The Holiday Gift Guide for the Stylish Twenty-Something

Dec 10

Miles Franklin

We once again find ourselves in the midst of “holiday season”, that hazy period of making merry and spending money that runs generally from the end of October through mid January, and this means that it’s time to think about what gifts you’re giving to others and to yourself. As a young person, I’d like to think that I have my finger on the pulse of what people my age are looking for in a gift, and as such I’ve here outlined 10 outstanding gifts ranging from $10 -$300 that would be perfect for the twenty-somethings in your life; ranging from functional to ornamental, here are my picks for the best gifts of 2020.

  1. Casio A168WA-1 (Between $10-$20)
The effortlessly stylish Casio A168. Image  Via
The effortlessly stylish Casio A168. Image Via

For a machine that has such a complicated name, this Casio watch is delightfully simple and intuitive. A watch is an absolute necessity for anyone of college age for a variety of self-evident reasons, and one with a simple digital readout, alarm clock and timer functions, some water resistance, and a user-rated battery life of up to ten years is a no-brainer choice. Not only is the watch functional, but it is also attractively packaged, featuring a stainless steel bracelet and rugged but minimalist design.

2. VEJA V-10 Sneakers ($150)

The eminently popular VEJA V-10. Image  Via
The eminently popular VEJA V-10. Image Via

I’ve already covered VEJA for MODA at least twice, but they are such good shoes that I genuinely think they deserve a spot on this list. These shoes are in line with current trends, are genuinely sustainable, and have an easy time fitting into a variety of wardrobes. Because I’ve already said so much about these exceptional shoes in other pieces, I will link to my in-depth VEJA review here.

3. French Press ($15-$100)

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College students consume more coffee than we’d like to admit, and after a while it’s time to move on from the Keurig machine and the dining hall mystery brews. Not only is the French Press a more involved process than is using a regular coffee maker, it is also a more rewarding one that almost acts as a form of hands on meditation in the morning in a way that a coffee machine cannot mimic. I’ve linked one of the prettiest cold presses I could find, but rest assured that there are many more cost effective options on the market.

4. Fitbit health watch (from $69)

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College kids and young people, just beginning our careers, overwhelmed by schoolwork, and attempting to maintain flourishing social lives all at once, tend to neglect our physical health at various periods. As such, a simple health-tracking watch can be a surprisingly useful reminder to get outside and breathe a little.

5. Wireless earbuds ($5-$500)

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Wireless earbuds are an almost perfect gift for a young and fashionable person, combining utility with style in a compact and appealing package. Though Apple Airpods are the de facto industry standard, they are hardly the only option on the market and in fact have several considerable drawbacks including their price point and lack of personalization. A perfunctory browse on the internet is enough to find a pair of earbuds that fit the style and needs of the person you’re shopping for.

6. Weighted blanket ($70-$300)

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It’s no secret that people in their twenties often have trouble sleeping, stemming from our less than stellar habits of high caffeine consumption (see number three on the list) and seemingly endless hours of screen time. As such, uninterrupted sleep can be hard to come by. A weighted blanket will not only help with sleep, the extra heft is surprisingly calming, but it can also further personalize a bedroom or living space.

7. Longchamp Le Pliage tote ($145-$200)

The durable yet stylish Longchamp Le Pliage in black. Image  Via
The durable yet stylish Longchamp Le Pliage in black. Image Via

Though I recommend a Longchamp Le Pliage as a particularly good tote bag for a busy college student, it should be obvious that sturdy and stylish totes exist at virtually every price point. I recommend the Le Pliage specifically because it is my personal school/work bag, and it has weathered my abuse gracefully, whether stuffed to the brim with the latest grocery store finds or all of my textbooks and my laptop.

8. Disposable camera ($15-$40)

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In addition to providing photos with a vintage feel, disposable cameras make themselves useful in moments of spontaneous creativity; in an era dominated by smartphone cameras which offer a dizzying array of editing and processing options, the mechanically grounded feel of a disposable camera can offer a healthy and artistic outlet for stressed college students.

9. Patterned/Fuzzy socks ($10-$70)

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Nothing says “I love you” like a funky pair of socks or two. Socks are a deceptively genius gift because, in addition to having that goldilocks combination of utility and style,  whenever the receiver looks toward the ground they will think of you!

10. Paravel backpack ($195)

Paravel Scooter backpack and monogrammed duffel. Image  Via
Paravel Scooter backpack and monogrammed duffel. Image Via

If the young person on your list requires a backpack instead of a tote, I think none currently available are as cute as the Paravel Scooter backpack. Available in several color schemes and monogrammable for an additional fee, this adorable leather and canvas piece is cute and easily wearable. Of course, there are a number of other options on the market should this particular backpack prove inadequate in any way. 

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Five Male Celebrities Who Rocked Jewelry On The Red Carpet

Nov 1

Miles Franklin

Billy Porter being fitted in Oscar Heyman jewels for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. Image  Via
Billy Porter being fitted in Oscar Heyman jewels for the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. Image Via

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” goes the perennial 20th century proclamation of the innately feminine love for precious jewels. At the same time that this phrase was coined, the late 1940s, De Beers, which once controlled over 80% of the world’s diamond supply, launched its enduring “A diamond is forever” campaign, which spawned the modern practice of sealing a marital engagement with a diamond. Though it is true that both of the above turns of phrase continue to drive the purchase of high volumes of diamonds and other precious stones for women, it is also true that male celebrities are stylishly pushing for more inclusive conceptions of the ways in which men can interact with jewels.

One might rightly scoff at the idea that men wearing jewelry is new, and it is at this point that I must refine my focus. Of course men have historically worn jewelry, but it has been men’s jewelry as opposed to women’s jewelry; a frail yet highly enforced dichotomy that is acutely representative of the broader Western proclivity for dividing all facets of life along gender lines. While the 20th century and part of the 21st century narrowly defined men’s jewelry as bulky, relatively dull, and gemless pieces such as cufflinks and timepieces, the last five years have seen some of the most aggressive de-gendering of even the most traditionally feminine jewelry styles, such as the brooch and lapel pin. In an effort to both celebrate and amplify the democratization of high jewelry that has unfolded in fabulous style on red carpets for the past several years, I share with you five times male celebrities have shined in ethereal jewels.

5. Pharrell Williams, 2017 Academy Awards

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Pharrell seems to appear frequently in my writing, and this is no mistake. As one of the only people alive to have collaborated with Chanel as an individual, and as the inspiration for a million dollar Richard Mille timepiece, it is perhaps no surprise that Pharrell comes up frequently when discussing celebrities who push the boundaries in fashion and jewelry. In 2017, Pharrell walked the red carpet in a predominantly black Chanel suit, offset by a dazzling broach of white diamonds which appear to be set in either white gold or platinum with pearls.

4. John Legend, Vanity Fair Oscar Party 2019

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In 2019, John Legend wore a Dennis Tsui brooch of diamonds, blue sapphires, and a large yellow sapphire set in white gold. The brooch, named the Galaxy Pin, is notable for three reasons. The first notable facet of the Galaxy Pin is its designer, Dennis Tsui, who is a rising star in the world of high jewelry. Having only recently entered the high jewelry space, it is a testament to Tsui’s creative genius that he would so quickly be tapped to provide John Legend’s red carpet flash. The second noteworthy aspect of this brooch is its movement; rather than simply being a static piece of jewelry pinned to a lapel, there is also a gracefully proportioned chain which is accented with a yellow stone (probably a sapphire, possibly a yellow diamond) which is itself set in a magnificent halo of white diamonds. Finally, the presence of colored jewels in the Galaxy Pin sets it apart from equally beautiful yet less interesting pieces produced purely of monochromatic stones.

3. Timothée Chalamet, 2020 Academy Awards

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Though I cannot in good conscience rank Timothée Chalamet’s Academy lapel pin as the best example of men’s brooch/lapel pin wearing on the red carpet, I must admit that it is my personal favorite. Having a deep sweet spot in my heart for Cartier jewels, colored stones, and vintage pieces, this 1955 ruby, diamond, and platinum lapel pin sweeps me off of my feet. As a piece viewed in a vacuum and devoid of context, it is already magnificent; large, clear, and creatively arranged diamonds set off by Burmese rubies (a distinction that is important to draw as rubies from Burma are of the highest clarity, and the deepest blood red) in several different cuts makes this piece exemplary of Cartier’s jewelry design language during the first sixty years of the 20th century. Pairing this sumptuous lapel pin with a characteristically restrained Prada ensemble guaranteed Chalamet’s outfit a spot in the best looks of 2020.

2. Chadwick Boseman, 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards

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The late and great Chadwick Boseman, in addition to being a guiding light and source of inspiration for countless young people, was also a confident wearer of fine jewels. At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Boseman donned three Tiffany & Co. Schlumberger clips of white gold, yellow gold, and diamonds. It is not often that men are seen wearing jewelry inspired by delicate flora, and the simple daring of this choice makes it all the more stunning to see on the red carpet.

1. Billy Porter, 2019 Golden Globes

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The trifecta of Oscar Heyman flower brooches which cascaded down Billy Porter’s lapel at the 2019 Golden Globes were sadly overshadowed by the rest of his exceptional ensemble, itself a piece of art designed by Randi Rahm. The brooches, awash in vivid colors and sprays of vibrant diamonds, partially utilize a setting technique pioneered by the legendary house of Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1930s, known as the invisible setting. This technique is one in which the stones are set such that the mountings are not visible, thus allowing the stones to shine ever more brilliantly in the absence of prongs. The top brooch appears to be of white diamonds and green enamel flower petals, the middle of white diamonds and yellow sapphires (or possibly yellow diamonds), and the bottom brooch of white diamonds and invisibly set rubies.

At a moment in the near future, life will return to normal and we will once again inevitably find ourselves passively taking in the glamour of celebrities on red carpet events. When that moment comes, I hope you will not look only at the garments with awe and wonder, but also the jewels.

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Fake/Not Is The Ultimate Expression of Alessandro Michele’s Vision

Oct 22

Miles Franklin

A hard suitcase from the Fake/Not capsule collection, first unveiled in Gucci’s AW20 show, prominently displaying ‘FAKE’ against Gucci’s iconic bicolor striped motif. Image  Via
A hard suitcase from the Fake/Not capsule collection, first unveiled in Gucci’s AW20 show, prominently displaying ‘FAKE’ against Gucci’s iconic bicolor striped motif. Image Via

To fashionphiles around the globe who take interest in all things luxury, Gucci’s recent capsule, titled ‘Fake/Not,’ probably comes as a surprise. But, to those who have followed Gucci and Alessandro Michele since 2015, a capsule collection that deliberately brands each of its items as fakes seems like a most authentic and intoxicating culmination of Michele’s aesthetics. 

Before Michele, Gucci had been in a decade long creative rut. With the departure of Tom Ford in 2005, the brand went from a cutting edge fixture of the fashion world that celebrated and embraced eroticism to one that struggled to find its creative niche and, as such, also struggled to find clients. From 2006 to 2014, Gucci languished under the creative direction of Frida Giannini, who left the brand just after its CEO, and Giannini’s romantic partner Patrizio di Marco, did. Giannini’s departure, setting aside the personal drama that surrounded it, left Gucci with the problem of appointing a creative director who would reinvigorate the glamorous but boring brand, yet Michele was far from the obvious choice. In fact, it is quite the testament to Mr. Michele that, in 2020, he is a well recognized name in fashion considering that he rose to the position of creative director only five years earlier, after having led Gucci’s accessories department since 2003. But, when one totally redirects the creative vision of a name as influential as Gucci, changing its clientele and more than doubling its annual revenue in the process, one is guaranteed to rise to prominence.

A campaign photo from Gucci’s collaboration with Dapper Dan, the man who is arguably responsible for setting Michele on the path toward Fake/Not. Image  Via
A campaign photo from Gucci’s collaboration with Dapper Dan, the man who is arguably responsible for setting Michele on the path toward Fake/Not. Image Via

Though a person can see the pronounced visual departure in Gucci’s collections since that fortuitous unveiling of the Fall 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection, Michele’s more meaningful contribution to Gucci, and to the worlds of fashion and expensive living in general, has been a sort of liberation. Breaking ranks with its contemporaries at Prada, Fendi, Balenciaga, Christian Dior, and more, Gucci has become the rosy voice of reason that finally popped the bubble which separated the worlds of high fashion and contemporary politics/ideologies. Alessandro Michele’s Gucci does away with constructions of gender, value, belonging, and conservatism, and radically re-asserts that designer clothing should be cutting edge, of the moment, and accepting of a wide audience of people, regardless of their ability to monetarily support the brand; Michele’s Gucci is one of ideas, and radical ones. 

Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci since 2015, and Harry Styles at the Met Gala in 2019. Image  Via
Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci since 2015, and Harry Styles at the Met Gala in 2019. Image Via

From runway shows that feature models gingerly clutching replications of their own heads in their palms, to trousers with large tags which read “Gucci Orgasmique”, nothing is sacred in the land of the new Gucci. By working to dismantle the artificial barriers of gender, economic status, and “good taste” in his work, Michele has been steadily moving towards the ultimate dichotomy which is present in all of his work, that of real vs. fake, since 2015. And, especially in light of the collaboration with Dapper Dan which began in 2017, making the fake real and the real fake has been perpetually on Gucci’s radar.

The capsule collection ‘Fake/Not’ takes the final step in freeing Gucci from the classed and WASPy grips of the world of high fashion. Taking one of the most readily copied designer motifs in the world, the interlocking double G on brown canvas, and covering it gaudily in Gucci’s signature bicolor stripes and the words ‘FAKE’ on one side of each piece and ‘NOT’ on the other, Michele seems to ideologically erase the final barrier separating authentic Gucci products from those uncanny fakes which can commonly be found littering New York’s Canal Street or Hong Kong’s famous counterfeit markets.

While brands like Chanel frantically prosecute producers of counterfeit items and even actively dissuade customers from buying their products secondhand, Gucci is leaping headfirst into the richness of creativity and passion which exist within the world of Gucci inspired garments. Here lies Michele’s final frontier, Gucci’s complete awakening, and the most dazzling flowering of both yet; Gucci is for neither binary gender, it is for neither rich nor poor, it is for no particular kind of person at all. Gucci, and specifically its iconic print, is for anyone who wants it, because ultimately, real Gucci is fake, and fake Gucci is real. 

Images from the Fake/Not release. Image  Via
Images from the Fake/Not release. Image Via

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Why Your Next Pair of Trainers Should Be VEJA

Oct 13

Miles Franklin

VEJA founders Sebastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion with VEJA running shoes. Image  Via
VEJA founders Sebastien Kopp and François-Ghislain Morillion with VEJA running shoes. Image Via

In the world of day to day shoes, few trends have been louder in recent years than that of the designer trainer. From Balenciaga, to Gucci, to Louis Vuitton and even Chanel, $1,000 trainers have gone from fringe to norm. And, while this not so subtle trend of balkingly expensive shoes has recently taken up much of the conversational space in the footwear world, fashionable sneakers have once again been steadily gaining a loyal following in the background.

The world of luxury sneakers, a world of slim fitting, minimalist and often white profiles, was once a small one with only a few players. But, for at least the past six years, luxury sneakers have been on the rise as the young get older and dress codes both at work and in social circles consequently relax. The market for these (nearly) all occasion shoes has also been bolstered by celebrity endorsements, as the likes of Meghan Markle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the entire cast of The Politician are consistently photographed in the high-end, low effort style. But, if you’re reading this article to decide if you’re a fan of luxury sneakers or to decide from whom to buy, you likely already know everything I’ve just laid out. However, the question must be asked; which of these beautifully simple shoes will you buy? I think the answer should be VEJA.

Tyler Hobart, played by Ben Platt, donning VEJA sneakers in  The Politician.  Image  Via
Tyler Hobart, played by Ben Platt, donning VEJA sneakers in The Politician. Image Via

As it stands, the consumer is spoiled for choice when shopping for an upscale, everyday white sneaker, but the France-based VEJA sets itself apart through its frankly unprecedented standards for transparency and environmental sustainability. VEJA, in Portuguese, means “look”, and the brand actively encourages the consumer to look more deeply into not just the final product on the foot, but exactly how that product came to be. Because VEJA itself exhaustively details its ethical/sustainable practices (  in addition to publishing its as yet unresolved shortcomings (, I will simply hit the highlights. VEJA’s materials are sourced in Brazil, where wild rubber is farmed responsibly by locals in the Amazon Rainforest and pesticide/fertilizer free cotton is farmed in the NorthEast, and these materials are then crafted into sneakers in a factory in Porto Alegre in humane conditions. Since producing its first shoe in 2005, VEJA has sold more than two million pairs of sneakers worldwide, all while avoiding advertising. VEJA says that foregoing advertising and its attendant costs has allowed it to invest significantly more of its resources in its employees, raw materials, and innovation, which has led most notably to vegetal tanned leather and B-mesh, a revolutionary new material made solely from recycled plastic bottles. 

The wildly popular VEJA V-10 is available in a lovely array of materials and color ways, and is perfect for everyday wear. Image  Via
The wildly popular VEJA V-10 is available in a lovely array of materials and color ways, and is perfect for everyday wear. Image Via

Now having had all of this information thrown at you, you may still be unsure that VEJA is the sneaker for you, considering the fact that I’ve only extolled the company’s ethics and said nothing of how the product actually feels. But, having owned the V-10 sneaker and the brand’s new, 53% recycled Condor running shoe for a few months, I’d love nothing more than to furnish you with yet another reason to spend your money here. 

The primary concerns I hear raised with the V-10 sneaker are that they are uncomfortable, too expensive, and do not always fit true to size. As pertains to the comfort of the shoe, it is important to note that any sneaker with a slim profile and a tight fit over the foot will be uncomfortable, but the V-10s were only so initially; after a few days of wear, I experienced no discomfort. As concerns price, I counter with the fact that many luxury sneakers cost four or five times the price of a V-10, while offering little more in the way of comfort or durability, and certainly offering less in the way of social responsibility. Finally, I must note that my pair of V-10s fit true to size, though I have friends who have had to go through the simple process of switching sizes. Truthfully, it’s a wonderful sneaker that feels good and goes with any outfit. 

Having praised and defended the V-10, I now take up the task of drawing your attention to the Condor. I feel that doing so is especially important since the world of running shoes is rather new to VEJA, and I have to say that the Condor is a phenomenal first effort; superbly cushioned, well insulated from the havoc that Chicago streets can wreak on less well protected feet, and pretty! Though my Condors show all of the signs of intense running (copious amounts of dry mud, grass stains, and the occasional bloodstain), I still find them pretty enough to wear on occasions outside of exercise.

The VEJA Condor running shoe is a refreshingly beautiful shoe in a market dominated by intentionally ugly options. Image  Via
The VEJA Condor running shoe is a refreshingly beautiful shoe in a market dominated by intentionally ugly options. Image Via

Ultimately, you have to follow your heart when choosing a pair of sneakers; choosing incorrectly can have catastrophic consequences for your instagram feed or for your chances at working in Silicon Valley. But, at any chance I get, I steer people toward VEJA. Your wardrobe needs them, and so does the world.

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