gift guide

33 People With Excellent Taste on the Most Perfect Gift Under £10.40

Illustration: Debora Szpilman

At The Strategist UK, we spend a lot of time finding out about the personal shopping habits of people with excellent taste. Whether they are radio DJs, pop stars, architects, or chocolatiers, we always like to find out about the things they buy themselves.

But when it comes to this time of the year, we thought we’d delve deeper, and find out what they buy for other people — not just their close friends, but their colleagues, cousins, or difficult-to-shop-for friends. We called up 33 people in our contacts book — including beauty directors, podcast hosts, jewelry designers, and models, for their recommendations for the most perfect gift. But because it’s been a particularly difficult year, and extravagant gift-buying seems ill-suited for our current moment, we added a stipulation: It had to cost under £10 (although one suggestion inched over by a mere 40p, which seemed permissible).

Loretta de Feo, owner, Dizziak

Photo: retailer

“A book on Zadie’s perception of this year. Not only did I find it calming and beautiful, but it helped me to make sense of the in-between or grey thoughts and feelings I’ve experienced. And it was a bonus to find out that all royalties from the book go to charity.”

Katya de La Rocha, founder and MD, Mex Grocer

“I may be fiercely Mexican, and most of my work goes towards promoting my home country, but I have a deep love for the U.K. and my adopted country. I have to say, I am partial to a shortbread biscuit and I adore wandering around Fortnum & Mason’s. Their version are indulgently buttery, perfect for Christmas.”

Harry Lawtey, actor (Industry)

“My best friend bought me one as a gift. They’re pretty cool, as they move up and down throughout the day - they look as though someone is praying. In a year like this one, it’s good to have something to care for.”

Josephine Vander Gucht, singer (Oh Wonder) and founder, NOLA coffee

“A winter lockdown needs an open fire or comforting scented candle. Striking one of these beautifully calming matches makes the whole process feel like a ritual.”

Taj Atwal, actor (Line of Duty, Truth Seekers)

“I love bees, and during lockdown I spent a lot of time growing flowers and plants. With these seedbags, you can plant some beautiful wild flowers (such as wild carrot and cowslip), and help save the bees, too.”

Tom Grennan, singer

“Even if you can’t travel far, everyone needs a portable charger. This one in particular has saved my phone many times. I love that it’s small enough to fit in a wallet or card holder.”

Stella Fox, set designer (Emma., The Force Awakens)

Ethical shopping is incredibly important to me. This is one of my favourite ethical brands which helps support local weavers throughout Africa. Their baskets are vibrant and joyful and come in all shapes and sizes from handbags to dog baskets! These mini baskets from £10 are a perfect gift to liven up a dressing table, pop your jewellery in, or house a mini house plant, even. Being a designer, any gift for the home is always a winner, Plus you have peace of mind knowing your shopping choices are fair trade.”

Romesh Ranganathan, comedian

“I am really, really into Rubik’s cubes ever since I saw the documentary Speed Cubers on Netflix. They make great gifts, even if, like me, you just want to fidget with it when you’re on the phone.”

Hugh Richard-Wright, PR Director

Photo: retailer

“I love to give anything monogrammed — I’ve never known anyone not love something with their initial(s) on, even if they wouldn’t buy it for themselves — and within the budget are these gorgeous mugs from Anthropologie. My husband Dave & I have D & H at home, of course.”

Bear Brooksbank, fine jewelry designer

“I have got totally hooked on dried flowers this year but have never managed to make them look like much — until now. Straw London have just opened the most beautiful shop on Columbia road which is around the corner from my studio.”

Funmi Fetto, beauty director and host, On Reflection podcast

Photo: retailer

“Kenya was kind enough to ask me to contribute an essay to her beautiful collection of essays on black womanhood. I wrote something on Eurocentric beauty ideals and the issues one faces as a Black person, not fitting into that. But more than that, Kenya’s book is brilliant, thought provoking and also very moving in parts. It covers everything from the political to the social to the personal. A joy to read.”

Colin King, stylist and designer

“I love the Danes’ refined sensibility and particularly Hay’s use of color. These durable plastic coffee cups are great because they can be used for both hot and cold beverages. And even when you’re not using them on the go, they add a nice pop of colour on any surface in your home.”

Rankin, photographer

“Purdy & Figg Hand sanitiser is the only one that makes my hands smell lovely whilst giving them a good clean.”

Raven Smith, author and Vogue columnist

Photo: retailer

“I got this book one Christmas and saved it for high summer, solving wintry mysteries in the searing heat. It’s a collection of gripping short stories — including an absolutely savage satire of a traditional Christmas mystery. Consider these well-seasoned crime stories for any season.”

Kate Phillips, actor (Peaky Blinders, Wolf Hall)

Photo: retailer

“A lovely gift for those friends you know to be a bit crafty. This little kit comes with a few extras, like paper and miniature flower cutters, to help get you started on next summer’s gift cards.”

Max Heyler, guitarist, You Me At Six

Candles can get a bit expensive, whereas incense is cheap and affordable but also smells amazing. I put mine on in the morning when I’m making a coffee to get me set for the day.”

Deji and Faith, owners, Making the Manor

“As kids we remember Christmas being a time where we pulled out the camera to capture the moment, hopeful that the pictures would turn out perfectly. It was also a time where we would all sit round the table and look at photo albums from previous years and spend hours reminiscing. This would be a great present to experience those moments again, and peel us away from our phones.”

Constantin Prozorov, artist

Photo: retailer

“The book shows how everyone can be creative and gives a very good introduction to the world of collage. We all have a lot of imagination and creativity in us, we just have to dare to let it happen — and collage is the best way to do it. I think it is a wonderful gift.” [Editor’s note: This product is actually £10.40, but we’re not sticklers].

Bianca Estelle, owner, bea Skin Clinic

“This silky eye pillow is a little bit of (affordable) luxury for anyone’s bedtime routine and will help those battling tired eyes to wake up more refreshed, with bright eyes and bushy tails.”

Charli Howard, model and founder, Squish Beauty

Photo: retailer

“You can’t go wrong with M&S. I’ve asked for these for Christmas and I think they’ll be super cute to watch films on boxing day.”

Josh Spero, associate editor, FT Weekend Magazine

“A tradition I love to keep up is sending postcards — as a thank-you, a catch-up, or a random notice of friendship. Recipients never fail to appreciate the time and consideration that go into selecting one, then composing your message, and the handwriting (even an indecipherable font, like mine) is a true sign of care. A set from the V&A’s Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk postcard collection would be pleasing this year.”

Jake Arnold, interior designer

Photo: retailer

“I start every day lighting these throughout the entire office — and have managed to only set the smoke alarm off once.”

Bettina Korek, CEO, Serpentine Galleries

Photo: retailer

“An illustrated dream adventure of an 8-year-old in 1939 Harlem looking down as she soars above her community, Tar Beach is as much a children’s book as it is a work of art that will absorb and inspire anyone who opens its pages. Just over a year ago, we presented Faith Ringgold’s first European institutional solo exhibition at the Serpentine. I’ve returned to this book several times since then, it’s grounding, uplifting, and always gives me something new to see.”

Miranda Raison, actor (Spooks, Warrior)

“I love the feel of really matte stoneware and this black cup is really beautiful and earthy. Stoneware can be quite expensive so these cups are exceptional value.”

Jennifer Joyce, food stylist

“Vinegar probably isn’t your first thought for a gift, but Spanish brand Forum’s Merlot vinegar has a sweet, mellow flavour without being acidic.”

Jessica Morgan, staff writer, Refinery29

Photo: retailer

“For those feeling a little lost, poet Cleo Wade’s collection of uplifting and inspiring mantras will give you the boost you need for a positive 2021. Featuring affirmations and poetry to warm the heart, it’s perfect for your loved one to keep on their bookshelf or in their bag when they need a little pick-me-up on the hardest of days.”

James Cochran, head chef/owner, 12:51 Restaurant

“The best bit of Christmas has to be the boxing day sandwich; pimp it up and gift an interesting sauce. I like Sauce Shop’s Cherry Bourbon BBQ sauce on any leftover pork, turkey baps, or leftover sandwiches.”

Johnnie Sapong, hair stylist

“These are great for anyone who needs to relax, and blow the homeschooling, Zoom and COVID inflammation away.”

Olivia Riley, communications manager, Sancho’s

Photo: retailer

“Support local and sustainable this Christmas. This natural frankincense soap from Soap Daze is made with a base of coconut oil, shea butter and olive oil. It’s also vegan certified, cruelty free, and ethically handmade in Exeter.”

Paul A. Young, chocolatier

Photo: retailer

“I’m still blown away by the chocolate from this Glaswegian brand. It’s just outstanding.”

Brodie Meah, owner, Top Cuvee

“Christmas can be stressful — but this is my chill-out accessory of choice. Perfect to light at the end of the day with a chilled glass of something natural.”

Jim Parkyn, senior model-maker, Aardman

“These sketchpads come from Brighton-based company Seawright, and, coupled with a nice pencil, would make a thoughtful gift for anyone of any age.”

Deborah Frances-White, host, The Guilty Feminist podcast

“If the people in your life are feeling grateful to be alive and together after a pretty scary year, give a warm coat to a child in a refugee camp from the wondrous Choose Love, who turn your cash into compassion.”

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

33 People With Excellent Taste on the Perfect Gift Under £10