Bespoke face coverings, Work From Home wear, and quarantine hobby kits: like most things in 2020, The Calvert Journal’s festive gift guide is looking a little different from the norm this year. But after a difficult few months (or a whole flaming dumpster truck of a year), there’s no excuse needed to send a little something special to the people you love. And if you’re looking for a little bit of New East flavour, we have the perfect presents to pick up online — whether you’re enjoying them at home, or far away.
With a range that encompasses baggy hoodies, leggings, and loose skate-style silhouettes, Ukrainian streetwear brand Ohueno has the perfect loungewear/work-from-home offering — clothes which are colourful, comfy, and definitely won’t give you major embarrassment when you’re picking up today’s online parcel delivery.
For an extra tongue-in-cheek flourish, the brand’s name also means, “fucking awesome” in Ukrainian (which may or may not be the phrase that comes to mind slogging through your fourth Zoom call of the day).
If you don’t feel like navigating their not-quite English-language website (spoiler: there’s an “EN” button and absolutely nothing else), then you can pick up items through ASOS Boutique.
From Molchat Doma to Imanbek’s remix of Roses, TikTok — otherwise known as the app which made Millennials realise they were hurtling towards middle-age with the inevitability of Hermione Granger heading to the Hogwarts library— has had something of a New East moment in 2020. But if you truly want to remember the Russian-language meme of the year, then look no further than your favourite Miel Pops/Mi Pan merch.
If you want to catch up on the Miel Pops meme, the aptly-named StayHipp has a potted history. (The first line, of course, is: “The ‘Mi Pan Su Su Sum’ track is a viral, international sensation with its popularity tracing back to a dancing llama and photos of bread.” The Calvert Journal takes no responsibility for the weirdness of the internet.)
Alternatively, know that you can give these to your 14-year-old cousin, and she may stop thinking of you just as a dried-up crone of 28 with a tragic Harry Potter obsession. Your choice.
Pick up these (alongside many other bread/llama variants) at Red Bubble.
At this point, we’re contractually obliged to feature concrete homeware on this gift guide, and for 2020, we’ve fallen for Belarusian brand Grey Mass. While we love the uncompromising minimalism of their concrete-coated USB sticks, their online shop also lets you buy your own concrete moulds (festive or otherwise) for your home craft projects. If you’ve ever looked around your living room and thought, “Wow, some concrete Christmas trees would really brighten up the place,” then boy, do we have a festive surprise for you.
Get hold of all your concrete dreams on Etsy.
Get hold of all your concrete dreams on Etsy.
Lukas, otherwise known as the Prague-based collector behind Czechposterman, began sneaking out of screenings to collect movie posters from the lobby of his local cinema in the 1980s. Little did he know he was also collecting small pieces of design history, before decades of socialist poster art were washed away by the fall of communism and the standardised American posters that flooded the market.
As well as trying to preserve and digitise these vintage posters, Lukas also sells his finds on to fellow aficionados and film buffs who want a different take on their favourite flicks. And, while Czechoslovakian and Polish designs make up most of their stock, keep your eyes peeled for other artefacts from Yugoslavia, South America, Japan and the United States.
Check out the collection on Etsy.
In the early years of the Soviet Union, Christmas trees were swept away as symbols of the bourgeoisie. It was only in 1935 that the Soviets re-embraced the festive greenery with a “more appropriate” political message: the New Year’s Tree.
But even this new, secular tree needed decorating. Early baubles featured ill-advised portraits of Soviet leaders, but were soon replaced by hockey players, circus motifs, soldiers and astronauts. Some might even say these everyday trinkets foreshadowed the trend for “ironic” Western baubles shaped like pizzas, siracha sauce, or unfortunately suggestive emoji vegetables — but we think their Soviet counterparts have far more charm.
Pick them up on eBay.
It wouldn’t be a 2020 gift guide without a nod to that weird hobby that you picked up in Lockdown 1.0. And while we’ll leave it to you to decide whether a festive follow-up to that hastily-bought 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle really will bring stay-at-home joy or an impending family breakdown, for amateur bakers who spent this year getting their first taste of banana bread, 2021 is the perfect time to explore new horizons.
ArtsyUzbek sells kits for bakers hoping to dive into Central Asian cookery. They also offer a range of chekichs, or the traditional stamps that crown the top of every Uzbek non bread. Carefully handmade, the chekichs are a marker of an ancient Uzbek craft which ArtsyUzbek helps keep alive — while Tashkent-style non is a simple-yet delicious bake, with a chewy, glossy crust and an open, airy crumb.
Christmas is all about good food. knuffelPaper’s artwork celebrates the best of Eastern European zakuski — salami, vodka, pickles, mushrooms, and tinned fish — in a stylish print that celebrates the best of the traditional with a modern look. It’s also the perfect way of bringing a little bit of grandma’s family kitchen into your own home — even if you won’t be visiting her for the foreseeable future.
Buy the poster through Etsy.
Every Christmas stocking needs a gift you know will be a sure-fire hit. Fact: there is no one alive that does not love the comforting taste of warm pierogi. Also fact: we live in a society that requires adults to maintain basic personal hygiene. Put these two indisputable truths together, and you have the ultimate functional-yet-fun gift that absolutely nobody asked for: the pierogi soap on a rope.
The pierogi soaps come in Polish, Slovak, Ukrainian and Pittsburgh varieties, each offering different scents. (They also act as a handy get-out to avoid dinner table arguments on the ethnographic origins of your traditional soap-made foodstuff.)
Created by the Pittsburgh-based Regent Park Naturals, these handmade soaps pay a small tribute to the generations of Eastern European migrants who built the area. “My ancestors came to the Monongahela Valley to work the local mines and mills just as so many Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian did before them,” says the shop’s owner. “Pierogi have always been a part of our diet and our traditions, and my Pierogi on a Rope Soap is a true celebration of our collective heritage.”
As always, Etsy has you covered.
Is there a gift that screams 2020 quite like a bespoke face covering? With masks set to be the norm in public for some time still to come, it’s time to stop hiding behind paper disposables, and get your hands on something that brings some fun to pandemic style.
For hypebeasts and would-be gopniks alike, Polish Custom on ASOS restyles and reclaims vintage brands and uses them to create completely new garments — including remade unisex face masks with logos from the like of Nike and Adidas.
For something a little more niche, the Kosmaj Spomenik face covering from TravelShots lets you publicly pledge your allegiance to modernist architecture: other designs featuring brutalist socialist landmarks from Belarus, Kazakhstan, and elsewhere in the region are also available.
Meanwhile, if you’re already thinking of your next Covid-free rave, then Etere shop in Belarus is selling the kind of mirrorball masks that are guaranteed to have all eyes on you.