What to Get Your Raging Anti-Consumerist Friend for the Holidays

How to shop for the person who really wishes you wouldn't shop for them.
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Eliza Brooke
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How to shop for the person who really wishes you wouldn't shop for them.
Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

Somehow, it's possible to be passionate about fashion and design but also deeply uncomfortable with how those goods get produced and sold, from the hazards the industry poses to the factory workers and the environment to the unfettered way people snap up new purchases. I say "somehow" not because those two interests are naturally irreconcilable, but because the way most clothes get made these days, they kind of are. Even when you buy from a brand with a better-than-average supply chain, there's still the problem of scale: Fashion businesses, at least the affordably priced and publicly traded ones that set up shop globally, thrive when our closets have high churn rates. H&M is working hard to prove to the public that it's a sustainable operation, but the retailer's end goal is still for us to buy lots and lots of stuff.

This is usually where my brain overheats and shuts down. Some days, it seems like you can either go about your shopping and avoid thinking too hard about it, or stop purchasing clothes altogether. 

I know what you're thinking: "Eliza. You work at a fashion blog. You're part of the problem and a hypocrite with some undeserved self-righteous tendencies." Yeah. A little bit. And on some days, like when I nominated these $6 Topshop socks for an Editor's Pick, more than a little bit. Finding an ethical framework in which you can enjoy fashion but recognize its major faults is a mental jigsaw puzzle, difficulty level ages 18+. I love clothing and what people's styling says about them; I get googly-eyed over the gorgeous fabrics and embroidery that pop up on Alessandro Michele's Instagram account. And even though most of what I buy is vintage, I like Topshop socks because, shit, they've got tinsel on them and they're cute! Maybe the solution is just to practice moderation in our own little lives, and up on some grander scale, that will be enough to lighten the load we've dumped on this planet of ours. We've done enough damage already.

I'm losing sight of my point: It's the holidays. You want to show your loved ones how much you care, and that's nice. So in honor of gift guide season, here are a few suggestions for what to get the person in your life who really, really hates how much stuff we're all buying this month.

1. "The True Cost," $9.99, available on iTunes: For anyone even remotely concerned about the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and the well-being of those who work in clothing factories around the world, "The True Cost" is mandatory viewing. 

2. A month of ClassPass, $125, available at ClassPass: Nothing says "I love you, you gorgeous fashion girl" like free access to a city's worth of yoga, spinning and Pilates classes. Sure, you're buying something in the process, but what you're funding is your friend's sweat and good health. (And, in the case of some classes, misery.)

3. Two tickets to "Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style," $50, available at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: If you haven't made it to the Costume Institute's latest exhibit, a collection of haute couture and ready-to-wear pulled from style icon Jacqueline de Ribes's personal archive, grab a buddy and go before the show closes on Feb. 21. It's a heady fashion experience with none of the spending — besides, maybe 1 percent of the population could even afford the looks on display.

4. A donation to Planned Parenthood (or any organization of your choosing), $TheLimitDoesNotExist.00, available at Planned Parenthood: A great gift for any proponent of women's health, men's health, STD testing, birth control and a woman's right to choose. Donate in a friend or loved one's name, and literally everyone benefits. Everyone.

5. A fireside reading of "An Inconvenient Truth" or, if you're feeling frisky, "A Modest Proposal," used from $.01 or free, available on Amazon and the Internet at large: What better way to show affection for your relatives than by sitting them down by the fire and taking turns reading from Al Gore's seminal work on global warming or Jonathan Swift's classic baby-eating satire? (For fun among friends, the original "Gossip Girl" book series or "Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging," which I know you have lying around your high school bedroom somewhere, are great options.)