It’s almost Christmas! Looking at me now you probably can’t imagine that I was never into shopping back in the day. I’ve concluded that it’s because everything I could afford on a student budget lost its value quickly. I only bought things on a whim because we’re constantly under pressure by the pace of the market to keep shopping.
For the latter half of this year, I’ve been dedicated to investing my disposable income in conscious brands that do a little something for people, planet, or animals. The more I buy from these lesser-known brands, the more I’m paying attention to quality and detail, and the less I want to spend money on stuff that is made to be temporary. My coworker said I’m an expert on “obscure brands” now, which is a cool field to be an expert in. The advantage of these brands is that they can pick one or more areas to focus on, and improve everyday products so that most importantly, we the customers can own healthier and longer-lasting stuff that we love.
I put together this collection of gifts that I recommend for you, your friend, or family, featuring my favorite “obscure brands” whose items I’ve gotten compliments on. They’re ranked from priciest to most affordable!
- Shoes: Chelsea Boots (Nisolo) ($228)
I’ve been searching for winter boots since the beginning of fall, and finally snagged these delicate ones on Black Friday at a 20% discount. Boots are expensive! And they should be, since they protect the body parts that carry you everywhere. These boots are made from ethically sourced leather and are well-worth the price, because your feet are too precious to be in pain from cheap leather. Nisolo shoes are of Peruvian/Mexican expertise (think Coco) and sustain hundreds of above-average-wage jobs. Use this referral link to take $25 off your first pair of beautiful shoes!
- Bag: Frances Tote – Pixie Mood ($78)
If premium leather is not your thing, there’s a vegan alternative called polyurethane (PU). Avoid PVC at all costs – it is toxic and just plastic! Pixie Mood is a brand with elegant, colorful bag designs for the working woman. Their products range from backpacks to totes to wallets and are entirely cruelty-free with either PU, velvet, or cork. Note: I’ve listed the price in USD.
- Eyecare: Portola Sunglasses – Sunski ($68)
I only recently found out that regular sunglasses do more damage than if you were to go without them! Sunglasses you can get at the drugstore not only dilate your pupils but then don’t offer UV protection, which can cause retinal damage. Change that with a pair of Sunski’s! Sunski is a San-Francisco-based brand that uses great visual communication to tell their story. A few of their products also use recycled plastic.
- Earrings: Julia Tassel – Starfish Project ($64)
Perhaps my favorite item on the list, these holiday earrings directly support the welfare of vulnerable women in Asia. Starfish Project is not a fashion brand, but a social enterprise that hires women out of brothels to make jewelry. In my opinion, jewelry-making is one of the best jobs out there. The women at Starfish Project are also taught design, photography, and business management. Purchases directly benefit them not just by providing jobs, but also a safe place to stay while they heal and gain valuable skills for a better future.
- Hat: Birdseye Pom Beanie – United by Blue ($38)
This cute beanie is made from recycled polyester, which is a better material than acrylic yarn, and gives wool a run for its money. United by Blue is a very environmental friendly outdoorsy brand with a ton of stuff made just for hiking, camping, etc. Their shipments are made in paper bags, and their employees also go out to clean up trash from the ocean and rivers. I also love their cups and water bottles! They have an in-house design team that creates the swag to be on-brand with their apparel.
- Bracelets: Beach Day Set – Sashka ($28-$36)
Did you know bracelets can be crochet’ed? Talented Nepalese artisans can pull it off. Get 3 random bracelets from the Beach Day collection, because Sashka’s bracelets look better in sets of 3! You can also pick any color or pattern you want for a custom look. These bracelets are a bit pricy, so snag them on the half off sale now! Or if you’re reading this after the sale, use my referral link for 40% off!
- Haircare: Organic Hair Spray – John Masters ($24)
I really dislike the smell and feel of hair loaded with hairspray, so I never curled or did much with my hair, until now! This hairspray by John Masters smells fruity and is lightweight and residue-free. It’s only sticky the minute after you spray, and otherwise holds hair clean and well all day. Ditch those chemicals and treat your hair to 100% organic ingredients, including aloe leaf juice!
- Skincare: Indoors Sunscreen – Kiss My Face ($19 x2)
It might be winter, but that shouldn’t stop you from wearing sunscreen. The sun is sneakier than you think and no clouds nor windows can protect you. I’ve been recommending this brand to my friends, especially to guy friends who resist sunscreen, and I’ve had full approval from all who dared to try it. Kiss My Face is not a girly brand – there are no smells in this sunscreen and it is not greasy. It contains the perfect level of SPF30 for a regular day where you spend a little time outside but mostly in the office. Oh, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free!
- Beauty: Pencil Liner – Jane Iredale ($15)
Do you prefer liquid liner? I think most of us do. However, liquid liner is expensive and needs to be replaced every three months. Pencil liners have 8x the longevity for the same price! Pencils are probably less loved because of their smudginess, but this liner from Jane Iredale glides onto your eye as smoothly as liquid ones. The advantage of being able to sharpen your pencil is that you get to sanitize it regularly. Jane Iredale is also a clean makeup brand, free of toxins or parabens, which is necessary since you’re putting it so close to your eye!
- Socks: Natacha Block Socks – Thought ($7)
If you’re in California, socks have a full-time job of keeping you warm in the winter without heating, from outdoors to indoors to sleeping. My favorite socks are from Thought, the only UK-based brand on this list. They have such unique illustrated socks where you can even choose between color variations. Their socks are all made from natural materials like bamboo or hemp. Lastly, I want to plug Thought for their superb customer service. I had some errors in my order that caused half of it to be canceled and the other half lost. They refunded me overseas shipping fees for a new order so I’d happily finally get my socks!
What a great time to go shopping now. I must warn you, shopping at these obscure brands can get addicting, but every purchase helps someone, so justify with that when you’re unsure about your purchase!