They are the tastemakers – celebrity experts in everything from fitness to fashion. Check out their dream gifts in their specialist fields with Ciara McDonnell.
Whether you are super-organised or a last-minute shopper, the struggle of what to buy loved ones at Christmas is a serious ordeal. This year, we decided to take the pain out of decision-making by asking the cream of the crop when it comes to beauty, food, fashion, gadgets, fitness, and design what they would like to see in their stocking this year.
As well as her role presenting Operation Transformation, Kathryn Thomas is on a mission to show the world it is possible to achieve your health and fitness goals with her business Pure Results.
"My childhood memories revolve around Santa. My brother, sister and I all slept in the same room so the excitement from 6am on Christmas morning was beyond mental. We would then go in and jump all over mum and dad’s bed, dragging every toy, teddy, truck and tangerine with us. It’s my dad’s birthday on Christmas day, and he always turns up in his Christmas jumper, with the same frustrating puzzles and games that get even more impossible to solve as the day (and glasses of wine) progresses. We always make sure to have a separate cake and present for him so that he feels like the special man he is.
"This year will be the first time in three years that I won’t be hosting my family because I am spending the day with Padraig, my fiancé’s family. It’s going to be nice to put my feet up for a change and have dinner served to me.
"When it comes to gifts, I am very much a last-minute Mary. Every year, I’m cursing myself for not being more organised as I’m scrambling around Grafton St on Christmas Eve buying up whatever is left while my organised friends are sitting smugly in a nice warm pub having hot whiskeys.
"Fitness products have become so much more innovative over the last few years. I love Goldsheep active wear. Their tan leopard print workout pants are a must for any fashion conscious fitness fan. This year I am really coveting the Columbia Active Wear Carson Pass Interchange Jacket in black with a fur hood — it is gorgeous, but most importantly, keeps me snug during the freezing winter months. Of course, I think the ultimate gift for anyone who wants to kick start a healthier lifestyle would be a voucher for Pure Results bootcamp."
As fashion director of Brown Thomas, Shelly Corkery quite literally sets the trends when it comes to festive style.
"I’ll be spending Christmas Day with my family. Much thought and effort goes in to the day but for me it is about being with family and those nearest and dearest. One of the most important parts of the day is sitting down to enjoy Christmas dinner together and there is nothing like seeing the perfect gift being unwrapped and lighting up a loved one’s face.
"Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for those of us who work in retail and no sooner has Christmas Day been and gone but our attention turns to the Brown Thomas and BT2 winter sales on St Stephen’s Day.
"When I was little, I asked Santa for a doll and instead I got a baby brother. I can still remember waking up at home in Cork on Christmas morning and the excited and wonderful surprise of meeting my baby brother. I also cherish a childhood memory of when I got my first bike, a red one, at Christmas. In fact, this memory motivated me to bring the Martone Cycle Company to the Marvel Room and I couldn’t resist ordering one in red. The brand’s signature is a red chain and we have an exclusive selection of chic city bikes for him and for her in red, white, and black for Christmas.
"The entire buying team at Brown Thomas has been travelling the world to discover the most desirable brands to bring together in one amazing room in the store, creating the ultimate gifting destination. During our travels we find amazing new products and work incredibly closely with our designer brands to offer customers the extraordinary. Our customers are always at the forefront of our minds across the Brown Thomas business and so we always think of their many preferences when buying for the Marvel Room; whether that is a designer handbag from Gucci, Chloe or Celine, costume jewellery from Dolce & Gabbana, or fine fragrance by Frederic Malle for her.
"Personally, I adore the incredibly hard-to-get JW Anderson Pierce bag. We were lucky enough to get just a few for our Marvel Room this year. As always, we have a stunning array of jewellery and this Christmas, the punk cuff earring is a highly covetable contemporary piece handcrafted. For a beautiful gift that keeps on giving, a luxurious sustainable scarf from Irish brand Une écharpe une vie’s intricate collection is perfect. The brand’s tagline, “Stay warm. Give back”, reflects Donegal-based co-founder Rajni Carney’s mission to improve the lives of those who need it most. The business empowers local weavers in the Philippines to improve lives by providing employment, a fair wage, and investing 10% of profits to programmes focused on educating children in the developing world. It is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Joe Donnelly presents The Gadget Buzz on TV3 and is the assistant programme director for Today FM. He’s married with two children and lives in sunny Kildare. His favourite Christmas album of all time is Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You.
"I once broke a toy gun my older brother had received from Santa, on Christmas Day itself no less. In a state of blind panic, I decided to hide the evidence and deny all knowledge. Naturally an investigation was launched and I eventually broke down and confessed. It taught me a valuable lesson: Be tougher under intense interrogation. It also taught me an important physics lesson in terms of dropping a plastic gun from a second-storey window.
"On Christmas morning my wife, kids, and I will get up around the 8am mark and troop downstairs in a state of heightened excitement. Speaking for myself, by ‘heightened excitement’ I mean ‘groggy fug of sleep-deprived confusion’. After much whooping and hollering over Santa’s deliveries, we will settle down to the serious business of eating our way through the day. Naturally enough some people get a bit tired and stroppy and might demolish their Lego sets, but enough about me. Extended family may call by, and despite my best attempts to pretend we’re not in, somehow we’ll end up sharing our reserves of fine food and Lego sets.
"When it comes to gifts, I really do prefer surprises. The whole special, thoughtful, magical gift-giving sentiments are undermined somewhat by an exchange in late November along the lines of ‘what do you want this year?’ though…
"When it comes to gadgets there are loads of things I can recommend this year. Bluetooth and wifi speakers systems are a good bet for the music-lover in your life. They range from cheap and functional to expensive and awe-inspiring. Sony and Bose have a decent range, accommodating different budgets. For the aficionado, the Geneva Model M Wireless is one of the most impressive money can buy.
"Drones are becoming increasingly popular and they’re great fun, but you really need to do your research before buying.
"Finally, there are a great number of detachable clip-on lenses for smartphones. These really elevate the simple act of taking a picture to something very creative and ingenious. Olloclip have made some particularly neat and imaginative lenses, all available from their website.
"What would I like to find in my stocking this year? A surprise… in the shape of a Geneva Model M Wireless."
Marissa Carter is chief executive of Cocoa Brown and the creator of the first one-hour tan on the market. Cocoa Brown is sold in almost 10,000 outlets worldwide at a rate of four products per minute.
"I come from a large family and am the eldest of eight. My husband Ronan and I really enjoy Christmas with the kids as our first-born is of the age where Santa is very much coming on Christmas Eve.
"My husband and I always go for an early Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, we have done it every year since we met. It’s a tradition we would like to keep going because it’s always nice to find time for just the two of us. We are together 13 years and at this stage we just ask straight out what we would like from each other. This both saves time and hassle so we can focus on the kids.
"Christmas is a little crazy in our house, but a good kind of crazy. The kids are early risers and they will definitely be in to us at an ungodly hour to unwrap their presents. We all share the cooking in our house so on Christmas Eve my sister Coleen and I will bake with the kids and Ronan will be in charge of the ham. I am normally extremely organised in my work life so Christmas is a time where I totally relax and it wouldn’t be unusual for us to stay in our pyjamas until the early afternoon.
"I always have great intentions to be early and organised with presents but I also have been guilty of being in long queues on Christmas Eve wishing I had started in October. I decided this year to do all of my presents online.
"I absolutely love the Brooke and Shoals Cinnamon and Cedar candles — they smell so amazing. I also am a big fan of Cara makeup brushes, they are so reasonable and a perfect stocking filler. Last but not least, I couldn’t forget our Cocoa Brown The Goddess Collection that hit the shelves on November 8."
Dave and Steve Flynn are the men behind the Happy Pear, a shop and café in Greystones, Co Wicklow. They have published two cookbooks, have their own food range, and are stars of Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube.
"This Christmas Eve we’ll probably work in our shop and cafe on Church Rd in Greystones and then afterwards we’ll go up to our parents’ house. Our aunt and uncle and cousins from Cork will be there and our brother Mark will be home from Berlin. There will be around 18 of us and it’ll be great fun.
"We’ll start Christmas day with a swim and with five little ones in the family, Santa is back in the game. Mum and dad’s house has an open door on Christmas Day and around 50 people come through, so it’s a constant party. Sadly our granny died on a Christmas Day so we all do something to remember her too.
"This year we’re having our first ever full vegetarian Christmas dinners for the whole family. Normally it’s just us and our brother Darragh that have a veggie Christmas dinner, but this year the whole family are behind it. It’s great and very exciting for us. We’ll do all the cooking from our kitchen in the cafe and then bring it all back home.
"Usually, we would be happy with a bowl of vegetable soup and some lovely roast veg at Christmas but mum always wants a nice, impressive centrepiece and usually we just use whatever was available in our shop on the day. For example, last year we made some really lovely tartlets with spinach pesto and a cashew and goji berry crust, and we served it with a lovely chia cranberry sauce. It was all very nice. I guess the difference this year is that we’ll be cooking for the whole family.
"When it comes to gifting, aside from the kids, most of the gifts we’d give to family and friends would be food related — either from our shop or handmade by us. We also love hanging out in the cafe and shop around Christmas Eve and the day itself and we’re always offering porridge (which we offer for free every single day) or coffee to anyone who’s around. We’ll also bring some tea and treats down to our swim and we’ll offer them around to anyone who’s there too.
"We think an edible gift - something homemade, like truffles or gingerbread, or a lovely hamper, is a wonderful gift. It’s something we’re really focused on this year at the Happy Pear and people really love them. Our mum and Siobhan make them and they’re really great gifts. You can’t go wrong with a cookbook or a lovely book about food and where it comes from. Or maybe your gift could be a meal that you cook for your family and friends, getting inspiration from videos on YouTube. When it comes to equipment choose something really, really basic and affordable, like a good chopping knife."
Well known for his show Room To Improve, Dermot Bannon has a deep appreciation for well-designed products made by Irish designers.
"I do all the cooking on Christmas day. I start planning a bit in advance; I make my own mushroom soup about three or four weeks in advance and I freeze it, I make my own stuffing. I adore cooking but I don’t get a huge amount of time to do it, so over Christmas I do a huge amount of cooking at home. I make the cakes, the breads — I tend to try to do everything on the day, from setting the table to cooking the food. I don’t eat wheat, so I make a chocolate cake or mousse to go along with the Christmas pudding, which my mum makes to my granny’s recipe.
"I always plan to buy my gifts in advance but I never do it. I tend to work one weekend before Christmas and try to take a day off during the week to do my shopping because I can’t stand all the crowds in town. I panic buy absolutely everything at the very last minute and it’s always very dramatic — my fingers are bleeding from carrying all the bags.
"There are some great design shops opening up all over the country so seek out the smaller shops that have some great buys. If you can, support Irish designers. I think we’ve all had enough of consumerism and that it’s really nice to spend some money on something small that’s well-crafted and special.
"I like to buy things that people wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. I love really nice cups and saucers and Arran Street East make the most amazing coffee cups. All the colours work together because they’re all based on fruits from the Smithfield Fruit Market. They are the kind of thing you can collect over the years.
"I also love ArcKit. It’s kind of like Lego for adults and I think it’s a brilliant gift for a budding designers. If you have a bit of a budget, art is a wonderful gift. We spend so much money on couches and televisions but we never really think about what goes on our walls. Art is really inspiring and I think it’s great to have something on the wall that makes you think ‘how do I feel today’.
"If you can’t afford original art, prints are a brilliant idea and there are companies like the Graphic Studio Gallery or Stoney Road Press which are both great places to get really high-end prints that are good value presents."
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