Receiving a gift usually is a pleasure. But for some, it can be a job.
After all, unboxing, the ritualized opening of gifts or new purchases that has been captured on video and proliferated on social media since around 2015, is all in a day’s work for many global style influencers.
So, presuming that good taste is a key characteristic for success in the field, The Times asked three busy digital creators — Tina Chen Craig, Géraldine Boublil of the ErinOffDuty blog and Coco Bassey — for their advice on gift giving.
They shared some rules, their selections for family, friends, pets and others, as well as their own festive holiday traditions.
And don’t worry: They all say regifting is definitely OK.
One of the Pioneers
In 2005, when Tina Chen Craig started her blog BagSnob, she became one of the first influencers of the social media age. Since then, the former MTV Asia host has promoted top luxury brands including Prada, Cartier, Valentino and Dior, and introduced U Beauty, her skin care line.
Opening gifts for a living has made Ms. Craig hyper-aware of the wasteful wrappings. “I love a simple package, with or without wrapping paper. It’s what’s inside the package that truly matters,” she wrote in an email, noting when her skin care brand debuted in 2019, critics accused her of being cheap because its boxes were so minimalist.
Environmental consciousness also factors into Ms. Craig’s stance on repurposing items. “I say ‘yay’ if you disclose it’s a regift. I often offer up things I know a friend will love and vice versa. It’s a give-give situation,” she wrote.
Naturally U Beauty is on Ms. Craig’s present list. This year her high-profile friends — Nicky and Paris Hilton; Laura Kim, co-creative director at Oscar de la Renta; Bryan Boy and the fashion designer Prabal Gurung — will receive U Beauty’s Siren Set, a limited-edition five-product kit ($628). A key item in the collection, the Plasma Lip Compound, is Ms. Craig’s go-to stocking stuffer.
The Dallas-based influencer loves beauty items, but said she doesn’t consider her own taste when it comes to selecting gifts. “Be mindful of the recipient’s lifestyle and taste,” she wrote. “I won’t buy something for someone just because I love it.”
She also recommended personalizing a gift; but to ensure success, she prepays for the monogramming service just in case the recipient would prefer to exchange the item. “Once it’s personalized, it’s permanent,” she wrote.
Ms. Craig said she usually spends the holidays cooking for about two dozen family and friends on Christmas Eve and then hosts a Christmas morning open house before visiting the local homeless shelter with gifts. “Except if we are traveling,” she wrote. “We love to fly on Christmas Day when there are fewer crowds.” (The “we” refers to her and her 18-year-old son, Collin.)
But whether they travel or not, Ms. Craig wrote, she supports the Children’s Cancer Fund in Dallas, one of the charities she works with frequently, and donates products to the gift bags for its annual gala.
Her personal cancer scare in 2019 drew her attention to the charity. “The best gift I ever received was the gift of time,” Ms. Craig wrote. “My OB-GYN listened to her gut during a routine exam and caught my uterine tumor at a very early stage, doing an immediate biopsy despite my protests because I had a party to go to.”
The growth was removed, and Ms. Craig wrote that she credits the doctor with saving her life. “I’m eternally grateful to her — and for the time she’s given me.”
The Chic Parisienne
Géraldine Boublil disputes the myth that it is hard to buy a gift for a style blogger. “My family has trouble finding gifts for me, but sometimes I just want a great book,” the Paris resident said, mentioning a book she recently received on wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of accepting transience and imperfection. “Another friend gave me a leather-bound journal and pen set; a book requires thought. I want people to think with their hearts.”
Ms. Boublil, also the co-founder of Things From, a business that sells art furniture made from leathers, sheepskin and tweed, said she abhors following a gift list, and always focuses on finding unusual gifts. “I put my heart into it, so they remember,” she said. “For example, I discovered a hard-to-find special leather cigarette box for friends who smoke.”
She said she selects vintage items when possible, to avoid contributing to the cycle of mass production. And that is why regifting also gets a thumbs up from her. “I am not a big makeup person, but I have friends that love makeup, so I regift them,” she said. “Same for perfumes if it’s not your scent. It’s more sustainable, too.” She also passes many of the products she receives from brands on to the family of her building’s manager.
Much of her formal charity work has been with Little Dream, an organization that raises money for children in crisis situations in Israel. In addition to attending the group’s annual gala in Paris, Ms. Boublil and her family have visited one of its centers near Tel Aviv. “We spent the day getting to know them, giving love and care,” she said. “The workers there are also incredible human beings.”
As for her favorites, Ms. Boublil prefers experiences. The family often flies to Marrakesh on Christmas Day, and this year they plan to stay in a typical Moroccan riad. “Marrakesh feels homey in contrast to the holidays in Paris, where there is lots of traffic and noise,” she said. “I feel it’s a bit depressing with pressure to be cheerful.” (In addition, the mother of two has a birthday on Dec. 27.)
Her husband, David, enjoys arranging surprises, she said. “One year he surprised me with traditional Moroccan singers in our room at the Amanjena,” she recalled.
The only gift that topped that was her 2020 birthday, while lockdowns were still in effect in France. “On the morning of my birthday, he asked us to stay in our rooms. He emptied the living room except for the couch, closed the shutters, and lit the ceiling with star lights,” she recalled. “He asked two ballet dancers from Opéra de Paris to do a private performance. The music started, and just like that, they appeared and danced. It was one of the most magical moments ever.”
She is planning a surprise of her own, with a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. “I’ve been waiting to take him here to this charming hotel I discovered on a work trip, Le Sirenuse in Positano.”
The Sophomore New Yorker
When Coco Bassey moved to New York from Atlanta in 2020, she was fulfilling a 10-year dream — and among her favorite gifts were the housewarming presents for her first city apartment. “I received a set of cooking pots, a Crate & Barrel wine rack and bowl-shaped glasses I love,” she said in a recent video interview, adding, “I got plants, too, but they didn’t survive.”
“I feel like I’m the easiest person to shop for,” she said. “Thoughtful things make a difference.” She recalled how, during the 2021 holiday season, she told her sister that she didn’t have time to decorate — and the next day a floral arrangement in the shape of a Christmas tree arrived.
She said she tries to put the same care into her gift selections. “I want it to feel heartfelt and thoughtful, something they would love versus a random gift set. It’s either all out or nothing,” she said, adding, “that comes from someone who receives things from a waste perspective, too.” (She gives the beauty items she receives through work to friends. “We make it an after-work drinks thing,” Ms. Bassey said. “I also give it to a friend of mine from Pakistan who takes it home and distributes it there.”)
She also donates to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, or ThyCa — she was diagnosed and treated for the disease in 2012 — and to Unicef.
This holiday she and her dog, Willie, a cross between a poodle and a King Charles spaniel, will join three of her siblings and various partners at the family home in Atlanta (her parents and fourth sibling have returned to Nigeria, where the family originated). “We miss my mom’s cooking, but we make it work,” she said. “There is a coconut rice recipe we love that we duplicate. Then we make a turkey or roasted chicken and a typical Nigerian soup.”
If that sounds a bit subdued, Ms. Bassey doesn’t mind. “I think a lot of people are more mindful this holiday season,” she said. “People appreciate glitz and glam, but the most meaningful gifts have meaning like an experience.”