Shop the post: the useful and beautiful gift guide

Gift guide - Toast hot water bottle cover

Christmas shopping: so many decisions, so little time! If you’re struggling with keuzestress (aka ‘choice stress’), stick to the William Morris mantra of only choosing things that are useful and beautiful. This is where I come in – novelty gifts are very much not us! Sensible gifts can also be sensorial, so I’m championing rugged sweaters, socks, and blankets, superior stationery, statement breakfast-ware, plus the occasional frivolous beauty balm. And when in doubt, never underestimate a brilliant book. (For your convenience, click on the items in the gallery at the end to shop the gift guide.)

Top of the ‘beautiful and useful’ list are socks and sweaters, always a great combo but now perhaps, more than ever. I covered socks recently here and sweaters here. But to recap, the alpaca ‘everyday socks’ from Pairs Scotland are really lovely; warm, well made and nicely packaged. Or for a hardy multi-pack, this Boden 5-pack* is unbeatable. On the sweater front, Skippers Mill’s expansive colour palette is way better than most for its Scottish Shetlands – pick from brushed or unbrushed. For classic merinos, Benetton* is back on track with excellent crew necks that can be personalised with initials, or check out the JCDC* collection for more razzmatazz.

If you’re able to splurge, Begg x Co (below) is fabulous at the moment with contemporary silhouettes (I love the Monterey oversize polo*) and painterly colours, especially the mens’ crew necks and cable knits. And not forgetting my stateside readers, Plain Goods has the best sweater edit around, from shrunken Shetlands to cropped alpacas.
Begg x Co AW22 sweaters

It’s finally acceptable to be a blanket nerd. Every fashion brand you can think of has pivoted from scarves to blankets, an easy way to flex allegiance to Loewe* or Hermes while entertaining at home. But for practicality, it’s all about the rough-luxe appeal of cottagecore. Toast has many rustic-chic blankets (below) and throws, as does Arket, or if you’re in the EU go to Manufactum for these Bauhaus-esque Norwegian tweed blankets by Røros.

Other great homebody options: Tekla PJs*, a patchwork hot water bottle cover (top), Birkenstock Boston sheepskin slippers or the bestselling Birkenstock felted clogs. Alternatively, go totally old school with an electric blanket – here* or here* – they’re currently enjoying quite the revival and apparently cost very little to run.
Christmas gift guide - Toast blanket

Over on the kitchen counter, the best gifts are tactile, unexpectedly ornate or joyfully toylike. Example: Alessi’s delightful Twergi pepper grinder* by Memphis Group founder Ettore Sottsass. Or make your giftee’s morning coffee an event with a baroque porcelain cup* or sugar bowl* – Versace is your friend here. For your minimalist mate, go the other way – this sugar pot by Lucia Ocejo and petite butter dish by Rebecca Williams (below – UPDATE: sold out at toast, so try here) are beautifully calming and tactile. I also love the delicacy of Feldspar’s fine bone china mugs* – even better partnered with tea, honey and marmalade from Perfumer H.
Rebecca Williams butter dish

Analogue people are a pleasure to buy for. Treat your tactile pal to delicious paper goods from Choosing Keeping and Papersmiths. Both have amazing destination stores in London, so you might find yourself indulging in a self-gifted Kaweko pen or two, or a signature Papersmiths dot grid notebook. For your friend who never wants to go to bed, how about encouraging them with a phone-free Braun alarm clock, bundled with a good book and bath oil*.

For desk accessories, Abask has everything from vintage fountain pens to Carlo Moretti Murano glass tumblers, while on the high street, H&M and Uncommon Matters* have collaborated on these stone lidded trinket pots and sculptural vases (below). Something for your cash-rich, app-averse buddy? Treat them to a trad Valextra Tallone coin purse or Grip Spring wallet.
Uncommon Matters x HM vases

Help the hedonists in your life recalibrate with a few aromatic and comforting wellness treats. Candles are an easy-pleaser, from the black tea and fig notes of Henry’s Townhouse’s Bohea candle* to Acqua di Parma’s citrus-gourmand Panettone* in its marbled glass jar. Boy SmellsGrace Jones candle* is the diva’s choice with its spicy-sensuous notes, while Vyrao’s candles* and fragrances are intended to soothe and lift the spirits.

For bath time, Santa Maria Novella’s soaps always go down well, while M&S has gone hard on its ‘Apothecary’ range of wellbeing products for reviving mind and body. Combine the aromatherapeutic Restore bath oil*, with an affordable ‘wellbeing fragrance’ (below) for the ultimate care package. In their amber glass bottles with names like Breathe*, Relax and Ease, these eaux de parfum will – hopefully – bestow Aesop-style serenity upon your recipient.
Marks and Spencer Apothecary EDP

Lipstick is the ultimate beauty gift. It’s gestural, symbolic and timeless. If money is no object, treat them to a Dior Addict Shine lipstick along with a limited edition floral case (below, only available in-store at Harrods, where the entire store has been Dior-ified this month – an unmissable spectacle!). Alternatively, Lisa Eldridge’s retro-glam golden tubes are a universal favourite for their velvet-effect formulations and red carpet appeal. For your Gen Z giftee, I suggest Gen See Pick Me Up Lip Matte lipsticks in Irene or Selma – classic statement reds that are vegan and recyclable. For the lipstick-shy, Gucci’s clear Multi-Use Gel Face Gloss* is a great gift and can be used on lips, eyes and cheeks.

This has been the year of the lip mask, led by my favourite Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask*, now available in an entire menu of ‘flavours’, from Grapefruit to Chocolate. Meanwhile, Fenty Beauty has just released its Plush Puddin’ Intensive Recovery Lip Mask*. The lip balm with the biggest wow factor however, is the tinted and refillable solid oil by It’s All Fluff in its Elsa Peretti-esque jewel of a compact (below). Other beauty crowd-pleasers: Chanel Multi-Use Illuminating Eye Gloss*, Rose Inc Cream Blush Cheek & Lip Color* and for men, Kiehl’s Limited Edition Ultra Facial Cream*, Pharrell’s Humanrace Rice Powder cleanser* or an Aesop skincare kit*.
DRG gift guide - Dior Addct Shine lipstick case
It's All Fluff Tinted Lip Oil - DRG gift guide

Finally, when in doubt, buy a book. For the music fan: Chris Floyd’s new photo book Not Just Pictures (below) has brilliant portraits accompanied by Floyd’s often amusing anecdotes recalling their making-of moments. Trevor Horn’s autobiography, Adventures in Modern Recording: From ABC to ZTT* is top of my wish list, and for the indie sleaze millennial in your life, revisit Meet Me In the Bathroom*, Lizzy Goodman’s 2017 oral history of 2000s NYC indie scene, now a documentary film.

Meanwhile, fashion scholars will appreciate W David Marx’s latest deep dive, Status & Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change* and lastly, for the dad jokes fan, A Small Book of Jewish Comedians is a fun stocking filler of one-liners.
Chris Floyd Not Just Pictures photography book


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Toast; Begg x Co; Toast x 2; H&M; M&S; Dior: It’s All Fluff; Chris Floyd/Not Just Pictures
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

CLICK HERE to get Disneyrollergirl blog posts straight to your inbox once a week
CLICK HERE to buy my book, The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman
CLICK HERE to buy my beauty book, Face Values: The New Beauty Rituals and Skincare

A coffee vs commerce conundrum

Jannel Therese Blank Street

“Six pounds for a cup of tea and you don’t even get a china cup!” This complaint was quoted to me some 30 years ago by my friend G; his mum aghast at the price of a cuppa in some National Trust cafe or other. Yet it’s a refrain that auto-plays all too frequently in my head when I pass any number of overpriced chain coffee outlets. Especially in the last two years when the premiumisation of, well, everything has played out in the world’s fashionable metros.

At WatchHouse (below), a new-ish UK coffee chain, you do get a lovely ceramic cup. The chain is notable for its upscale Aesop-esque branding (its design team is headed by a former Aesop designer), superior snacks, well-mannered baristas and several-steps-up-from-Starbucks hospitality area. It’s the go-to pit-stop for the entrepreneurial generation. WatchHouse sells a good range of coffee produced from its own roastery. A cappuccino costs £3.60 and it’s a cashless business. Yes, plenty of businesses are cashless these days (it’s not illegal in the UK), but its non-inclusiveness irks me. I can’t help feeling that coffee compared to, say, a Gucci dress, should be accessible to all.

Watch House Coffee
Watchhouse Coffee Hanover Square
Watchhouse Hanover

While millennial side hustlers and flexi-workers graduate from Starbs to WatchHouse for their pitch meetings, Gen Z has its own new destination coffee spot. Blank Street Coffee, an American tech-bro funded chain that began as a coffee cart is infiltrating the UK, with two dozen outlets planned for London. Its USP? Tech-powered coffee machines that allow staff to focus on “customer service and hospitality”. Its compact pistachio green micro-cafes are located around subways and tube stations, aimed at on-the-go commuters and nano-influencers rather than laptop lingerers.

It’s a good example of a new wave of coffee culture, borne of Gen Z’s syrup-laced iced drinks that are more about the #vibes and #aesthetic than coffee itself. Its merch line and recent collab with TikTok royalty Emma Chamberlain are perfectly suited to the kind of person for whom coffee-drinking is their entire personality.

Blank Street coffee cart
Blank Street Mai Castro
Blank Street Coffee in London - coffee shop counter with pastries

At £2.90 for a takeaway cappuccino, Blank Street is pitched as affordable (for when you just want ‘good enough’ coffee to go). Yet in reality there are mere pennies difference between them and their London chain neighbours. In comparison, the legendary Monmouth Coffee Company cappuccino costs £3.10 and my local indies also charge around £3. Where WatchHouse coffee is actually good – but pricy – Blank Street is unapologetically style over substance. Blank Street has also attracted criticism for its aggressive expansion, often opening opposite (and eventually forcing out) neighbourhood independents and authentic mom-and-pop joints.

But so what? Why should anyone care? Business is business, right?

Well, I care because normalising this mediocre-quality-high-aesthetic approach in which coffee is a mere fashion accessory sets the bar for copycats to come along and charge similarly elevated prices for sub-par product (Blank Street Coffee is essentially a fancy vending machine). Add in the merch line and community marketing and your coffee-as-lifestyle-brand is complete. Indeed, WatchHouse courts its customers as not only members of its community but as crowdfunding investors, seemingly via the email sign-up for its free wi-fi. It’s pretty savvy I must admit. If you’re a fan of your daily caffeine dealer, it’s quite the flex to play investor bro and potentially reap rewards while showing your support.

However, the romantic idealist in me can’t help finding it all somewhat cynical. I mean, compare it with this genuine coffee-and-community story I read on Instagram recently. The fabulous Gene Krell spotted a lone coffee truck in remote Japanese countryside and was compelled to talk to the owner. He discovered Jin-Pei Arakawa, a senior widowed gentleman who was passionate about coffee. “He felt the ideal way to conquer his solitude was to build a coffee wagon and travel the countryside. Making friends, talking to people and above all hearing their stories, it was as though they were extended family. And when he sees them enjoy his coffee, he feels it has given them something to remember.” The whole story is ridiculously wholesome and needless to say, Mr Arakawa’s coffee was really good.

Anyway, my disaster scenario may yet come to pass. According to WWD, the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation mean 53% of millennials and Gen Z will spend less on non-essentials in the near future. That may mean the end of £4 pistachio lattes and iced chocolate orange mochas. And perhaps a return to decent, but accessible coffee as part of our everyday ritual and not a luxury flex.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Jannel Therese; WatchHouse Coffe x 3; Ballupbrian; Mai Castro; Blank Street Coffee
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

CLICK HERE to get Disneyrollergirl blog posts straight to your inbox once a week
CLICK HERE to buy my book, The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman
CLICK HERE to buy my beauty book, Face Values: The New Beauty Rituals and Skincare

Shop the post: The low-down on party shoes

Julia Nobis by Zoe Ghertner for M Le Monde

Question: do people go for a fully glitzed-up party look these days? Or do they go for more comfort-led with a nod to shine and bedazzle? I’ve seen a lot of extreme glam-rock platform heels* doing the rounds on all the shopping sites, not to mention the Bottega Veneta Mostra heels*. But equally, I’ve noticed that in real life, the gorgeous young things are wearing the opposite. Like, a satin slip with 70s-style Adidas Gazelles (that is, the amped-up 2020s version at 2020s prices – thanks Gucci*).

Somewhere in-between is a middle ground where the New York minimalistas are pitched. In their recent collections, Khaite (below), Toteme and The Row (below) have seemingly agreed on 90s-adjacent party looks – think oversized black tailoring, metallic leathers and monochrome midi dresses accompanied by walkable, stiletto-free footwear.

Khaite AW22
The Row pre-fall 2023

Flat Mary-Janes are a favourite, worn with either black opaque tights or a black ankle sock. The jewel colour velvet Mary Janes by Le Monde Beryl* add a little festive flair. To accompany gamine, sculptural black dresses, I like these retro-futuristic silver slingbacks from Armani*. They’re reminiscent of Helmut Lang at his best and would look equally good with straight, ankle-length trousers. This short heel can look twee if the rest of the shoe is too demure so I appreciate all the sharp angles. I’m also feeling quite smug having rediscovered my spike-toed Martine Sitbon ankle straps (circa 1998), with micro studs decorating the mini cone heels.

A slim-fitted ankle boot teamed with a fluid midi-dress is another winning look (below) – 3-5cm is ideal. And if, like me, you like an optic white boyfriend jean or ivory suit trouser, then a little black ankle boot* is perfectly acceptable evening attire, especially in a lustrous finish like suede, moiré silk or patent-leather.

Giedre Dukauskaite by Ward Ivan Rafik

Accessory-wise, my rule is the simpler the clothes (in cut, colour, detail), the louder I go with shoes, bag, make-up or jewellery (but not all at once!). I’m very much a starched trouser and XL silk shirt kinda gal, which pair nicely with heavily decorated low-heeled slingbacks such as these Giambattista Vallis*. If you’re wearing a blazer and cami, then a sculptural brooch or a man’s silk scarf* can be nicer than loads of necklaces. But I also love ornate ‘secret’ watches like my Hermès Medor or the Bulgari Serpenti – a feat of watch engineering that’s a real conversation starter. And it may surprise you to know I’ve always wanted a Judith Leiber minaudiere (pure bonkers) but would settle for a Schiaparelli.

Julia Nobis by Zoe Ghertner for M Le Monde


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGE: Julia Nobis by Zoe Ghertner for M Le Monde; Khaite; The Row pre-fall 2023; Giedre Dukauskaite by Ward Ivan Rafik; Julia Nobis by Zoe Ghertner for M Le Monde
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links* and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

CLICK HERE to get Disneyrollergirl blog posts straight to your inbox once a week
CLICK HERE to buy my book, The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman
CLICK HERE to buy my beauty book, Face Values: The New Beauty Rituals and Skincare

Maureen Doherty, a good egg

Maureen Doherty Egg

“I’m not trying to make anything new. There’s so much pressure in fashion to every six months have this newness. When I opened Egg, I wanted it to be like a chair: well that’s OK for 10 years. It’s not for six months; it’s 10 years. I like the fact that it can be an heirloom.”
Egg founder, Maureen Doherty, Hole & Corner (more…)