A Jamaican-Made Christmas Gift Guide
Whether you're a planner or a last minute shopper, finding the perfect Christmas gift can be stressful- especially in Jamaica.
Some years, there can be way too many options- while others, it feels like there's none at all. Some people wait till Christmas Eve to indulge at Grand Market- while some fly to Miami to raid a Macy's.
When I was younger, I used to value the amount of gifts that I received. As I've entered my 20's, gift giving and receiving has become more of a meaningful thing. It's now an opportunity to show the people I love how much they mean to me. While this can seem like a material means of doing so, there is power behind the thought and effort put into a gift.
Beyond this, I began to understand the power behind my consumer decisions. Simply purchasing a Jamaican-made gift or incorporating sustainability practices into my gift-giving can positively impact our economy and environment. When you think about it, there truly is no reason to not support local businesses, no matter where in the world you are- especially when they're contributing towards the greater good.
Jamaica is an island with so much talent; from our artisans to designers to manufacturers to writers. How can we expect to grow as a nation if we don't support them?
One store that stands by this belief is My Jamaica located in Liguanea Plaza, St. Andrew. Since their opening in 2010, they have become one of my go-to shopping destinations for the Christmas season. They have such a unique variety of Jamaican-made products, and always leave me wanting more! Their selection is unbeatable- and, personally, they truly are a one-stop shop for my Christmas shopping. Most of the products featured in this article are available at their store- but don't let that stop you. Make sure to check them out and look at their wide selection of locally-made products!
Otherwise, some great places to shop for Jamaican-made products, specifically during the season, include the Kingston Night Market, A Jamaican Made Christmas, and Grosvenor Galleries' Annual Christmas Fair.
For my shoppers that are unsure of where to start, I've curated a shopping list that hopefully gives you a push! This list showcases only a few of these many talented Jamaicans and is not only perfect for Christmas, but is applicable for all special occasions and all special people. It includes products perfect for anyone- including the trickiest of people...
FOR THE ONE WHO: Always Stay Good
We all know that friend who always stay good. They're often some of the hardest people to shop for as it can be difficult to figure out what's tun up enough for them or find something that they already don't have. Hopefully, I'm able to help you out.
Lattecha Willocks is an artist who coins her pieces as wearable art- and I think she couldn't have said it any better. They are handmade locally and hand painted on singular canvases. This means that none of her pieces are replicas, and each purse is one of a kind. I love being able to simply look at the purses' designs and see how intricately placed each brush stroke is. Products that are handmade feel so authentic and original and you can feel the effort and purpose put into every item. Lattecha will even customize pieces, for example with a monogram.
These purses are a colourful and alluring way for any goodie to express themselves. I love Lattecha's work as even if I'm dressing very plainly, a pair of jeans and tee per say, simply wearing her wearable art gives my outfit so much life and energy. They are a 'celebration of a woman's individuality' which is exactly what we need today in 2019.
FORTYFOUR MILES JEWELLERY
Emerging on the market back in 2014, Fortyfour Miles is a jewellery brand like no other! Dreamt and designed by Courtney Morris, their brand is heavily inspired by her roots in Black River- the river itself being forty four miles long. She is highly respected for her beautiful artwork for a reason. Their unique line of bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces are heavily inspired by the environment and incorporate multiple materials, including copper, aluminium, rocks, sea glass, beads and hemps.
One of the things that has resonated with me the most is this brand's philosophy. Many of their pieces are made with raw finishes and their beauty lies within their imperfections. The very same could be said about us. Fortyfour Miles challenges the societal norms surrounding perfection and proves that we must embrace and celebrate our flaws.
Where to find them: You can find Fortyfour Miles at My Jamaica! They also have an online shop on their website. This holiday season, find them at the 2019 Association of Jamaican Potter's Arts & Craft Fair.
FOR THE ONE WHO: Does With Intent
Sustainable lifestyle choices should be the norm- especially going into the new decade. Nevertheless, making the switch can be hard. Luckily there are many Jamaican brands that make it easy!
BARTLEY'S ALL IN WOOD Bamboo Straws
Ever since the single-use plastic ban took Jamaica by storm, alternatives to plastic straws have grown in popularity. Bamboo straws are my preferred substitute to plastic straws, and are way more functional than paper straws (that get uncomfortably soggy) or metal straws (that bother my sensitive teeth).
Bartley's bamboo straws are made with love from genuine Jamaican wood. Making the switch from plastic has never been so easy. Not only does this brand encourage eco-friendly habits by providing an alternative to plastic straws, but many of the materials used for their products are taken from the off cuts of their furniture.
Their straws come in an adorable carrying pouch, alongside three straws and a cleaning brush! This is a perfect thought for any loved one who wants to make a difference, no matter how big or small. The key with this gift is getting into the daily habit of remembering to take the pouch with you on-the-go, whether it be in your bag or purse.
Where to find them: These locally-made bamboo straws are available at My Jamaica store, alongside many of their other wooden products. Their products are available across Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay at select locations, and online.
STORY & MYTH
Story & Myth's Blessing beads, created by Kristie Stephenson, are a staple and fan favourite for a reason. Not only are they very versatile, able to be worn alone or endlessly stacked, but this brand is the perfect example of beauty with a purpose. These bracelets are made by talented Jamaican artisans, many of which have physical disabilities- providing amazing opportunities to communities that are often marginalized. Even better, the 'beads', aka tear seeds, are sourced by local farmers.
Blessing beads' beauty lies within the stories behind each individual bead. These 'protection beads' are thoughtfully and intentionally made to 'bless, guide and protect wearers'. Their collection, also, includes stunning necklaces and bracelets which are adorned with symbolic gemstones and charms.
The one who does with intent will love this gift as not only do the beads themselves feel intentional, but so does the process behind the making of them. After all, these beads are loved by many for a reason!
This new shoe brand is taking Jamaica by storm. Founded by Debra Edwards, DAE is a sustainable way to support local artisans. It truly is a beautiful thing when fashion brands are able to recognize their position and role in society while looking damn good. They constantly are making steps to lower their carbon footprint, and deliberately use non-plastic packaging.
DAE upcycles using repurposed materials, including leather, to take what one may consider trash and create treasure! This makes every pair of sandals unique and one of a kind, and like all handmade pieces, no two items are ever the same. Not only does it make these shoes specially yours, but you can feel the intent, purpose and soul in their soles.
Their brand has a 'devotion to tradition' and many of their product names are odes to Jamaican culture. This holiday season, DAE is giving back to Jamaica with their gorgeous Lady M shoe, which is inspired by Kingston's 'bustling thoroughfare'! A portion of all Red Lady M sales, between November 30th and December 25th, will be donated to charity.
FOR THE: Self-Care Queen
While 'self-care' may seem like a buzz word floating around the internet, everyone deserves to take some time to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with yourself and cater to your needs. For all my men, this is in no way gender specific. I said what I said. Treat yo self.
HMGRWN & CO
HmGrwn & Co. is a unisex skincare brand created and made locally in Port Antonio. Their products are plant based, and like no other. This company is so inviting and welcoming, and truly feels homegrown. Their product range is extensive and has everything from soaps to scrubs to beard balms and oils, featuring ingredients such as cornmeal and sorrel.
This brand stands behind conscious consumerism, and makes shopping ethically and sustainably easy! They work towards a low waste Jamaica by making their products in small batches. Customers are able to bring back old HmGrwn bottles and jars for a discounted price on their next purchase. Even better- the company will even fill your own personal jars and bottles with their products!
Where to find them: HmGrwn & Co is one of the featured vendors at the weekly Kingston Night Market. It's a great opportunity to talk one-on-one with Danielle, the company's founder, and learn more first hand! They, also, take orders via Instagram DM or their email.
These natural, plant based artisan soaps are handmade locally in Jamaica. RA[raw] Soaps do not contain any artificial dyes, preservatives, parabens or palm oil (aka a large contributor to deforestation)- and trust me, your skin will feel the difference. After all, our skin is our body's largest organ so there's no reason to not treat it with the love it deserves.
RA[raw]'s scents are created by blending their botanicals and pure essential oils, and they offer a variety of scents perfect for anyone in your life. Some of these include Moroccan Red Clay, Seaweed and Sea Clay, Lavender Lemon, Coconut Milk and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.
These soaps are a lovely gift to give as they feel personalized and truly made with love. From simply looking at their hand-wrapped packaging to the unique shapes of their hand-cut soaps, one can appreciate the beauty in their individuality.
FOR THE ONE WHOSE: Eyes Bigger Than Dem Belly
Let's be real, one of the best parts about the holidays is the food...so, why not find a way to incorporate that into your gifts? Sure, you could cook for someone or take them to a restaurant- or you could gift them one of these amazing presents.
SHARON FEANNY'S Live Fit Kitchen
Live Fit Kitchen is Sharon Feanny's debut cookbook featuring over 100 recipes, many of which are plant based. Sometimes making the healthy switch can be intimidating. Live Fit Kitchen makes this easy, and even has a section devoted to everyone's favourite guilty pleasures. Some of her recipes even have a Jamaican twist to them, including the Jerked Almond Plate. These recipes utilize fresh and nourishing ingredients, and are an easy way to make your life more colourful.
This gift is perfect for the foodie who always eats out. It proves how easy it can be to not only create masterpieces in your own kitchen, but form healthy habits. In an age where recipes are easily accessible online, there's something special about physically flipping through a cookbook and being able to try something new everyday!
Where to find them: Sharon's cookbook is available for sale at My Jamaica, as well as her 100% Pure Cold-Pressed Jamaican Coconut Oil. Her cookbook is also available online on Amazon and at other locations.
THE JAMAICAN PEANUT BUTTER FACTORY
Peanut butter? For Christmas? Yes, you've heard me correctly.
I was always familiar with The Jamaican Peanut Butter Factory, or JPBF, but I truly fell in love with their products this summer. Their peanuts are grown locally in St. Thomas, and it is so comforting being able to recognize all of their simple ingredients on the back of their jar. For the Jamaican Foodie, this gift is perfect. You can gift them one jar- or all four flavours!
JPBF redefines traditional peanut butter, giving it a Jamaican flair. To date, the brand offers four delicious flavours: smooth, crunchy, scotch bonnet and chocolate! I used to see peanut butter as a spread only meant for sandwiches and bagels. Boy, was I wrong. I was so surprised to see how well the scotch bonnet and peanut butter paired, and have even incorporated into dishes, such as Pad Thai.
Where to find them: They are a regular at the weekly Kingston Night Market, and their products are available in many local supermarkets islandwide.
DAVID PINTO Drink Vessels
David Pinto is a highly recognized and respected Jamaican artist. His high quality ceramic work has been shown in many local exhibitions. While his line of work is diverse, he has a range of functional pottery perfect for any house. His 'drink vessels' are individually hand-crafted at his studio in Trelawny. They are so beautiful that I wouldn't blame you for being scared to use them! Thankfully, these mugs are long lasting, microwave and dishwasher safe, and completely safe for food and drinks thanks to their lead-free glaze.
These mugs are a perfect thought for any foodie- you can gift one or a whole entire set! Even if your loved ones already own his functional pottery, it's always fun to build a personal collection. Not only are they practical for coffee and tea, but can be used for soup or even rum and sake. Pinto's unique colour blends and one of a kind shapes make something as simple as drinking fun. These mugs are a household staple for a reason.
FOR THE: Beach Bum
While there may be some Christmas breeze, in Jamaica, summer is a constant state of mind. There's nothing like a relaxing beach day with your family and friends. Why not try to make it even better for someone you love?
ANGELS AND GRACE Cloth Bags
Angels and Grace's handmade cloth bags are a staple in anyone's closet. The beauty behind these bags are their multi-functionality. They are perfect for any occasion, whether it be a night out or even the beach. While it may seem strange to bring such a beautiful piece to the beach, trust me, they're well-equipped. Inside the bag is fully-lined and waterproof, and has an interior pocket and a wrist strap.
There are a variety of styles for any loved one...including yourself. From animal to African to denim prints, these bags are a great statement piece for what might be a 'regular' beach day!
This gift is perfect for the beach bum in your life as they are so practical. They could be used to pack swimsuits for a weekend trip, or even sunblocks or sunglasses. Personally, I use my Angels and Grace bag as a sunblock case for beach trips or cosmetics bag- and have never worried about spillage, thanks to their incredible lining.
Where to find them: These cloth bags are available at My Jamaica. Otherwise, feel free to DM their Instagram page to make direct orders.
In a world of Instagram swimsuit shops selling Zaful bikinis, there's nothing better than saying your swimsuit is Jamaican-made. Miaklani Swim is a swimsuit brand constructed by women for women. Brittany Johnson, the brand's creator, is a self-taught designer, entrepreneur and girl boss. Their pieces are handmade with love in Jamaica, and many of their quality materials are sourced locally.
Miakalani's swimsuits are functional statement pieces. They reflect everything that the modern Jamaican woman is; bold, vibrant and daring. I love that they have a range of styles and selections that any woman can feel confident and beautiful in, from bikinis to monokini one pieces. There are many prints and colours to choose from to complement the loved one in your life.
Where to find them: Make sure to book a visit to their showroom in New Kingston. Otherwise, Miakalani ships worldwide! They, also, will be showcasing their products at the 2019 installation of Jamaican Made Christmas.
FOR THE ONE WHO: Doesn't Want Anything
We all know that one person who 'doesn't want anything'. Some people genuinely prefer a bit of quality time or a well-written card- but sometimes, it's nice to give a present to a loved one whether they were expecting it or not!
SUN ISLAND JAMAICA T-Shirt
Sun Island Jamaica is a well-known Jamaican brand that has been making t-shirts locally for over 50 years! Their products are made in Jamaica by Jamaicans. They have a wide selection of products to choose from, including plain tees and polos.
Recently, Sun Island rolled out a range of eye-catching statement tees, for both men and women- and I'm in love. From tees that say 'yaad man ting' to (my personal favourite) 'jus dweet'. A fun tee is a great way to express yourself- and our Jamaican identity- and can always be dressed up or down.
A tee is the perfect gift for someone who asked for nothing. I mean, we all wear clothes...don't we? Plus, Sun Island's prices are so affordable that it doesn't break the bank to splurge and get your loved one more than one tee!
Where to find them: The great thing about Sun Island, is that they have so many locations across the island (Kingston, Ocho Rios, Mandeville, Negril, Montego Bay) that it makes it so much easier to grab that perfect gift. They, also, have an online shop. Plus, My Jamaica also carries a wide range of their products!
MUKKLE THRIFT Tote Bag
As one of the cofounders of Mukkle Thrift, I may seem a bit biased with this one...but a tote bag is perfect for literally anyone. The beauty of Mukkle's totes are that they are made in Jamaica, by Sun Island, and all of their proceeds are donated to charitable organizations across the island. Their bags are not only multi-functional, but their designs are gender-neutral.
With the recent single-use plastic ban, nuff Jamaicans are struggling without their beloved scandal bags. Gifting a tote bag is a clever way to promote sustainable practices among your loved ones- while solving their problems. Personally, I always have a tote bag on me, whether I'm using it as my daily bag or if I leave it in my car for last-minute errands.
Where to find them: Mukkle's tote bags are available via DM on their Instagram page for $1,200 JMD and also available for sale at My Jamaica.
TOPP IN DESIGNZ Card
For some, actions don't speak louder than words. Nothing says 'I love you' like the perfect card. Writing a well thought-out card is a great (and often forgotten) way to let someone know how much they mean to you. When going card shopping this year, make sure to skip out on the Hallmark aisle- but instead, check out Topp In Designz.
Topp In Designz's cards are not only unique and perfect for the quintessential Jamaican, but they are printed locally! Gifting Jamaican cards are very memorable- and often gets a chuckle out of the person receiving it. Plus, if your loved one truly didn't ask for anything, I'm sure they will genuinely appreciate this.
Where to find them: You can find Topp In Designz's cards, and their gorgeous pouches (a personal favourite), at My Jamaica. They're based at Press, their own print shop and cafe, where you can grab a bite while shopping!
I hope that this gift guide was helpful and relieved some stress that comes with the season- but don't let it stop you. As mentioned, these are only a few of the amazing products made by talented Jamaicans. Make sure to check out My Jamaica store in Liguanea Plaza and shop consciously this holiday season!