'Tis the season for giving (and overindulging), so in the spirit of good tidings, comfort, joy, etc., we asked 27 designers to share some of their personal holiday photos (both past and present), along with a few gift-wrapping ideas, must-eat foods, and any other celebratory tidbits. Nothing says festive like an old family portrait of Charlotte Ronson (complete with a young Mark and Samantha!), Jeremy Laing in Santa gear, or Emma Hill of Mulberry making a snow angel. See all this and more in our slideshow.
How do you wrap your presents? I often find myself running to holiday parties from the studio, so generally I wrap gifts with whatever is on hand. Sometimes it's a signature fabric that I'll use, like a Japanese furoshiki wrapping cloth, or page proofs from a look book or, if I'm feeling especially festive, I'll draw on some blue-dot-pattern marker paper and use that. I've even made a little bow out of leftover zippers.
Erin Beatty, co-designer of Suno
Do you have any holiday traditions? My sister and I still write a note to Santa every year — with cookies, of course. He always writes back! What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? Honey-baked ham, au gratin potatoes, green bean casserole, and pecan pie. It's not a time for weight control. This year, my family's actually spending Christmas in Tuscany, so I imagine we'll be eating a lot of pasta! Do you have any stories of holidays gone wrong? Nothing too bad. Santa's definitely broken a few of our presents over the years, but tends to blame Rudolf, who's apparently quite a klutz.
How do you wrap your presents? Then: Graph paper! When I was a young boy, I wanted to be an architect. So for most small gifts, I would then (and sometime still do) doodle and write messages on vintage graph paper, then carefully wrap the gift in it. Some family members still have some of the notes and wrapping papers from a decade or so ago — classic! Now: Leftover fabric! We have scraps and sometimes yardage of awesome prints and textured fabrics — perfect for enveloping the largest of gifts.
Charlotte Ronson (right), with Samantha Ronson, Mark Ronson, Ann Dexter-Jones, and Mick Jones
Does your family have any holiday traditions? My family and I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas — always making tradition a focal point for both. We tend to celebrate with a lot of English things we loved growing up. We have a tree and we pick up our favorite Christmas stockings from Tea & Sympathy in the West Village. They're filled with the best Cadbury chocolates. We also get Christmas Crackers every year to decorate the table — they are crackers wrapped in a twist of bright paper and hold little toys or paper crowns inside. What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever received? The best gift that I've ever received was one that was given to me when I was six years old. My mother and my step-father gave me my very first sewing machine, along with some beautiful fabrics they brought home from a trip to Japan. The sewing machine was perfectly pink!
How do you wrap your presents? I love to wrap presents with butchers' twine. Does your family have any holiday traditions? We play Spin the Dreidel with the kids!
Tommy Hilfiger with his wife, Dee Ocleppo
What do you like most about the holidays? Having all of our kids home at the same time. We usually go to our house in Mustique (pictured) to relax together. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? I love roasted brussels sprouts and brownies — not together of course. How do you wrap your presents? I love a vintage prep look — plaid wrapping paper or newspaper with a bright red ribbon.
James Mischka (pictured) and Mark Badgley of Badgley Mischka
How do you wrap your presents? Mark: We take one of our couture fabrics from the next season and make scarves out if it to wrap our most special presents in and fasten it with one of our brooches (this year, we are using pieces from our new diamond collection!) James: It gives a sneak preview of what the fall collection will be about!
Lisa Mayock, co-designer of Vena Cava
What do you like most about the holidays? The FOOD!! Eating is my favorite holiday (or non-holiday) activity, and having certain foods only once a year makes them so much sweeter. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? Anything containing a form of chocolate or cheese, anything with the word nog or glog in it, and if anyone makes some kind of themed red-and-green dish, I will eat it on principle.
Sophie Buhai, co-designer of Vena Cava
What do you like most about the holidays? Sleeping. Does your family have any holiday traditions? We usually go on a hike in Griffith Park on Christmas — it's California, so it's always a beautiful day. However, I've always wanted to eat Chinese food on Christmas; that tradition seems like a good one. How do you wrap your presents? I like to use old Interview magazines to wrap presents, or newspaper. Basically anything free and recycled does the trick. Do you have any stories of holidays gone wrong? Family + too much alcohol = emotions = drama = disaster. It's good to monitor your alcohol intake.
Emma Hill, Mulberry
How do you wrap your presents? I use plain brown parcel paper tied with thick black satin ribbon for extra big bows, and for finishing touches in previous years I’ve always added a little stem of holly from the garden, but this year I’ve added cute little jingle bells. I like to use wooden stamps to write the names of each person receiving the gift straight onto the parcel paper.
Michelle Smith, Milly
What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? On Christmas day, I prepare a special dessert – bread pudding with peaches and caramel. My great-great-grandmother’s recipe has been enjoyed by six generations of my family. What do you like most about the holidays? Quality family time! Every year we look forward to spending a cozy, traditional Christmas in NYC, followed by some fun in the sun through the New Year. How do you wrap your presents? I am the procrastinator you see shopping on Christmas Eve, so the boutique’s own gift wrap is just fine by me.
Carlos Goncalves, co-designer of Bespoken
How do you wrap your presents? We will always comb through various sources to find vintage wrapping paper, whether it's a stack of old forties Life magazines off of eBay or a pile of local newspapers from a flea market. One time we created our own butcher paper with prints of some classic hand-drawn patterns, which looked pretty cool.
Does your family have any holiday traditions? We are always all together. I usually throw a very special party for everyone.This time we are all meeting in South Carolina for a week. It will be wonderful. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? I’m a vegetarian and I love tabbouleh, which I will make fresh every day this holiday trip for everyone to enjoy.
How do you wrap your presents? Throughout the year while I’m traveling, I collect local trinkets to tie on the tops of packages. Pretty tin ornaments from Mexico, silk tassels from Morocco, or little handmade dolls from Peru. There are a million homemade wrapping paper ideas. Print your own or use newspaper, aluminum foil, pages from old books, kids' drawings, plain white shelf paper, leftover wallpaper, cut pieces of fabric, bandanas, scarves, pillow cases. I even think sheets of bubble wrap can be pretty. One year, I wrapped all my gifts for my family back home in I ♥ New York T-shirts.
How do you wrap your presents? Several years ago, I started cutting out first initials to put on my gifts instead of ribbon or cards. There is a great sparkly plastic sticky-paper from Plastic Land that's perfect to use as it comes in many colors and finishes. My tree looks like an enchanted alphabet when all of the gifts are there.
Douglas Hannant (right)
What do you like most about the holidays? My favorite activity of the Christmas season is decorating the tree. I have collected vintage and antique ornaments my whole life, and I love bringing them out each year. I spend an entire day on my tree.
Albertus Swanepoel (left, front)
Does your family have any holiday traditions? I used to spend Christmas holidays at a tiny beach resort on the Cape coast, a place called Vleesbaai. It was filled with swimming, catching fish, and playing board games at night by candlelight, as there was no electricity. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? I have a terrible sweet tooth, so I love British Christmas cake, trifle, shortbread, eggnog ... bring it on!
Nicholas and Christopher Kunz of Nicholas K
How do you wrap your presents? Nicholas: I often create character by pairing tissue paper with wire-rimmed ribbon. A metallic bronze-color tissue always looks great with festive Christmas ribbons. Christopher: The best wrapping I received were things wrapped in strips of magazine and fallen leaves woven in intricate designs. I like to wrap in whatever I have around. Resourcefullness is always great and environmental. There are plenty of ways to create attractive wrapping from seemingly useless items.
Does your family have any holiday traditions? My holiday season is always taken at home. It's summer here in New Zealand at this time of year, so my memories of every Christmas involve lots of swimming in the pool or at the beach, and copious amounts of strawberries. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? The fresh cherries at this time of year are amazing, but I do love traditional fruit mince pies too.
Billy Reid (right) with John Paul White of The Civil Wars
How do you wrap your presents? I try to use different materials depending the gift, size, and who's getting the present. If it's a small gift I might find an antique handkerchief and tie it with a ribbon, or use an old jewelry box. I like the idea of reusable packaging. And a personal note on nice paper is something than can make your gift special and personal.
Whitney Pozgay, WHiT
What do you like most about the holidays? Christmas music and the smell of the tree lots. Does your family have any holiday traditions? We watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve every year. Even if we aren't together, I still observe this tradition. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? Chocolate Santas. Any stories of holidays gone wrong? I attempted to host Christmas one year, and was looking forward to showing off my rarely used domestic skills. However, I didn't realize that our oven didn't work until everyone was already over my apartment. It had been a while since I'd actually used it. We ended up eating appetizers and sides.
Phillipe Blond (left), David Blond (right), The Blonds, with publicist Mauricio Padilha (center)
How do you wrap your presents? Using ribbon in nontraditional ways, like covering the entire box with grosgrain bows or weaving many strips in different widths and colors. Anything to give a personal touch, like a few stems of the recipient's favorite flower knotted in the bow or an ostrich boa as filler instead of tissue paper.The best gift we've ever wrapped was a Christmas present for our publicist, Mauricio Padilha. It was a huge box and so chic, wrapped in glossy black paper with black bows (his favorite color).
Does your family have any holiday traditions? Usually everyone winds up around the piano, with me playing and everyone else singing Christmas carols. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? If I'm in the Philippines for Christmas, it's very traditional to eat roast suckling pig, which is delicious. Do you have any stories of holidays gone wrong? One year when we were spending the holiday in the Philippines, all of our luggage was lost and, along with it, all of the presents. But, of course, we still managed to have a wonderful time.
Kin Ying Lee, Head of Design at Madewell (Isabella, her daughter, is pictured)
How do you wrap your holiday presents? I often wrap presents with craft paper and have my children decorate the blank boxes with personalized drawings for each person. One year, I printed out old pictures of the people who I was sending the gift to and adhered their pictures to the gift. It is a great idea especially using their picture as a gift tag or placing the picture on the front of the packaging and writing a personalized note. Make it unique by using bright colored tape as a frame for each picture.
Deborah Lloyd, Kate Spade
Does your family have any holiday traditions? I take my tree-decorating very seriously, so much that it's become a joke amongst my family and friends. Every year is bigger, brighter, and shinier than the last. My husband jokes that we will need to buy a new house just to fit a bigger tree. What is your favorite food to eat around this time of year? I love a traditional British Christmas dinner — a proper roast, all the sides, and delicious Christmas pudding. And of course, this all gets washed down with lots of bubbly. Any stories of holidays gone wrong? The first year that we had our new puppy, Harry Winston Churchill, he would spend all day sitting at the foot of the Christmas tree, barking at the animal ornaments. We had to rearrange the ornaments and move them up higher to get him to stop!
Amy Mellen, Calvin Klein Home
What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever received? The most memorable gift I ever received was the year my Uncle Ray sent a taxidermy squirrel on a log; if you poked one of its eyes, the other one would pop out a little bit! I thought it was the most disturbing gift for a child. Have you ever been given an oddly wrapped gift? My grandmother used to cover her Marlboro Red cigarette boxes in Christmas paper and put tiny presents inside. My mother was horrified, but the little cartons were always filled with wonderful things. Another time, my father found antlers in the yard and put them on top of our gifts.
How do you wrap your holiday presents? I save all of the paper fabric print trials that I get from the different mills we work with, just for this purpose. You can also color Xerox and blow images up. I used to get into ribbons and trimmings and such, but think focusing on the paper feels more modern and simple. You can also just write the recipient’s name directly onto the paper. Maps and old sheet music can be really great also, and you can usually press out the creases with a dry iron.
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