Tastemakers Talk: Best Gifts Given & Received


In honor of the holiday season, I asked a few of my favorite tastemakers to share their best holiday gifts (both given and received). Their answers may surprise you.

Tastemakers Talk Best Gifts Given & Received


CHRISTINA CALDWELL, Online Director, W magazine
“My favorite gifts are always the sentimental ones – my father engraving his vintage Rolex for me, the blanket a friend knitted for the birth of my son, and a very simple gold star necklace from my mom that was the first present my father gave her 35 years ago.”

“Do genetic gifts count? I endowed my teething two-year-old son, Griffin, with a love of Philly-style hard pretzels. Best gift received? Easy. Optimus Prime Transformer when I was eight years old. I’d just seen the animated movie the day before, so I was primed for maximum gift impact.”

LAURA SIEGEL, designer
“I love giving the gift of a surprise! When I was a teenager, my friends and I would plan big surprises for each other’s birthdays. Now I love knitting people gifts personal to them. The most meaningful gift I received was something my great grandfather gave my grandmother on her twentieth birthday: a Spanish silver bracelet with fine cut-outs and detailed engraved designs (her nickname and twentieth birthdate were engraved on the interior). On my twentieth birthday, my grandmother gave this bracelet to me.”

“My husband [Shipley & Halmos designer, Jeff Halmos] made me a book of photographs from over the course of our relationship. The cover has a really creepy cartoon pizza from a delivery pizza spot we both love by our offices so I wasn’t sure at first what it was when he gave it to me, but it’s probably one of my favorite things I own.” –Lisa

“My brother and I are taking my mom on a road trip through Mexico wine country for her birthday. It’s a trip that will be both memorable, beautiful, and terrifying. I think life experiences make great gifts!” –Sophie

ROBERT VERDI, celebrity stylist
“The best gift I ever gave was a library of cookbooks all autographed by the world famous chefs and authors. It was months of calling and organizing, but it blew the recipient’s mind. As for the best gift I ever received, it’s a toss up between a drawing that my niece Phoebe did of me for my birthday and a 40k crocodile bag that I received for my 40th birthday. I think it’s a tie.”

“I have given lots of jewelry to my friends as gifts – to be able to bejewel the people I love (as it is one of my big passions). I guess one of the greatest gifts I have ever received is to be able to work at something I love to do. That is truly a gift!”

“There’s a pair of overalls that were mine when I was a baby, which according to my mother, I wore all the time. Over the  years, she has loaned them to several of her close friends who have had babies – they’ve probably been circulated to over 15 different people at this point! I recently gave them to a friend and her new baby and she was very touched – it meant a lot to us both to keep the cycle of these little overalls going. Art is something I really treasure getting, perhaps because it’s a big part of my family and because it’s very special to receive something that someone you love created. When I was born, my father made a painting called ‘Young Love’ for me. That painting is incredibly important to me and has hung in every one of my bedrooms for the past 30 years.”

LAUREN CRAFT, jewelry designer
“The most meaningful gift I have ever received are my Cartier love bracelets from my Dad, which I have never taken off.”

WENDY BRANDES, jewelry designer
“The best gift I’ve given was a surprise birthday party for my husband. All four of his children came – two from across the country – and he had no idea ’til he saw them in the restaurant. One of the best gifts I ever got was in February 2003. I was considering getting a rescue dog but hesitated because she didn’t seem to get along with my first dog. Then they called and said if I didn’t pick up Gigi immediately, they’d take her to the pound. I had the flu, we were having a blizzard, and my husband isn’t a big dog person, but somehow he got across town to fetch a very frightened Gigi for me.”

AMINA AKHTAR, Executive Editor, Elle.com
“My mother gave me her wedding clothes. We’re Pakistani so there are days’ worth of outfits. They don’t fit me but I wanted to keep them in the family. Best gift given? Well, my sister is the same size shoe as me, so every shoe sale, there’s one for her, one for me. It may not sound meaningful, but trust me, it makes her day. I’m also really excited about the gift I’m giving my nephew this year. He likes to play on a keyboard (he’s almost two). So I’m getting him a piano that’s his size.”

“My husband loves the scrapbooks that I have made for him over the years. They have pictures from us dating and of our children growing up. I love the Chanel camellia ring that my husband gave to me for Christmas when I was pregnant with our twin girls. It has two flowers, one for each baby. He also gave me two more Chanel camellia flower bracelets for each of our other girls. I wear them all every day.”

STEFANIE SYAT, hair/makeup artist, Pre-Dame
“I find it so fulfilling when I can give the gift of confidence through a simple makeup application or lesson. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the look on a woman’s face when she sees herself in the mirror for the first time. My goal is always to bring out my client’s natural beauty by highlighting her best features, and therefore that first look in the mirror really surprises her: it’s not a lot of makeup, it’s just the right makeup. Teaching someone who is new to makeup tips and tricks to bring out her natural features and really build an inner beauty is so fulfilling. It seems silly to think a great makeup job can boost confidence, but I hear it quite often. After all, that’s why I started Pre-Dame! To bring professional makeup to the average girl and hopefully build confidence along the way. Updates from past clients are probably the most fulfilling and rewarding gifts I receive – I have some awesome clients!”

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

December 21, 2012