updated 4 Jun 2012, 03:27
user id password
Tue, Dec 20, 2011
The Business Times
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Gifts with a heart
by Debbie Yong


IF you are sick of lamenting how the holidays have become overrun with wild consumerism, take heart. One does not need to look very hard to find Christmas gifts with a conscience in Singapore. Local entrepreneurs and global brands alike have started rolling out environmentally-friendly and charity-linked Yuletide products to tap on the goodwill in the air.

Skincare brand SK-II, for example, gave their signature Facial Treatment Essence bottle a Christmas makeover. Glitzy champagne-gold lace trimmings embellish the limited edition bottle, designed by fashion house Rochas' creative Marco Zanini and autographed by Hollywood actress Cate Blanchett. It does not just look good, it does good too. Proceeds from the sale of each bottle will be channelled towards SK-II's Clear for Life Project, which aims to provide clear drinking water for women in developing countries.

"People are starting to understand that shopping is more that just a selfish act of gratification; there is a certain responsibility implied in every purchase, such as responsibility for the environment and social responsibility for those who make the products. And what better time to share this sense of worth with your loved ones than during the holiday season?" says Dragos Necula, co-founder of local eco-fashion label Etrican. "Plus an ethical gift makes a great conversation topic for a Christmas party."

"Consumers definitely have more options now with more ethical and sustainable fashion and jewellery labels to choose from," observes Georgina Koh, co-owner of Tiong Bahru boutique Nana and Bird. "It's no longer for a niche crowd, but moving more into consciousness of mainstream consumers. Besides stores in Singapore that stocks such brands, consumers also have a wide choice online."

Partnerships with charities in turn benefit big-hearted businesses, by helping them stand out in a season when consumers are inundated with solicitations to spend.

Local bakery The Barkery made headlines last week for donating 10 per cent of its sales to shelters for homeless dogs. Says its co-founder Ann Marie Chua: "Our customers do mention that they liked what we were doing with the shelters and so decided to order from us."

Notes banker Irene Ng, 54: "Christmas is a time for giving and it's when people get their bonuses so they are even more willing to spend. If they can donate to charity and at the same time buy something that makes their friends and spouses happy, it's a double bonus." 



1. SpaRitual In Pink nail lacquer

Hollywood cult brand SpaRitual's products are all certified organic and "vegan", meaning they are not tested on animals and are free from animal by-products, synthetic dyes and carcinogenic chemicals. A fifth of all proceeds will be donated to Cancer Schmancer, a US initiative advocating the early detection and prevention of cancer in women.

$25 (15ml), $13 (5ml)
Available at Essence Vale Spa in Traders Hotel and

2. Choo Yilin birthstones jewellery line

Sustainable luxury jeweller Choo Yilin's designs often fuse sustainability with fine jewellery, and are designed to communicate social, environmental and cultural messages. Her latest collection features the 12 monthly birthstones set in bronze and 18KT gold vermeil with luminous handpicked gemstones. The leaves and bark-like texture of the design is in homage to the UN's declaration that 2011 is The International Year Of Forests.

Ring and earrings from $195 to $345
Available online from

3. Delightful Durian elephant miniature replica

Now you can take home a miniature replica of the Delightful Durian elephant statue that has been raising eyebrows at One Raffles Quay. The artwork by Thai artist Nat Posila is part of the travelling Elephant Parade exhibition. Replicas are all hand-painted by Thai artists and come in other designs by Lulu Guinness, Diane von Furstenburg, Isaac Mizrahi, and Karim Rashid. A portion of all Elephant Parade benefits will be donated to The Asian Elephant Foundation, which funds conservation activities in the region.

$4,990 for a 75cm replica
Available from the Elephant Parade Gallery Store at Tangs Orchard and Tangs Vivocity

4. Christmas pupcakes

Give your pets (and homeless ones) a reason to also be merry this Christmas. Seven-month- old local bakery The Barkery does confectionery like biscuits, pies and even a whole logcake just for dogs, but styled so deliciously, humans will want to eat them too. The "pupcakes" comes in fish, beef and vegetarian flavours. You can also have the bakery send your orders to abandoned dogs in partner animal shelters; and 10 per cent of sales will be donated to local animal welfare organisations Action for Singapore Dogs, Zeus Communications and the Animal Lovers League.

$4.50 for 1, $12 for 3
Available from

5. Samsui women doorstop

These doorstops shaped to resemble Singapore's iconic Samsui women (female migrants from southern China who worked as labourers) make adorable yet practical gifts for locals and foreigners alike. The Mother and Child Project trains seamstresses out of single mothers from low-income families. Shoppers who spend more than $350 in Millenia Walk outlets can also get their gifts wrapped in recycled scarves.

Available at Mother and Child Project Pop up shop (#01-50 Millenia Walk) and Piece of Mine (16 Mohamed Sultan Road #01-01)

6. Augustina sweater from Snoozer Loser

The sweater, like the rest of the New York-based label's F/W 2011 collection, is made of 100 per cent eco-linen and naturally dyed by sustainable farmers from the south of France. The scarcity of the fabric means that each piece in the collection is hand-printed and sewn in limited editions of 50. Its Nordic deer and woolly mammoth prints keep things warm and fuzzy for Christmas.

Available at Nana and Bird (Blk 79, 01-02 Chay Yan Street)

7. Vanilla-scented shawls by the Singapore Shawl

Local shawl designer Shelley Siu works with retrenched, retired and divorced women to produce high-quality Orchid shawls often gifted to visiting foreign dignitaries. Her latest collection comes with scented micro-capsules embedded within its fibres, which will slowly release a seductive vanilla fragrance that lasts for between 10 to 15 washes. Limited edition coffee-scented version made from coffee fibres is also available for $68 each.

Available at the Garden Shop in Botanic Gardens and Singapore, the Conrad Centennial Singapore and Goodwood Park Hotel

8. Limited edition SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

SK-II's Christmas offering brings together Marco Zanini, creative lead of French fashion house Rochas together with Cate Blanchett for the second time to add a touch of elegance to the classic skin salve. The limited edition glass bottle design features an intricate lace motif in champagne-gold and proceeds from every bottle will be channelled towards SK-II's Clear for Life Project, which aims to provide clear drinking water for women in developing countries.

$209 (215ml bottle)
Available at SK-II counters Tangs Orchard and Tangs Vivocity

9. Lush Christmas package

Pamper your friends (or yourself) with a specially put together package of Christmas edition products from UK all-natural soap brand Lush. The gift package comprises of a 100ml bottle of Glogg Shower Gel, a 120g Angel's Delight soap and a Santa Satsuma bath ballistic. In an effort to cut down on wrapping paper, the package comes elegantly wrapped in recycled vintage scarves, a style inspired by the Japanese art of Furoshiki, which literally means "cloth for the bath".


10. Flower print maxi dress

This comfortable maxi dress is made of organic cotton that is 100 per cent free from pesticides and other chemicals. Two-year-old eco-friendly label Etrican is a pioneer among local brands when it comes to green fashion. Their creations are typically handmade by disadvantaged groups in India out of old tires and discarded leather strips; and proceeds support conservation efforts such as Project Orange and environmental NGO Eco Singapore.

Available from

11. KeepCups

Do your bit for the environment by getting your caffeine kick from a reusable coffee cup. The cups are made from thermal, non-leaching, recyclable, BPA-free polypropylene, are dishwasher-safe and come in snazzy colours as part of its latest Rocker series.

$26 for one, $24 each if you buy two or more. Every purchase entitles the buyer to a free hot coffee or tea drink (except Syphon)

Available from Jewel Coffee (01-07, One Shenton Way)

12. Belvedere Red special edition bottle

Premium vodka brand Belvedere has teamed up with the Red campaign to launch a special edition Product (Red) bottle for the festive season. Half of the global sales of the bottle will go to a global fund to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa.

Prices vary
Available at leading nightclubs like Filter, Mink, Butter Factory, Attica, Le Noir and St James Powerhouse



This article was first published in The Business Times.





readers' comments
Posted by

Copyright © 2012 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.