Alexa Chung Shares Her Christmas Secrets, Including Where To Buy The Best Presents

Plus stylish tips for shopping small from Susie Lau, Richard Quinn and Martins Imhangbe.

Alexa Chung

by Natalie Hammond |

It's officially the season of goodwill, which means mid-morning mince pies, afternoon mulled wines and not much work in between (kidding, if my boss is reading this). But one thing that is serious is how your preparations are coming along. Have you bought any presents? Have you unearthed your decorations? Have you chosen your bread sauce recipe? If we lost you at mulled wine, don't worry. Because thanks to AMEX and its annual Shop Small Initiative, which encourages people to go out and support independent businesses, we have the answers to how fashion insiders and celebrities will be celebrating this Christmas.

Alexa Chung wearing a faux-fur coat
Alexa Chung ©Getty

If you've always wanted to go where someone like Alexa Chung, for example, truffles out one-of-a-kind presents, today's your lucky day. As well as revealing her favourite place to gather with friends over the festive season - Dalston's Three Sheets, a hole-in-the-wall that reminds her of bars in New York - she also namechecks several independents that are full of meaningful gifts that are a little more off-the-beaten-track.

'Pentreath and Hall sell an elegant selection of things for the home. If you play your cards right, I might just buy you a couple of their ionic column cream candlesticks and Mykonos dinner candles in brilliant blue,' she says. For party dressing pieces that will last much longer than Christmas, Chung recommends Aimé. 'Their own brand of pie crust shirts are irresistible,' she says. 'They also often have good party blouses by Isabel Marant, and great gift ideas.'

Writer Susie Lau
©Susie Lau

Writer Susie Lau has the kind of style - impossible to sum up in just a few words - that means you know she's going to be great at present-buying. Her secret? Shopping small. 'My favourite independent shops are precisely places where you’re going to for specific insight, knowledge and unique products or well sourced produce. They’re places where you experience things that are really hard to replicate – the smell of old books, asking butchers for bones for stock or going to fabric stores and buying short lengths of trims.' So the next time you find yourself drifting onto Amazon, why not take a turn around the independents in your area instead?

Designer Richard Quinn
©Richard Quinn

For designer Richard Quinn, flowers maketh the moment. 'Bouquets of flowers brighten up any celebration - my favourite is the natural arrangement at SAGE Flowers in Peckham. Iona and her team are the absolute best at creating a maximalist yet subtle design that feels very inviting.' The best news? SAGE delivers outside London, and also has a carefully curated selection of candles, ceramics, cards and homewares if you're looking for something more long-lasting.

Actor Martins Imhangbe
©Martins Imhangbe

Bridgerton's Martins Imhangbe says his local high street was the centre of his world as a child. 'Growing up, my local high street was a place when my community, family and friends would always gather and connect. Everything from special occasions to memorable milestones were celebrated with my local shop owners and their families.' When he wants to celebrate now, his go-to restaurant is Enish. 'It’s a traditional Nigerian Restaurant and it reminds me of my family back home. I would highly recommend the Amala with Egusi soup, and the Jollof rice, you can never go wrong with good Jollof!' (If you don't live in or near London, Enish has kindly provided the recipe for its Jollof.)

Any parting advice from Imhangbe? 'I’m really keen on having fresh scents around the house, whether that be candles or incense, I think it makes an evening really unique, especially if you go all out with some vibrant and colourful decor. Obviously, you can’t have a celebration without great music, finding the right playlist to complement the ambience is always a win. But of course, a great celebration is always about the people!'

Gallery

SHOP: The Best Eco Christmas Gifts

Sasspatch, Wappy Christmas Jumper, £50
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Sasspatch's ethically-made jumper is the opposite of the naff knitwear you grew up wearing for every family lunch over the festive period. Wappy Christmas indeed.

Above & Beyond, Refillable Lip Balm, £25
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Above&beyond is the first lifetime-use refillable lip balm. Not only is the packaging 100% plastic-free and designed to last a lifetime, but the balm itself is made from all-natural ingredients to keep their lips smooth this winter (and many more to come).

Isabella Antique Embroidered Maxi Dress £290
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Each item is lovingly made from Magpie's London based studio and repurposed from vintage fabric to eliminate waste. This dress, that took 6 hours to make from table to hanger, was crafted from 2 vintage 1970's tablecloths and an antique embroidery placemat. Uniquely one of a kind.

Lucy & Yak x Elizabeth Olwen, Maya Tee, £12
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Independent company Lucy &Yak makes ethical, organic clothing with a focus on waste reduction and environmentally conscious packaging, With every package and its contents being biodegradable, reusable and recycled, we'll be sharing the love by gifting plenty of hugs this Christmas.

Object, Plastic Free Starter Set, £40
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If a loved one is planning a plastic-free 2022, this is the perfect bundle to get them started on their journey. Object shampoo bars lather richly to help cleanse and rejuvenate hair with natural ingredients and essential oils. Haircare that does good, and looks (and smells) even better.

Kemi Telford, Doris Tartan Dress, £200
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Kemi Telford has a mindful approach to making clothes woven throughout the business. Not only does it vet all its manufacturers to ensure its employees work no more than eight hours a day, but it encourages its customers to treat their clothes a certain way (i.e. washing on cold and air drying) so that they'll last a lifetime.

Monica Vinader, Doina Chain 18ct Recycled Gold Ring, £115 at Selfridges
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Monica Vinader's Doina Ring made Selfridges' carefully curated Planet Earth edit for its recycled materials. Each piece in the collection is handcrafted with 100% recycled gold vermeil and sterling silver, reducing the brand's CO2 emissions by over 60%. Guilt-free gold.

Riley Studio, British Wool Ribbed Beanie, £65
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This beanie goes from field to the finished product in 300 miles. Not only is the wool sourced from Lancashire, England, but it's been left undyed so that no toxic chemicals are used at any point.

ROOP, Melissa Scrunchie In Pastel Tartan, £15
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ROOP makes its bags, scrunchies and scarves out of remnant, dead stock and vintage fabrics.

Baukjen, Darcy Eco Cashmere Hot Water Bottle Cover, £59
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Baukjen, which is now B Corp Certified, makes its hot water bottle covers from 100% recycled cashmere (50% pre-consumer recycled; 50% post-consumer recycled).

Rows, Scrap Snood, £45
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Rows, a lovely made-to-order knitwear brand based in Yorkshire, makes this rainbow-striped snood from 50% scrap yarns, 30% merino wool and 20% baby alpaca.

FUND, Bespoke Embroidered Brightside Jumper, £195
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With every purchase of this 100% lambswool jumper, FUND donates 100 school meals to children living in poverty.

Nobody's Child, Phoebe Midi Dress, £32
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Nobody's Child prides itself on producing mindfully-made clothes at affordable prices. We love Phoebe, this bow-tied and blossom-sprinkled dress made from 100% Lenzing™ Ecovero™ Viscose.

Hemper, Upcycled Tote Bag, £25
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Hemper makes its totes out of rice sacks that have been collected from the streets of Kathmandu.

KeepCup, Daybreak Brew, £17
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KeepCup is one of the chicest reusable receptacles.

Pangaia, FLWRDWNu2122 Slippers, £98
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These adorable boots are made with a plant-powered alternative to animal-derived down that is biodegradable.

Floral Street, SunFlower Pop Eau De Perfume, £24
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Calabrian bergamot - sustainably-sourced from a local cooperative of growers - is at the heart of this sunny scent.

Ganni, Argyle Vest, £175
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Ganni's peppy sweater vest is made from 80% recycled wool (although, you could always raid your dad's wardrobe if he has one).

Aveda, Botanical Repair Strengthening Collection Light, £42
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Aveda's vegan and cruelty-free products are made using 100% wind and solar power (through renewable energy credits and carbon offsets) and are packaged in recycled bottles.

B Sides, Marcel Upcycled Patchwork Straight-Leg Jeans, £325
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B Sides, crafted in the USA, sources its upcycled patches from industrial rag houses and cowboys in Colorado.

ACNE STUDIOS, Space-dye Wool Jumper, £530
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For a knit they'll love for years to come, ACNE STUDIOS is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, ensuring supply chains prioritise the workers' wellbeing and conditions. Created with fair trade principles at the heart of the production process. this is a cosy knit with a good heart.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Circular Design For Fashion, £25.52
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Drawing on the knowledge of sustainable leaders such as Vivienne Westwood, Gabriela Hearst, Marine Serre, Bethany Williams, Nkwo Onwuka, and Ferdinando Verderi, Circular Design for Fashion invites its reader on a journey towards the future of design - and has been written in recognition of fashion's huge potential to move towards a circular economy.

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