that I connected with over a shared obsession with jewelry from halfway around the world. Like me, Hanan is constantly inspired by her own mom and believes that women should be buying jewelry for themselves. She also just launched Zany & Shy this fall, so it's the perfect time to support her. Since I'm all about a "right-hand ring," I also have to say that the sustainably crafted Diana or Michelle would make the perfect self gift.
Ama Kwarteng, Beauty Editor
I moved into my first solo apartment in August, and when I first started thinking about furnishing my new place, I knew that I wanted to be more thoughtful in my approach than I had been in the past. And, for me, that meant filling it with vintage pieces that were unique and fit my personality. I stumbled upon this account while stalking vintage furniture accounts on Instagram. Not only is the owner, Andy Schulz, an actual gem who just wants the furniture to find a good home, but I immediately fell in love with its quirky and colorful pieces. I ended up buying two bright orange, Pierre Cardin-inspired chairs for my dining area, and I am absolutely in love with them.
My fashion tastes are similar to my furniture tastes; I'm always on the lookout for special pieces that you wouldn't be able to find elsewhere, and UltravioletHat definitely falls into that category for me. Based in the Italian Riviera, the founder Pasquale Putrino hand-knits one-of-kind hats, bikinis, and tops that are vibrant, bold, and unique.
I can't even put into words how much I love this bookstore (and its founder, Leigh Altshuler), but I'll try. Sweet Pickle Books opened when I was still living in the East Village, and when I heard about it, I knew I had to pay the store a visit. (I love books and I love pickles—it was a no-brainer). The store sells pickles, yes, but Altshuler sells a selection of used books, ranging from literary fiction to vintage cookbooks. I don't like to have the Amazon algorithm tell me what novels to buy, so instead, I'll thumb through the titles in the store or just ask Altshuler what she'd recommend based on my tastes. All of her book recs have been hits.
Porter Simmons, Social Media Associate
Brooke went on a trip to Italy a few years ago, discovered some beautiful hand-blown glass flowers, and the rest is history. She makes incredible pieces that are easy-to-wear and won't break the bank, yet they make a statement nonetheless. In addition to her glass flower staples, Brooke has been dipping a toe into the antique jewelry realm, delivering one-of-a-kind collections that sell out in minutes. She's also a favorite amongst fashion fan girls (Bella Hadid slid into her DMs once—a career highlight if I do say so myself).
I've been pining after pieces by Tigra Tigra for a while now, but you have to act quick—everything is handmade by artisans in small batches, so there's not always enough inventory to go around. The entire brand focuses on sustainability and a unique design perspective. Plus, the collections are anything but boring.
I discovered this brand on Instagram and can't get enough of the hand-embroidered trompe l'oeil tableware. Founder Sarah Espeute puts so much thought and detail into every storied piece, and all of her linens are truly something special.
Sumiko Wilson, Beauty Fellow
My skin is notoriously dry and sensitive. In fact, I'm scratching as I type this. And since I tend to try new products relatively often, it's not uncommon for my skin to express its displeasure with a product by breaking out. The only bright side of being incessantly ashy is that brands like Range come to my rescue. According to its site, Range Beauty is the first makeup line for acne and eczema-prone skin, so each product is heavy on hydration, light on irritants, and completely clean. I'll be grabbing the Range Face Set as a Christmas present from me, to me.
If you have Instagram, you've probably seen Sean Brown's CD-shaped rugs, each modeled after classic albums by the likes of N.E.R.D., Jay-Z, and Aaliyah. But his collection of interiors and essentials is ever-expanding and now includes mirrored coasters, a refillable lighter, and an umbrella that reveals lyrics to "The Rain" by Missy Elliott when it touches water.
Make Way is a sneaker boutique designed for women by women—the first of its kind in Canada. Just one year since opening its doors in Toronto (three days before the city went into full lockdown, btw), the shop has made its stamp on the city's streetwear scene, with a one-of-a-kind curation of sneakers, athleticwear, home essentials, and beauty basics. Go for the shoes; stay for the vibes.
Gina Marinelli, Features Editor
Fancy sleepwear is always a winning gift because—speaking from experience here—few too many people treat themselves to it when they can just reach for an old, oversize t-shirt. These silky robes by Idle are a recent favorite of mine. I most appreciate the brand's use of sustainably sourced fabrics, its ongoing efforts to keep waste to a minimum, and the inclusive size range from XS to 3X. Trust me, it just feels fancier to spend a lazy Sunday morning in this robe than a threadbare college tee, and that's a gift I'd be happy to pass along.
Yowie is one of those brands I've seen pop on my Instagram page for months with its cute, unique, handmade ceramic pieces that make for the perfect gift for any occasion. While I'm currently hoping it restocks this adorable tissue box cover, I'm loving the selection of planters for a host gift this season. Go the extra mile and grab a small plant to put in it from a local nursery or farmers market.
As someone who has a bustier frame, I can appreciate the story behind PerfectDD. The brand creates basics with sustainable materials, an ethical supply chain, and a clean, minimal aesthetic—all important to me, as well—but it also cuts its pieces to accommodate a bigger-bust frame without creating something that just feels all-around oversized or baggy. The Charisse is a great gift for anyone (yourself included) who'd appreciate a cozy sweatshirt with a little extra oomph in the sleeve.
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram/@sarahespeute
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