As designers, you'll have an appreciation of unique and lovingly crafted gifts. Hunting out indie gems can be easier said than done, however. To help you out, we've rounded up some of the best independent shops around – these are the places to snap up a unique gift this holiday season.
Some of these brands have physical shops in the US or UK, but most are mainly based online and will ship worldwide – just check postal times to make sure your gift will arrive in time!
In 2008, designer Jeff Sheldon spotted a gap in the market for quality products featuring simple, fresh graphics. He launched Ugmonk to fill that niche, and it was a resounding success. Alongside the T-shirts Sheldon started with, the shop also sells hats, notebooks and a range of leather and canvas goods, including wallets and coasters.
Ugmonk partners with an organisation called Rice Bowls, which supports children in orphanages around the world – so you can shop in the knowledge that some of your cash will be going to a good cause.
Nuno sells the most colourful and vibrant scarves, robes and eye masks. This indie shop's USP is that all of its products are made from its own fabric – NeoSilk – crafted entirely from recycled PET bottles, making it super eco-friendly. It was launched by graphic designers Ann Hintze and Cassandra Zimmerman, and is based in Utah. As well as their own designs, the duo also collaborate with other artists (the scarf pictured features a design by artist Jason Naylor).
03. Studio Neat
Founded in 2010 by designers Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, Studio Neat sells simple products that solve interesting problems. The duo first invented the Glif – a tripod mount for smartphones, and its Kickstarter exceeded its goal 10 times over. More cunning products followed, from the Cosmonaut (a wide-grip stylus for touchscreens), to the intriguing Neat Ice Kit (for making perfect ice). This is the place to shop for gadget lovers who thought they had everything.
04. Rock Cakes
Rock Cakes is run by Brighton-based illustrator Sarah Meredith, who launched the company in 2008. In this shop you'll find quirky jewellery, patches, pins and brooches, all of which aim to "spread a little joy and happiness".
"I’d always had a burning desire to have my own business – to have creative freedom and work for myself," she says. "I wanted to make and sell the jewellery ideas that popped into my head. I love clothing as well as jewellery – patches bridge this gap and are also super-accessible."
Oliver Jeffers is a best-selling picture book artist and author who also runs an online store of delightful products. As well as these his well-known books, you can pick up T-shirts and sweaters (for adults as well as children), cool collectables and prints, all in Jeffers' unique and charming style. Read our interview to find out more about the artist.
Illustrate is a slightly different proposition. Founders Toby Brusdon and James Katz have joined forces with different visual artists (they represent 10 in total at the moment), and turn their original artwork into unique gifts. You can pick up everything from screen-printed garments to cool stationery and skateboards. There are physical shops in Bristol and Cardiff, and the online store ships around the world. The shop also has a strong eco-friendly ethos.
07. Finest Imaginary
Finest Imaginary is an independent British studio run by designer-maker Kim Lawler. It launched in 2007 and sells jewellery, pins and patches, homeware and stationery. Finest Imaginary built its reputation on intricate laser-cut perspex designs, which are assembled by hand in Lawler's studio in Yorkshire.
08. Abi Overland
Abi Overland sells beautiful, unique dinnerware. Overland studied illustration in Brighton before launching her own business. Her intricate work features surreal and otherworldly landscapes, which is screen-printed or hand-painted onto bone china to create eye-catching tea sets and crockery.
"I loved the idea of creating works of art that were accessible to people in their everyday lives, and ceramics had always been an interest of mine," says Overland.