As much as we enjoy perusing the Christmas and holiday windows, when it comes to actually purchasing presents, it’s often less stressful to head online. We dug up the top ten new online gift sites to hit the Web in the past year, including ethically minded e-tailer Zady; Williams-Sonoma’s personalized-gift site Mark and Graham; and Strolby, which sells goods from Brooklyn boutiques.
Launched in September as the brother site to Shopbop (shopbop.com), this men’s apparel ($20–$1,696) and accessories ($8–$2,400) destination is brimming with fashion-forward finds from both established labels (Alexander Wang, Paul Smith) and emerging brands (Friend or Foe, Del Toro). Curated sections such as Editor’s Picks and Gift Shop make it easy to find items for the clotheshorse on your list, such as Raleigh Denim slim-fit jeans ($225), Public School military jackets ($320) and Sperry Top-Sider duck boots ($100). One-size-fits-all crowd-pleasers include Filson classic wool trapper caps ($55), Happy Socks patterned socks ($12) and Jack Spade camouflage rubber watches ($85). The plethora of designer duds can make things hard on your credit card, but spending is automatically curbed at checkout with the option of free three-day shipping.
Founders Riley End and Cammy Houser work exclusively with independent brands dedicated to making positive social impacts when sourcing the housewares ($5–$225) and accessories ($5–$375) for their ethically minded site. In addition to filtering goods by product type, price and color, you can sort offerings by the country goods are made in and the regions they impact. The sale of Esperos canvas totes ($60) funds education for children in Haiti, while Kara Weaves reinvests profits from hand-spun cotton bathrobes ($130) to provide artisans in Kerala, India, with fair wages. Would-Works oak and maple cutting boards ($30–$90) are crafted by homeless men and women in Los Angeles, who receive steady work and financial assistance through the brand’s proceeds. Additional noteworthy gifts include Raven + Lily beaded hoop earrings ($28), benefiting HIV-positive women in Ethiopia, and Usful Glassworks serving bowls ($19), whose profits help create jobs and vocational training for underserved individuals in Boise, Idaho. Shipping, which is based on how much you spend, ranges from $5 to $10 on orders up to $100 and is free for purchases more than a Benjamin.
Half Hitch Goods
Carrie Caillouette spent several years in the high-end furniture retail business before her passion for gift giving inspired her to launch this San Francisco e-tailer, filled with heirloom-quality accessories ($22–$230), home goods ($10–$169), fragrances ($10–$48) and vintage finds ($19–$139). Caillouette started the online boutique last November with her filmmaker husband, Britton, who does all the site photography and travels across the country with her to meet the people whose wares they carry. Drop-down menus simplify your search by occasion (birthday, wedding, stocking stuffers) and how items are made (eco-friendly, by hand, in the U.S.A., for a cause), allowing you to more easily find Marfa Brand handmade vegetable-oil soaps ($10 each), Peggy Wolf printed-leather coin purses ($39) and exclusive Half Hitch Goods handprinted kitchen towels (three for $24). Additional tokens handpicked by Carrie include Odette arrow cuffs ($98) and Dicky Wood walnut iPad stands ($99).
After five years working in various roles at Google, UPenn grads Anastasia Leng and Ryan Hayward were itching to pursue something that combined their passions for bespoke goods and technology. Last November, the duo realized their vision with this e-commerce platform featuring custom, made-to-order gifts from indie designers across the globe. Hatch works similarly to Etsy in that you correspond directly with merchants to purchase their jewelry ($17–$300), home decor ($10–$4,400), art ($40–$1,000) and apparel ($27–$1,800) via PayPal. Everything can be personalized, including River Valley Designs monogram silver money clips ($29) and DesignAtelierArticle plywood clocks ($70), which you can have carved with the word or phrase of your choice. Sentimental shoppers will adore Metal Monkey Jewellery sterling-silver rings ($125), inscribed with a message in the gift giver’s handwriting (simply e-mail metalsmith Graeme Ross a writing sample), while Letteroom premium-vodka bottles ($65) featuring personalized labels should blow all other holiday-party hostess gifts out of the water. Shipping rates and turnaround time vary by vendor, so make sure to ask before you buy.
The Little Market
Reality-TV star Lauren Conrad (The Hills, Laguna Beach) teamed up with friend Hannah Skvarla to debut this online boutique, specializing in handcrafted goods from Bolivia, India, Mexico, Nepal and Peru. The selection of accessories ($18–$450) and home goods ($16–$180) includes Artesania Sorata plush alpaca knit beanies ($44), Destiny Reflection handprinted aprons ($35) and Nappa Dori leather-embellished traveling trunks ($350–$450). Offerings such as Friends Handicrafts star-embroidered winter wreaths ($44) and Rose Ann Hall Designs glass pitchers ($68)—made by individuals with disabilities in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico—are all ethically sourced and sold via fair-trade standards. Orders $100 and up get free shipping, otherwise it costs $10.
Mark and Graham
Introduced by Williams-Sonoma in November 2012, this online shop specializes in accessories ($24–$599) and home goods ($10–$399) that can be monogrammed or customized. Adding initials, a name or special phrase to items is free, as is gift wrapping. Choose from more than 50 type treatments and color combinations when ordering chenille throw pillows ($49–$69) or graphic-print cocktail napkins (four for $19, eight for $35). Other timeless finds include colorful vinyl zip wallets ($69), suede Dopp kits ($89) and cashmere travel sets ($80) featuring petite pillows with matching eye masks. In addition to the brand’s eponymous line, a designer-collaboration section features personalized items from other labels, such as Sugar Paper initial letterpress stationery ($48) and Shelly Harper brass rings ($129).
Men in Cities
With the discerning man in mind, designer Yuvi Alpert and his team create sophisticated men’s accessories, sold exclusively at this online shop. The absence of a physical store paired with the brand’s practice of sourcing its own materials and manufacturers allows Men in Cities to price everything at an affordable $40. Each month, a new collection of nine products designed in the company’s Soho studio debuts. November’s highly giftable goods include slim leather breast-pocket wallets, suede ties, wool pocket squares and sterling-silver beaded bracelets. If you prefer to let the person you’re buying for do the picking, gift certificates are available in four increments: enough to cover one ($40), two ($80), six ($240) or 12 items ($480).
After living in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope for the past ten years, Lara Finch developed such a zeal for the borough’s boutique scene that she decided to bring its artisan goods to the masses. Launched in October as the first online retailer dedicated to Kings County shops, Strolby functions as a one-stop marketplace for Brooklyn’s most sought-after apparel ($30–$598), home goods ($18–$80) and accessories ($30–$565). While brass wolf rings ($55) from Williamsburg jewelry line Species by the Thousands and artichoke-printed notecards ($14) by Red Hook’s Foxy & Winston are more widely available, much of the merchandise is from stores that don’t have an e-commerce presence. More elusive discoveries include Leota animal-print wrap dresses ($210), normally sold at Boerum Hill boutique A Lovely Universe, and Waiting for the Sun men’s wood-framed shades ($175), plucked from Red Hook shop Kempton & Co. Items ship directly from the store they’re sold by, but delivery costs are standardized: Expect to pay $10 for one item, $12 for two, and $14 for three or more.
True to US
Retail-industry vet John Ruggieri worked in buying and product development for companies such as Gucci and Banana Republic for 25 years before launching this site, dedicated to selling domestically produced housewares ($32–$198), beauty products ($11–$54) and accessories ($32–$148). Each product page details the item and brand’s backstory, so you know exactly where your purchases come from. The assortment of homegrown goods includes Red Bird Ink ampersand letterpress coasters printed in Atlanta (ten for $22) and Library of Flowers fragrant bath oils ($28) by renowned Denver perfumer Margot Elena. Merchandise is grouped by interest, so it’s easy to unearth Indiana-made Potting Shed Creations oregano pots ($20) for your green-thumb friend and Knobstoppers vintage-pool-ball bottle stoppers ($34) crafted in Nashville for the wine enthusiast. There’s a selection of gifts for pooches too, including Found My Animal rope-and-leather dog collars ($45) crafted in Brooklyn.
In a retail market increasingly saturated with fast fashion, Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi are countering the craze with high-quality pieces that are either handmade, locally sourced, sustainable or crafted in the U.S.A. Standouts from the range of home goods ($5–$83), men’s and women’s clothing ($38–$625), and accessories ($22–$480) include Tracey Tanner neon-leather cosmetics pouches ($80) and Winifred Grace bronze celestial studs ($65). Sundry skinny sweatpants ($98) and Apolis gingham button-downs ($138) are the site’s answer to cheaply made mass-market threads, while Pigeon Toe Ceramics dented vases ($40) and La Compagnie du Kraft leather notebooks ($75) will add an artisan touch to your abode. Five percent of all proceeds benefit the Bootstrap Project, Bédat’s nonprofit that funds small artisan businesses in developing countries.