Quality is the New Black [Friday]


And so the barrage of  Black Friday email ads have arrived. Barnes and Noble, Macy’s, something called eGreetings, which seems completely unconnected to gift buying, and all the other usual suspects. In trolling both the physical and virtual worlds for weekly blog inspiration for months now, I’ve compiled what I think might beat the various Holiday shopping guides out there and will hopefully save some of you from Black Friday hell.

Buying gifts for people should be an enjoyable experience that’s all about showing your friends and loved ones that they are, in fact, friends and loved ones, not obligatory milestones on a check list. Of course, this is easier to do if you have fewer people to buy for, but I’m convinced it can be done with everyone, no matter how tangential the relationship and independent of how much your mother has guilted you into buying gifts for your infant nieces and nephews who will drool through the season and never remember it anyway. A gift is about an exchange between you and another person, so it’s always nice if it reflects the personalities of you both– it says a little bit about you and it says a lot about the receiver. A gift is like a semicolon.

This blog is like a gift, so the places on my shopping guide will reflect a lot about me, and, well, almost nothing about you since I don’t know who most of you are. I’m just assuming that if you read this, we share some similar affinities.

Shopping the virtual world can get overwhelming. As with real life, most of the best places come recommended by friends or are places you stumble onto. Stumble Into? Stumble Across.

The other day, my friend Briar introduced me to Wood and Faulk, a beautiful blog written by her friend Matt, in Portland, OR.

Soon to be a full-fledged store, Wood and Faulk features a wide variety of gorgeous objects. Like this, the most perfect valise, by Heritage Leather Co.








In the tradition of the internets, Wood and Faulk then led me to svpply.com, a site curated by “design junkies.” If you register an account (members-only keeps the quality of merchandise high), you can post wishlists. You can browse with or without an account. And so I did. And found all sorts of things I would purchase for myself and others.














All of these things are well out of my price range for anything other than bribes, but I’ll face reality later and search for something  more within reach.



In a show of hometown pride, I decided to include Imogene + Willie, an “unseen retail” project that calls a retrofitted gas station in Nashville, TN (woop woop) home. Run by Matt and Carrie Eddmenson, the shop is brilliant in its simple approach: jeans, t-shirts, and dresses that are conceived, designed, and handmade in the shop itself. From there, other wondrous  products fill in the gaps, but the custom denim that Carrie measures and makes to order on site is still the most exciting part of the store.













When trying to get into the gift buying mood, I like to make a pot of tea and peruse Tyler Doran’s curatorial approach to antiques on 1st Dibs. I almost always find things that will appeal to at least ONE personality on my list. Like this set of aluminum bullet-shaped, nesting shot glasses. Who doesn’t love a good pun in alcohol form? Thanks, Heir!

The thing about the internets is that it’s never-ending. No doubt looking into these websites will lead you to even more as yet undiscovered websites and even more beyond that. At that point you’ll want to leave the house. Or the office. Or wherever your internet black hole is. If you’re in San Francisco or Oakland, then you have many great shoptions.

I’ll start with Oakland, because it doesn’t get enough credit, it doesn’t get the holiday shopping crowd madness, and because everyone suddenly seems to be moving here.

I just stopped into my favorite little hole in the wall the other day: Cougar Horse, on Piedmont Ave.

Run by brother and sister team (Oakland natives), Reed and Dana Olsen, Cougar Horse features locally made, limited quantity sweaters, button ups, t-shirts, and outerwear. They also have a great collection of vintage pieces (ACTUAL vintage pieces, not thrift store quality junk relabeled “vintage”), jewelry, records, and shoes. I love shopping there because it’s tiny and either Dana or Reed are always minding the shop, ready to chat and show you their latest designs. Like Heir, Cougar Horse has a curated feel– every single object in the shop contributes and compliments the Cougar Horse label. When I was in the other day, they had some incredible Winter outerwear that I will be back for. I also like very big scarves, and so I like their very big scarf line.






Also in Oakland is the world’s perfect gift store– Atomic Garden.

The space feels like a country store from the future and features handmade comforters and quilts, thick and simple knits, skin care products in apothecary bottles and jars, and pillows piled high on a four post bed. It’s a tactilophile’s dream.












Similarly designed, but with more reasonable prices, is Professor Squirrel: Emporium of Fascinating Objects.

I like this pocket watch, but I don’t really like when people actually USE pocket watches– there’s something too contrived about it– so I would likely turn this into a necklace or something.







In San Francisco is The Perish Trust, on Divisadero Street.

This store is like a Wunderkammer come to life. You can find everything from antique yarn, to glasses frames that never go out of style, to that lamp that puts the finishing touch on any apartment. If you or someone you know is still into tusks as jewelry, then you can find Mariele Williams’ designs here.









The other great thing about going over to Divis. is that you’ll get to see the mural that just went up at the Harding Theater. Yes, laser cat eyes.

Candy Store Collective, on 16th Street, continues to be one of my favorite spots to shop for shoes, jackets, and smaller gifts. This is in part because they usually have a really nice selection, but more than that, because they offer layaway. Remember layaway?? Me either– it had its heyday before my time– but layaway lets you put down a deposit on an item of clothing and the store will hold it, allowing you to make payments for some period of time until you’ve paid it off and can take it home. Awesome! I love hold overs from the olden days.


Jazz shoes!



Down the block from Candy Store Collective is  Bell Jar. Their clothes and such are lovely, but their bath products are out of this world!

Holy Jesus@ Spanish Fig and Nutmeg Bath Soap!











And so there you have it. My brain storming guide to holiday shopping. Chanukah starts in two weeks, and Christmas countdown insanity begins Friday, so if you’re going to spend money, you might as well spend it thoughtfully and have a lovely time while doing so. Hopefully my approach to experiential gift buying helps.

I somehow managed to veer wildly from the list I’ve been compiling for months, but such is the way of the internets.


About Michael von Braithwaite

Does it look like I'd wear it on a boat, at an eccentric person's estate or accompanied by a peacock on a chain? Yeah, I'll probably buy that.


  1. LD

    I find wrist watches uncomfortable (wrist anything for that matter) and carried a pocketwatch before the age of cell phones. Don’t hate :p

  2. michaelvonbraithwaite

    LD, that’s a valid point that I hadn’t thought of. Go back to the pocketwatch! I just don’t like it when guys do it as a “thing.” Like, “look at me, I’m wearing a pocketwatch. It’s a thing that says something deep about me.” You’re not like that, though, so you can probably wear one well. 🙂

  3. Michael, thanks so much for including me on your list! Great to be surrounded by some other amazing choices… many I wasn’t aware of too – nice work on the curation.

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