The Cultural Curator

Bringing you thoughts on feminism, fashion, food, current affairs, and other cultural goodies…

Holiday Gift Guide: 12 Gifts that ‘Give Back’

Whether you’re looking to spend a little (or a lot!) this holiday season, we all know how overwhelming gift giving can be. Finding that ‘perfect’ piece is enough to make any girl (or guy) run for the hills…

But! Fret not my friends because, with a little bit of digging and a lot of webpage hits, I have compiled a gift guide that caters to a range of tastes and budgets… as most of us understand all too well the scramble that comes with finding really awesome gifts at affordable prices.

And because, by now if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know how I feel about making responsible purchases (but not at the expense of style), I’ve made sure that all the items in this guide are sustainable and/or ethically sourced, and have people behind their production who care about doing good or, at the very least, not doing harm to the planet and its inhabitants.

Without further ado, here are ‘12 Gift Ideas for those 12 Days of Christmas’ (says the Jewish girl who, as an adult, no longer receives ‘8 Gifts for those 8 Nights of Chanukah’ 😦 )…):

'The 7 Virtues' Fragrance Line

‘The 7 Virtues’ Fragrance Line

1. The 7 VirtuesFragrance (50ml $70 CAD; 100ml $100 CAD) – If you live in Canada (The Bay), New York City (Lord & Taylor on 5th Ave.), or London (Selfridges), then lucky you! Visit any of these stores, and you can smell these amazing fragrances first-hand. If not, go to, where you can purchase the fragrances online. My personal favourites are ‘Middle East Peace’ (fresh, citrusy, and smells like summer… or a trip to the beach in Miami) and ‘Vetiver of Haiti’ (sexy, musky, and smells like something/someone I would want to kiss), which I wear individually or, if I’m feeling adventurous, combine the two to make my own sophisticated, personal scent. The best part? The fragrances are vegan, Paraben- and Phthalate-free, made with essential oils that don’t irritate your skin, and have a mandate that works to rebuild countries in conflict around the world. The perfect gift for the trendsetter in your life who knows something fabulous when she/he sees (or, in this case, smells) it.

'APT' MAE Necklace

‘APT’ MAE Necklace

2. A PEACE TREATY  (APT for short)MAE Necklace ($105 USD) – This New York-based company has been around since 2008, the brainchild of two friends, Farah Malik, a Pakistani Muslim, and Dana Arbib, a Libyan Jew. The company creates employment for skilled artisans working in places of socio-political strife and, what’s more, produces some of the most gorgeous scarves and jewelry that I have seen anywhere. Ethical? Check. Stylish? Check. Worthy of being included in this guide? A definite CHECK! But, in all seriousness, I love this company and its designs. APT is the perfect prototype for how to combine fabulous design and solid ethics. Here is one of my favourite pieces from its latest collection (, but give me pretty much anything from APT’s design house and I will be one (very!) happy holiday girl.

'Modavanti' Large Berber Travel Satchel

‘Modavanti’ Large Berber Travel Satchel

3. ModavantiLarge Berber Travel Satchel ($320 USD) – Going somewhere this holiday season? Make sure you travel in style with this handcrafted leather satchel (  The bag is produced using one-of-a-kind Berber Kilims woven by Berber women in the Atlas Mountains, and the leather is died naturally in centuries old tanneries of Marrakesh, Morocco.  You’re sure to make a statement with this stylish satchel on your shoulder!

'Ten Thousand Villages' Fanfare Painted Tray

‘Ten Thousand Villages’ Fanfare Painted Tray

4. Ten Thousand VillagesFanfare Painted Tray ($99 USD) – If you are living in any of the major cities in Canada or the US, and you haven’t heard of Ten Thousand Villages, then you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere. I love this store for its ethical trading with artisanal cooperatives around the world, its quality products, and its reasonable prices. In fact, it’s where I do most of my gift shopping for friends and family because it always has something to suit individual tastes. I was taken by this beautifully detailed hand-painted tray (, an elegant addition to one’s home decor. The website even allows you to watch the ‘behind the scenes’ of the tray’s production. The beauty of modern-day technology!

'Everlane' Cashmere V-Neck

‘Everlane’ Cashmere V-Neck

5. EverlaneThe Cashmere V-Neck ($120 USD) – Oh, Everlane, I love what you do! This is a company that pairs simple design with quality materials and, in turn, produces classic and long-lasting ‘wardrobe essentials’, including basic t-shirts, cashmere cardigans, leather bags, sandals, and belts, only available for purchase via the company’s online store. Everlane’s unpretentious formula has won me (and several of my friends!) over, and I’m delighted to include them in this guide. This company is about cutting the middle man out of the seller-buyer transaction so that customers pay less and get more, all while ensuring its self-awareness about where its goods are being sourced from (aka: company officials visit the garment factories where its products are being developed for both quality and ethics control). Good on Everlane for thinking outside the box, which, in turn, has encouraged many of us to jump on its bandwagon. This burgundy cashmere V-neck ( is a personal favourite to wash away those winter blahs. Stay Warm – Look Stylish. That’s my motto.

'MŸAŸC Cosmetics' VIVA GLAM Lipstick

‘MŸAŸC Cosmetics’ VIVA GLAM Lipstick

6. MŸAŸC CosmeticsVIVA GLAM Lipstick ($15 USD) – There are many household-name cosmetics companies out there, but MŸAŸC stands out to me for one special reason: its famous (dating back to 1994!) VIVA GLAM lipstick ( I love a bold red lip on an otherwise-naked face. It’s understated cool and, just like VIVA GLAM, it’s relentlessly – and unapologetically – sexy. All proceeds from the selling price of VIVA GLAM lipstick are donated to the MŸAŸC AIDS Fund to support women, men, and children living with HIV and AIDS.

'COCOAandHONEY' Set of 9 Organic, Fair Trade Chocolate Bars

‘COCOAandHONEY’ Set of 9 Organic, Fair Trade Chocolate Bars

7. COCOAandHONEYSet of 9 Organic, Fair Trade Chocolate Bars Artisan-Made in Small Batches ($36 CAD) – Confession time. I’m eating my way through the holidays, and I don’t care what anyone says! And if you throw some quality dark (or light… I don’t discriminate) chocolate in my direction, you will have to fight me for a bite. Really. These organic, fair trade designer chocolate bars by COCOAandHONEY ( are almost too beautiful to eat (notice how I wrote ‘almost’?), but you will anyway. And if you want to send me a batch, I won’t complain. Just contact me for my address. Or maybe I will go ahead and make it public… anything for chocolate.

'LSTN Headphones' Ebony Wood Troubadours

‘LSTN Headphones’ Ebony Wood Troubadours

8. LSTN HeadphonesEbony Wood Troubadours ($150 USD) – This gift is for all the music lovers out there (and who isn’t?!). I bet you’ve never given much thought to the sustainability of your headphones, have you? Well, no need to worry; LSTN has thought about it on your behalf with its beautiful headphones (, using reclaimed ebony wood casing. Listening to the latest beats whilst also supporting environmental sustainability… who would have thunk it?! Wait… there’s more? Yes, there is! I love that this company was founded with the mission to ‘create global change by providing high quality products that help fund hearing restoration and spread awareness for the global problem of hearing loss and hearing impairment’. Now that’s music to my (headphone-wearing) ears!

'Ann & Arayata' Jamie Raffia iPad Clutch

‘Ann & Arayata’ Jamie Raffia iPad Clutch

9. Ann & ArayataJamie Raffia iPad Clutch ($35 CAD) – For those of us lucky enough to own an iPad (I’m not one of them, FYI), there is an inherent need to protect the investment behind this technological apparatus. So what will serve to protect such a prized device? This bold and beautiful Raffia iPad Clutch (!product/prd1/847146851/jamie-raffia-ipad-clutch), sustainably made by artisans in the Philippines, should fit the bill! A minimum 10% of profits goes to sustainable development projects in the Philippines and Rwanda. That’s something to write home about… in an e-mail that you composed using your trusty iPad, of course.

'Fair Naturally' Cocoa and Walnut Body Scrub

‘Fair Naturally’ Cocoa and Walnut Body Scrub

10. Fair Naturally Cocoa and Walnut Body Scrub ($9.50 USD) – It’s winter here across the Eastern Seaboard of the US and Canada, and with the very cold temperatures comes very dry skin. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is fixable with the right product. Body scrubs, like this one ( by Fair Naturally, exfoliate the skin, leaving it soft and smooth… and ready to ring in the holidays! What’s even lovelier? The company behind this product is ethically driven, packed with fair trade ingredients, and organic and natural where possible. Slather some of that scrub on me STAT.

'Missibaba' QOB Cha Ching Puzzler 1

‘Missibaba’ QOB Cha Ching Puzzler 1

11. MissibabaQOB Cha Ching Puzzler 1 ($250 USD) – If you know me (or if you have simply seen my closet), then you know that I have too many of the following: shoes, scarves… and purses. That is… if you can ever have ‘too many’ of any of those items, which, I personally believe, you cannot. So what’s one more purse, really… especially when it’s as cute as this one ( by Missibaba. The company, which was started in 2005 by South African designer Chloe Townsend, and touts itself as a ‘luxury accessory design label’, is passionate about South Africa and supporting local industry. Its Kayamandi Team of seven women artisans, based in the heart of Woodstock, Cape Town, was started through a skills development and job creation project. I just returned from Cape Town and, sadly, missed out on this wonderful find. But you don’t have to! What a special gift this purse makes!

'Gone Rural' Unique Decorative Vase

‘Gone Rural’ Unique Decorative Vase

12. Gone RuralUnique Decorative Vase ($150 USD) – Have you ever walked into a house and looked around in awe of all the fabulous pieces that make up the worldly décor? If this sounds like you, I have good news. You don’t have to travel to the (other) ends of the earth to look like you – and your home – did! Prettify your place – or in this gift-giving instance, someone else’s – with this bold, eye-catching vase (, woven from Swazi lutindzi grass and detailed with colorful upcycled cloth and metallic candy wrappers. And who’s behind its production, you ask?  Gone Rural is a Swaziland-based organization comprised of over 700 rural women artisans spread across thirteen communities. In addition to empowering women and alleviating poverty through fair trade, the organization runs a variety of programs to improve the lives of women and children in the region. Make up a home and make a positive impact!

The **BONUS** (aka: the one piece that I’ve been asking Santa for all year…)

'SAME SKY' Nude, Sky Bracelet

‘SAME SKY’ Nude, Sky Bracelet

13. SAME SKYNude, Sky Bracelet ($160 USD) – I don’t know if I’ve been naughty or nice this year (perhaps a   little of both?), but I do know one thing.  This chic bracelet ( is a showstopper! I was invited to a holiday reception for the line in New York last year, and this pretty number has been on my mind ever since. My director has this bracelet and every time I see it on her, I comment on how beautiful it is like it’s the first time. I want one. And you should want to give this to someone. Why? Because it’s the perfect ‘go anywhere’ piece. You can dress it up or dress it down, and the lucky girl who finds this bracelet in her holiday stocking won’t be short on occasions to wear it. But that’s not all. She will also share in a global network of fellow bracelet wearers. SAME SKY bracelets are handmade by women artisans in Kigali, Rwanda, and every bracelet comes signed by the woman who made the individual piece. The company provides jobs globally for women struggling to lift themselves out of poverty. Instead of a handout, it believes in giving a hand-up and the tools to become self-sufficient. Trained as artisans, SAME SKY women earn 15 to 20 times the average wage in Sub Saharan Africa. 100% of net proceeds are reinvested to train and employ more artisans in need. SAME SKY’s motto is “WE EMPLOY. YOU EMPOWER.” Talk about spreading the love – and sharing the wealth – this holiday season!

As always, if you have any questions or just want to reach out and say ‘hi!’, you can get in touch with me at I welcome ‘holiday wishes’ all year long! 😉




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This entry was posted on December 15, 2013 by in Family, Fashion, Feminism, Food, Health & Beauty, Holidays, Life, Media, Music, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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