The List: Innovative, Under the Radar American Made Gifts

During the holiday season is when I am most acutely aware of the gross imbalance of imports versus exports, that is the current situation here at home. 60 years ago, America was known as an innovator globally, where 78 percent of the world's apparel manufacturing alone, was being done right here in New York City. At the same time, Maine had a thriving shoe manufacturing base and Rhode Island was a major hub for jewelry making. Cities across the country, far and wide, were producing everything from furniture, textiles and toys, to the parts and pieces used to build these items.

Slowly over the years as cheap manufacturing became an option for large companies, we not only lost critical jobs, but our edge as being an innovative country.

If you were to walk into most factories, in New York City's once bustling garment center today, you would find run down factories that have not had a face lift in decades. The very opposite visual of what you would expect, with New York being one of the three major fashion capitals in the world. However, there is a movement slowly happening, one that I have been a part of since 2008.

As the creative director of a fashion brand and a green-minded individual, I would sit and ponder the above at great length when I first began my career as a designer in 2006. I started out producing my line of handbags in Manhattan and was dissuaded by many individuals in continuing to do so. I was told that Made in New York did not have the same value as made in Italy, where craftsmanship reigned supreme. So I sent a staff member over to Italy and we started working with a factory that was also producing one the world's most sought after luxury brands. I felt safe. But after one season of producing in Italy, I quickly became hip to the fact that something was off when my samples came back with 13 design mistakes followed by the same 13 mishaps in my production.

I quickly deduced that maybe my bags had not been made in Italy and that most likely they had been manufactured in China and passed through Italy to be assembled and stamped, Made in Italy... a practice that has become commonplace even in the world of luxury. This was a real eye opener and I decided I wanted to be a part of doing something to change things.

As the mother of 2, I strongly believe that one of the most important qualities to try and instill in my children is mindfulness. I often speak to them about the importance of being aware of how they impact the Earth and all it's living creatures. Whether they're walking down the street, simply standing in someone's way or speaking loudly at a restaurant where other patrons are within earshot, to wasting food or buying things that are cheaply made and/or aren't needed... I remind them to try and act in a mindful manner. I also encourage them to think about these things because overall in addition to America losing it's edge in the manufacturing sector and the great many jobs that have gone overseas... we have a major green issue on our hands. The carbon emissions being created from the constant shipping of items back and forth to the other side of the world, as they go from prototype to production, is having a very negative impact on mother nature. And let's face it, most of what we purchase as consumers is not a necessity.

To make things clear, I am not saying to stop shopping altogether! I am merely pointing out to think about shopping more wisely and in a way that will do good for our economy and have less of an negative impact on our planet. Consider buying green when you can, or domestically made or both, if possible! Take the time to search what is out there. A small number of people really started thinking about this within the past few years and in a short time, slowly but surely, we are starting to see a real trend in American made.

Recently I started a second brand, one that is recyclable, and being produced in Kennebunk, Maine. As the proud co-founder of Soak sandals, I am working hard to do my part and show my kids that you can be successful while making a positive impact too!

And to make your research a little easier, as you continue to do your holiday shopping, I urge you to consider the below list... a mix of opulent, innovative, artisanal American made gifts!

So without further ado:

For infants:

1. Little Giraffe Blankets

A cozy comfy blanket for a little cherub in your life. I cannot personally speak from experience on this particular item, but Barney's is one of my favorite retailers and they carry the line.
Since it's a gift for an infant I recommend doing your homework first and reading some reviews. Retail price $78 available at Barneys

kiddos starting with pre-schoolers:

For the builders...

1. Lincoln Logs 100th Anniversary Tin

In 2016 Lincoln Logs turns 100! The 100th Anniversary Tin is just like you will remember it. Set includes 111 made in the USA, real wood logs, and captures the true essence of the brand. $44.99. Ages 3+. Additionally there are several other sets to choose from. This made my list last year, but with the centennial anniversary weeks away... how could I not? Knex

2. Knex Mighty Makers: Deep Sea Dive Building Set
Explore the ocean with Marissa and her marine boat. Marissa can be transformed into a beautiful mermaid who can swim among the fish and ocean vegetation. Set includes 317 K'NEX parts and pieces, 2 figures -- Marissa and Queen --, and accessories such as a microscope, laptop and jelly fish. Set also features full color building instructions for 3 different oceanographic themed builds, and an exploration card that challenges builders to explore additional marine biology concepts. All K'NEX rods and connectors are made in the USA. Suggested retail price is $34.99. Ages 7+

Keep in mind Knex makes products from early childhood up through 12th grade so it's a great idea for kids grade k-12 boy or girl! Knex

For the sporto...

3. Mylec Sports Sets- They specialize in "Off-Ice" hockey but also have additional
products for other sports. Their Football Set(29.99) is a great item for backyard playtime, but I am partial to their Deluxe Mini Goal Set(39.99), being a hockey mom! This set is perfect to bring along for the kids to use during those endless hockey tournament weekends! You can find either of them at Sports Authority, Modells, Target and Dick's Sporting Goods in stores or online.

These next few can really work for children, men and women alike:

4. Custom Sports Athleisure

Kids will love receiving custom made gifts featuring their home team! Either choose from the selection of items they have and customize away or send in a beloved item of their own and make something truly unique. Embroid Me allows for just that!
And this gift crosses over all categories as, I truly want to support my children's teams, I do! However, being a fashion designer, means standard fitting t-shirts are a no no for me! So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I ordered a few items from American Apparel, a place I frequent often for American made kids, mens and women's fashion basics and voila, I designed my own team gear as well as something for my husband too! Now I can fashionably support #61... Go Team Go!

For the chef du jour...

5. Chocolate making classes at Tache Chocolate

Live in the tri-state area or visiting NYC soon? If so, be sure to check out this rad chocolate shop owned by Aditi Malhotra, a 2014 Forbes 30 under 30 recipient in the category of food and wine. Chocolate making classes are offered daily for children and/or the kid at heart! During the 1.5 hour class you will make chocolate lollipops, chocolate bars and will even have the opportunity to experiment and create something all your own. Beverages and aprons are provided and be prepared to take your goodies home along with recipes that will allow you to continue your journey further. If you can't make it to a class... have a loved one taste, what all the buzz is about, by ordering online. I can attest that her french caramel kisses with fleur to sel are heavenly. Prices for classes as follows: Adults (ages 15 & up): 75.00 per person Children (ages 3-14): 65.00 per child

6. Dooblicate 3D Figures of the most cherished people in your life!

Dress your child as a super hero, step into the booth ... and kaboom... in just a few short weeks your child will now have an action figure of himself! On second thought, drop by with your honey and hop in together to create a figurine to place on your desk at work. The whole family can be 3D printed together too... how's that for innovation! With Christmas just two weeks away the timelines are tight, but no worries... they offer gift cards! It's one of those experiences that is nicer to do together anyway. Prices vary with locations in NY, LA and SF
Specifically for Him

7. Allen Edmonds- heritage, timeless shoes

Allen Edmonds began handcrafting Made in U.S.A. shoes in 1922 on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and they have stay true to American made ever since. And a shout out for being an eco-minded brand too... they offer a re-crafting service where for $150 dollars you can make what is old new again and again!

And although they have typically been known as a more mature brand, they recently launched their Student Offer Program for the Millenial in your life.

Research shows that 80% of hiring executives say shoes are " extremely important" in creating the right impression in work environments, but only 51% of young men wear appropriate shoes to an interview! The Fifth Avenue in black, will definitely do the trick! Subtle design elements in a classic shoe.

They are currently working to design shoes that appeal to this younger demographic and it seems to be catching on.

I have to say the First Avenue Brown Country Grain Boots are absolutely gorgeous. When I opened the box in my mail room, one woman was oooing and ahhing right beside me as we checked out the craftsmanship! Sure my husband is not a Millenial but he is stylish and is up on his fashion. Bonus, they are currently on sale.

8. Widow Jane Bourbon

The word "craft" and "artisanal" have been used to describe everything from jams to shoes. So, what is "craft"? Well, for Daniel Preston, founder of the Widow Jane Distillery, it is simple: Craft means using the best possible ingredients, employing innovative methods and cutting no corners... all in the aim of crafting a superior product. Well said!
Fun fact: It turns out that the unique properties of limestone are essential in making a stellar whiskey product. So chew on this... the same limestone that has gone into making the Brooklyn Bridge and various other New York Landmarks is used to make Widow Jane. Talk about locally made!

9. Malin and Goetz for the well groomed male

The list goes on from face, body and hair to candles, fragrance and apothecary. Malin Goetz is a family owned business that started with a focus on individuals with sensitive skin. My husband hails this line as his all time fave. And I must say, my significant other definitely stays on top of his grooming! Shout outs include their Peppermint Shampoo and Rum Body Wash. And who doesn't absolutely need Ingrown Hair Cream. Confidence is key! Worth mentioning they are doing their job to be green. They are paraben free and have always focused their efforts on natural ingredients-those tried and true, ones that you would have found in an apothecary more than 100 years ago. They also do their best to source the finest-grade, highest-level and most cutting-edge ingredients locally or as close to New York as possible. In doing this they proudly claim, "our efforts support our local community and lessen our carbon footprint."
Their products and packaging are recyclable too!

They made the list last year and they made it again this year! Until I can find a better fitting jean with subtle branding too... this is our go to denim!

Made in LA and staying on top of the trends, we can't live without them. And for women with a tush... they flatter rather than detract. Mucho importante!

For women only:

I stumbled upon my latest obsession, Fleur De Louis, at the Japanese retailer Tomorrowland in Soho.
With American made being all the rage in Japan, it was no surprise to find this, under the radar brand, in store. They currently offer 10 different scents.
But as a woman, I know how hard it is to find a scent that both my husband and I mutually agree on. In fact it took 15 years, to find the one, so I am particularly jovial to share this brand with you! And to make it even easier to choose, they offer 2 travel sets, one in citrus and woods and the other in florals with 5 selections in each set. How's that for simplicity?

12. Kacey K Jewels

Personalized jewelry will make any girl swoon. So check out these sparkly finds to make a real impression. They are all made in New York and more special than some of the more mainstream personalized options available.

13. Soak Slide Sandals-

For women in the know and on the go. These sandals are meant to wear during off duty from those tortured heels. From work to yoga, shopping to even cocktails, if your sore feet can't bare another minute in those stilettos. And hey, I am partital ;) Give the woman in your life the support she needs to get through her day in style and comfort. Available in 17 colors.
Pre-order now for a March delivery.
Become an innovator...

14. Sadly, I wanted to include some books on my list but found it difficult to find ones that weren't printed in China. So go ahead and visit a local book shop that sells restored books... a gift that surely a vintage lover will appreciate and one that is green friendly too!

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday season and remember to choose quality over quantity when making your gift selections.