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074: This gift guide has demands
Part I of IV.
It’s hard to say what makes a great gift. Perhaps it’s like pornography, and you just know it when you see it. Or maybe it’s entirely subjective, so contingent on the recipient that any attempt to codify the art and practice of giving is moot.
I am not the world’s greatest gift giver (largely by fault of being a poor planner), and the successes I have had with it in the past have on occasion been lifted from characters in my life. Whoever it was who taught me to order pancakes for the table also loaned me the last-minute scratchers gift idea that I exercised as recently as this week.
Still, for obvious seasonality-related reasons, it’s been on my mind. Rather than skip them altogether, I have inexplicably found four separate gift guides inside of me that I need to get out, and which I will be releasing over the course of the next week, beginning with today’s.
I consider this edition to be Magasin’s flagship gift guide for 2022, and it’s one that makes demands of its recipients. A gift exchange is a contract with your giftee, one that requires them to be specific, discerning, hard-to-please, and particular about the objects they let into their lives.
In return, they’ll receive an item that’s characterized by an otherworldliness that’s more a feeling than a quality: Things that seem like they never made it into the 20th century. Talismans. Souveniers from Borges’ Tlön, Uqbar, or Orbis Tertius.
On this list you’ll find ideas sourced by me or suggested by contributors to this newsletter over the past year that embody the spirit of a Magasin gift.
Found by Claude Lubroth Reilly
Ink for a fountain pen might seem like too much of an affect to gift, but this recommendation comes from someone who’s used to writing the analog way: my mother. With its nib divot and arresting green contents, this bottle is a remarkable thing to present the right person—writers, designers, fidgeters—even if they make no plans to quit their notes app. Another route, also touted by Claude, is sandalwood-scented ink. Pair either with a set of handmade Montblanc envelopes.
These funny egg-opening tools come in all shapes and sizes and are common in Western Europe, whose soft-boiled egg consumption is regarded as highly virtuous by Americans. For that reason, egg accessories are categorically flattering gifts to receive. An Achille Castiglioni egg cup would be the highest compliment should you ever get your hands on one, but this $7 contraption that slices the head off your breakfast is a cheap and eye-pleasing alternative for telling your giftee you’ve sized them up as someone who touches grass.
Stopping by Schostal for fresh poplin boxers and striped pajama sets is at the top of the “when in Rome” must-do list. It’s a rarity and delight to make the pilgrimage to the shop, surveying glass displays of pointelle tanks and socks and pulling down stacks of paper boxes, in order to get ahold of its wares. But should your road not lead you there before the year’s over, a collaboration with Pellicano Hotels’ editorial arm, Issimo, has brought a few Schostal classics within ordering distance.
Found by Mayan Toledano
Mexico City-hailing clothing brand Tiempos draws upon the ecstasy and abrasiveness of youth culture, instilling in its products, like this strobing racing jersey, the point at which hard and soft meet. The products themselves—as well as the campaign shot by Mayan Toledano—are able to hold in one hand what it feels like to be 25.
One of ten, this natural-dyed silk mashroo pillow cover is made by hand in Ahmedabad, India on a 100-year-old loom. As with Tigra Tigra’s entire collection, the brand’s home wares celebrate color in storied wabi-sabi style that could suit even the starkest minimalist space.
Loving The Row is only one reason to gift this tee. Loving that The Row has a sense of humor it deploys sparingly is yet another. The brand’s scribbled tees work, naturally, in a MoMA way: a performance of the id with ample negative space (whose kid do you think holds the artist credit?). But the gag is that you’ll get this because you checked the recently released actual kids’ line and realized even the largest sizes wouldn’t work for you, an adult.
Scented candles are lovely things to give and receive, but sculptural ones are arguably more intimate. Grant the candle’s new owner the option to maintain its integrity as an objet d’art or be involved in its metamorphosis with the swipe of a match. Favorites of mine, brutalist Malte van der Meyden blocks vibrate with the tension of holding these two states in them at once.
Not everyone trusts white in the winter, and not everyone will love the blocky logo apparent on this Jil Sander down scarf. The trick is to see it as a call back to the graphic, technical motifs of 1970s Arctic expeditions, and the endearingly gorpy outfit options will expand tenfold before your (or their) eyes.
Found by Dakota Butler
The apex of functional design, this clever storage object can hold magazines, books, or as Dakota Butler uses it, records. The mesmerizingly swoopy figure from Danish brand AYTM has won awards and, as Butler also shared, found a home at such stylish institutions at Manhattan’s La Noxe bar. This gift is not a risk, other than that you might not want to part with it when push comes to shove.
Sunnei’s Objects grab at the desire center of the gut. Its $1,000+ Murano dildos, listed as “mostly decorative,” are gorgeous, no doubt, but they distract from the more actionable gifts in their midst. This tromp l’oeil doormat is brilliantly givable on several fronts, namely that few people already own clever, arts-oriented doormats (from Sunnei, at that) and this one is $86.
Montreal-based designer Stamátios Fragos reimagines archetypal Greco-Roman columns in wooden dowels, his Parállilo lamps a warm and versatile alternative to the whipping minimalism of today’s prim wire lighting trends.
Found by Emilia Petrarca
Emilia Petrarca may have purchased these Mondo Mondo earrings to match her Alaia heart bag and feed her addiction for the motif, but even freed from the organ-collector’s eye, these sweet wire-hook droplets would delight any fan of the brand’s artful misshapes.
Found by Eny Lee Parker, Louisiana Mei Gelpi, and Alexandra Paul Zotov
More than even Tekla or Magniberg, Viso Project has made the blanket of the year. Eny Lee Parker, Louisiana Mei Gelpi, and Alexandra Paul Zotov all picked one up when shopping for fall or capitalizing on the SSENSE sale (where you’ll still find it, by the way, for over half off). The hand feel of brushed mohair and wool at any scale but particularly by the ream is like a tactile “I love you.”
Released several years back, the Cindy Sherman pool float still haunts me as one of those spirit-of-the-staircase items I should have made my own when I first met it, floating in the idyllic lap pool of a Hamptons quarantine house (its most effective setting). Grotesque yet powerfully magnetic, Sherman’s manipulated face towers over and invades your space through the “screen” of an inflatable iPhone, a layered remark on leisure, consumption, wealth, self-presentation—it’s a genius use of the infrequented medium and, yet to have hit art fiend collector’s status, is going for an unexpectedly low $50.
Made of just two utterly simple parts, this sperm-like oxidized copper candle holder captures that “I wish I thought of it” feeling. Barely hanging on to the third dimension, Nowhere Now Here’s “Going Home” centerpiece seems like it could slip in an instant into the ether. Is that where home is?
Even current custodians of previous-season SC103 links bags would appreciate unboxing this high-beam edition. The painted silver calf-leather loops marry the brand’s arts-and-crafts ethos with space-age sensibility. Plus, let’s not forget SC103 was in the Met. American icons through and through.
Found by Rachel Tashjian Wise
Leave it to Rachel Tashjian to make New England’s preppiest traditions fashionable in an industry that in other breaths worships novelty, speed and Hedi Slimane. Like many things on this list that are soft and tender, the Nantucket baskets made by Lisa Bessette that Tashjian gifted her mother- and sister-in-law point the spotlight at the mastery of handiwork. Who knows, maybe Bessette’s baskets will be the next Bode.
Found by Isioma Iyamah
Hilary Taymour’s partner at Collina Strada, Charlie Engman, put out a book this year, Mom, which counts Miranda July and Rachel Cusk as contributors. Isioma Iyamah, who went to the signing at Mast Books, described it as “beautiful”: “It’s a really fun book—not super sentimental, but you can see so much love in it and tons of humor.” Something worth meditating on in regards to your own mother and her alter egos.
Still enjoying the relative discretion of its soft-launch era, Gentle Storm is poised to be one of 2023’s most original jewelry outfits. The handcrafted-in-France line centers rhodium—the rarest and most resilient of the platinum metals—as the cornerstone of its otherwise gold and sterling silver jewelry, affording it the time-tested brilliance deserved by discerning hands.
It won’t arrive until January, but for the friend with a borderline unhealthy obsession with archival Abercrombie, this gift is worth the suspense. Published by SOA and Friend Editions, The Society Archive’s soft-cover book features 212 pages of moodily shot ‘90s trade; impressive to dates and an essential reference for reinvigorating one’s own grid.
Regardless of how closely one follows the Gemsun trajectory, it is impossible to predict in what direction the brand will flow next. Its clever crocheted bags made way to otherworldly charms, which made way to inventive and offbeat apparel. Its latest season, featuring this headband atypically stitched with OHRENWÄRMER (ear warmer) in reverse, continues to curve and augment the through line of Gemsun’s house codes, as well as our expectations.
This Japanese packaging design book is legendary among a certain creative stratum, and the fact that tracking down a copy south of $300 is by definition a scavenger hunt—if not a fool’s errand—makes finally getting your hands on one a compounded reward. (This 2nd printing lacks a photo but is described as being in very good condition and is $185.) Within its pages, you’ll find extraordinary experimentations with banana leaves, little wooden boxes for candy, and at least one proposal for how, exactly, to wrap five eggs.
Pressure makes diamonds, they say, but also these warped steel vases designed by Tim Tevin and produced at the hands of 45 tons of force. It’s not just the satisfying crinkled base or the iridescent zinc sheen of the vessel that triggers a response in the beholder, but the chance to marvel at the powers we have available to us that so enormously exceed those we contain in our bodies.
Summon Elemental’s Patrick Carroll, who has collaborated with J.W.Anderson and had Emma Corrin styled in his pieces, calls himself a “clothesmaker” rather than a fashion designer. While you could (and should) still wear his poetically appliquéd knits, they would be better understood as art—in exploration of grief, queerness, religion—than fashion. This particular top (one of few left items on his site) features a notched collar and a silk body with cashmere sleeves.
I was lucky enough to receive this small and wonderful token as an engagement present from a friend with certifiably good taste, so now I’m shamelessly passing along the idea. The Italian “Profumo-Farmaceutica” spoil has all of the fixings of a cherished gift: old-world delight, an intoxicating scent, and the impossibility of duplicating an existing item (because who already owns a scented terracotta pomegranate?).
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Graphics by Em Seely Katz