Affordable luxury

This is the time of year when you just can’t move for ‘gift guides’ in every glossy magazine and newspaper supplement that comes your way. On the one hand I love a gorgeous spread of gifty things as much as the next person, but on the other, some of the ideas that are suggested are simply too fantastical. And yet who doesn’t get carried away with it all? Case in point, I’ve yet to see a gift editorial that doesn’t feature a Smythson notebook (even the smallest ones are not less that £25), photo album or passport wallet. Firstly, can’t they come up with something more original? We’ve being seeing these pesky Smythson little black books and their ilk for the last five years if not more. Secondly, who really needs a £25 notebook that’s smaller than the palm of your hand? That’s not luxury, that’s a rip-off. Hermes is even worse. I love, love, love Hermes, it’s the one brand that I find really irresistable but I refuse to pay £300 or whatever it is for one of their banana-shaped purses that would barely fit a pound coin. It’s just not worth it! I’m not saying don’t spend £300 on a gift but for that money you could get a cashmere sweater, a gorgeous Eames chair or a beautifully framed art poster instead.

I think it’s perfectly possible to find so-called luxurious gifts under £50. So here is my gift guide for fussy fashionisas that won’t bankrupt you.

Books from Amazon
I recently bought Basic Black, The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life) by Cathie Black, the president of Hearst Magazines for my old editor who used to work for Hearst and is now going freelance. This book is a mix of business advice and an insight into the magazine industry and I’m sorely tempted to keep it for myself. The great thing about Amazon is you can buy ‘used’ books that are in mint condition at greatly reduced prices and they are sent straight to your home or office rather than you having to lug them all the way home. (If there’s one thing I hate carrying, it’s a bagful of books.) At the other end of the book spectrum is the coffee table glossy. I’d like to know who decided that £40 is now the average price of a coffee table book. Not that long ago it was £20-£25. So again, I’m angling for Vogue Living, the new book from Vogue which showcases some of the spectacular houses that have been featured in US Vogue over the years but don’t get it from Borders, get it from Amazon!

Fashion from discount stores
Too-personal gifts are a no-no in my book. That includes anything for the house. Ornaments are very dodgy ground unless you have similar taste to the recipient. Likewise, jewellery is a very personal thing. If you know your giftee very well and you’re confident that a fashion gift will be well-received then give Harvey Nichols a miss and get your present from – designer kudos at discount prices. Alternatively, I can highly recommend a trip to an outlet village like Bicester Village. The discounts are phenomenal, the shopping experience is much nicer than a high street bunfight and you will probably make enough of a saving that you can treat yourself to a nice little something plus lunch at Carluccio’s.

Fashion CDs
Every fashion fiend adores a trendy music compilation so head to Urban Outfitters and nab yourself the Hotel Costes or Karl Lagerfeld compilations. I love wrapping these types of presents in fashion shoots (or even the ads) torn from Vogue back issues. (If your magazines are too precious then use the office photocopier instead.)

Sexy Stationery
Step away from the Prada diaries! We all know the seductive allure of the blank page but once you’ve written on that first page all the appeal evaporates into thin air. Surely it’s more sensible to spend wisely and opt for a Moleskine notebook or diary instead? I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t LOVE one of these. Add a bundle of Muji pens to the mix and your work is done.

Snazzy socks
If you must be a bit frivolous may I suggest a pair of snazzy designer socks? Sonia Rykiel and Eley Kishimoto make my favourites which are available from Shop At Maison Bertaux. Tabio is another fantastic sock source – how about some of their sexy sockettes to wear with contrasting coloured strappy sandals? If your budget is tighter that Roland Mouret’s RM Moon dress then TopShop is your best option. Stock up on three pairs of spotty ankle socks for £7 and divvy them betwixt your friends. Maybe you could fill them with sweets or tiny lip glosses for a new take on the stocking filler?

Monogram madness
I love the idea of personalising your presents with names or initials. Monogrammed pillowcases, boxershorts or pyjamas are much more exciting than the plain variety and show that some effort has gone into the gift.

I must confess that when I buy a present, it has to be something that I like as well. I refuse to give someone something if I think it’s bad-quality or tacky, even if I know it’s something they really want. Is that bad?