Written by Naziya O’Reilly


Gifts with soul

It’s easy to get caught up in dull-eyed Christmas consumerism. Naziya O’Reilly found some gifts that pay it forward: an ace present for them, a bit more love out into the world.

Christmas presents
The greatest gift that I can give is… ME!” Or so James Corden, star of this year’s Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, keeps singing to us.

Critics of the commercialisation of Christmas might ponder exactly why this multi-billion pound corporation isn’t shilling its own products this year. Regardless, it remains true that very often gift buying and giving can sometimes be a pretty soulless business. Especially when you have a sneaky feeling that some of those items might spend the next year on the floor of the spare room before being re-gifted to Great Aunt Maud.

With that in mind, here are some soulful gift ideas: presents that would be lovely to receive but also pay it forward either by an actual donation to a charity or by supporting fair trade or women-centred business.


Mac's Viva Glam lipstick.

Mac’s Viva Glam lipstick.

Beauty is a tricky one; after all it’s going on your face and much of it is dependent on personal taste. However, you can’t argue with charity, so let’s begin with one that’s been around for a while. MAC’s Viva Glam Lipstick donates every penny of the selling price to the MAC AIDS Fund. Even if your best girlfriend hates that pinky beige shimmer or thinks a matte lip gives her a cat’s arse, you can be happy that your money is going to help the most marginalised, stigmatised and under-heard victims of this epidemic.

Urban Decay’s eyeshadow primer potion is a cult favourite and a safe bet for any makeup lover. Its new shade, Enigma, will see 50 per cent of the purchase price donated to women’s empowerment non-profits selected by The Ultraviolet Edge, Urban Decay’s global initiative to empower women. Smooth eyeshadow now comes with a smooth conscience.

Another great gift idea would be a set of makeup brushes from cancer support charity Look Good Feel Better. They have an affordable starter kit of bestsellers and a donation from any purchase in this range goes to skin care and makeup workshops to help improve the self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing of women undergoing treatment for any sort of cancer.

The Zoe Embracelet by Zoeva.

The Zoe Embracelet by Zoeva.

Technically not a makeup item, Zoeva’s beautiful bracelet in a rose gold design is gorgeous and 50 per cent of the proceeds from the beauty emporium’s charity bangle will go towards helping women suffering from domestic violence. Put that (and one of their gorgeous eyeshadow palettes for you) in your trolley.

Danaqa's Gold Finish Round Tray.

Danaqa’s Gold Finish Round Tray.


You can’t go wrong with hats, scarves or jewellery; no ‘are you a medium or a large?’ sizing issues here. For hand-crafted fashion accessories and homeware, then check out Danaqa, a lifestyle brand that specialises in international development projects with a focus on female-led business in developing nations. I particularly love the gold and silver finish round trays and batik scarves.

Another ethical company with plenty to offer in the way of present ideas is People Tree, an online fashion business that bills itself as an alternative to fast fashion. Not only does it partner with fair trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers to make sure that the people who make the products get the fairest opportunities from their labour but they also try to ensure that they use sustainable methods of production to minimise environmental impact.

I have loads of their pieces in my wardrobe but equally their cosy woolly hats, hand-knitted slippers, tote bags and T-shirts make easy gifting ideas for men and women.

If you haven’t bought yourself or your little ones their Christmas PJs then get straight to Matalan. Their #GetYourStripes campaign is in aid of Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, and 100 per cent of the profits from sales of their official Alder Hey stripy pyjamas and accessories will go towards funding the hospital’s new Research, Innovation and Education Centre.


Everyone loves a candle it seems, and there’s no time like Christmas to see your money going up in smoke. Hopefully Jo Malone’s Peony & Moss charity candle, in support of community gardens for those suffering from mental ill health, will ease your scruples. Failing that, you can choose from a variety of scents at The Charity Candle Company. (Tip: if you host a candle party, you get to choose the charity.)

One of Hopeful Traders' Christmas cards.

One of Hopeful Traders’ Christmas cards.

If you still haven’t written your Christmas cards then you need to shop from Hopeful Traders. Founded in response to homelessness in London, this Christmas they state that every penny spent on their Christmas cards will go towards the purchase of female hygiene products for homeless women. Plus they have a variety of stylish totes and sweaters too.

Christmas would not be the same without a charity single or two… or eight. There’s a comprehensive listing here but loads of thirtysomethings will be happy with You Can’t Always Get What You Want led by Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs in support of the Jo Cox foundation, while your tweenage niece might enjoy If Everyday Was Christmas by 11-year-old Cruz Beckham (yes, really).

Even Sainsbury’s could have a Christmas No 1 on its hands; its single is selling on iTunes with 100 per cent of the profits from the track’s sales being donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

The Big Stuff

Now we’re talking goats, farmyards, safe water supply and the end of violence against women. Who doesn’t want that for Christmas? From £5 to £250, Oxfam Unwrapped supports the full range of Oxfam’s work around the world. Sure, all your relative or friend is getting is a cheap gift card (or e-card) but the warm fuzzies you create from changing lives will be priceless. Plus nothing says I love you more than a massive pile of poo.

Similarly, for the millionaires in your life, I would be tempted to hand over a copy of the Good Gifts Catalogue and let them choose from investing in 100 acres of rainforest, endowing a library or giving the gift of sight to 100 people.


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Written by Naziya O’Reilly

Naziya O'Reilly is a teacher, performer and gold medal-winning rhythmic gymnast (aged 8). She is currently studying for a philosophy of education PhD at Leeds Trinity University.