The passing of the festive season for another year doesn’t mean that gifts and alcohol should be shunned until December. Make a present to yourself of, say, some unique kitchenware or organic soap, kick back with a glass of something warming and wish yourself a very merry February.
Supermarket detergents are full of corrosive chemicals, which is why David Samuelsson and Johan Görgård came up with laundry products made solely from natural ingredients. “We use organic and biodegradable ingredients fragranced with essential oils,” says Samuelsson. Following the successful launch of Tangent’s textile shampoo last February, the latest product to launch is a denim wash to soften stiff new jeans.
The name Le Baigneur – French for “bather” — is inspired by depictions of the male form in Cézanne and Matisse paintings. To founder Fabien Meaudre, these leisurely moments represent “a sense of freedom, simplicity, and beauty”. Le Baigneur’s new line of three organic soaps for men – one for relaxing, one for exfoliating and one for toning – are all made and hand-cut in Corrèze. Free of added colour or perfume, each is neatly wrapped in geometrically patterned paper packaging.
Designed by Austrian firm Dottings for Viennese food writer Alexandra Palla’s kitchenware range, this chopping board’s whimsical shape is a practical approach to making a chef’s life a little easier. The slant on the board is for cutting meat and collecting the juices; the unusual edges are for a smooth transfer of diced vegetables to dish. Crafted in Austria from oiled ash, it’s kitchen equipment that is handsome and handy.
Nordic brand Isak knows how to brighten up a gloomy day with its porcelain crockery decorated with signature characters and stories. Half of the fun is in deciding how to use them: for sipping, dipping, serving snacks or storage jars.
Home to 24-hour cat cafés populated by pedigree felines and a glut of magazine titles dedicated to moggies, Japan is a cat-mad country. It’s no surprise then that the Necono cat camera hails from Tokyo-based Superheadz. This updated monochrome range of a previously popular series designed by Swedish ceramicist Lisa Larson also shoots video and a detachable monitor is also available. The idea is that you can see the world through the eyes of a cat for true empathy with your pet Persian; if you can’t get your head around that, it’s still a talking point.
In a country where the spirits industry is run by the state, independently owned La Hechicera rum is a refreshing Colombian anomaly. Run by the Riascos family for over two decades, the firm ages its spirit for 12 to 21 years in American white-oak casks. The recipe is a family secret but we do know that the rum doesn’t require any additives or sugar pre-bottling.
Swiss menswear brand Pelikamo has broadened its range of alcoholic drinks: a new gin now sits alongside the firm’s established whisky. Gin N°22 is made from 22 botanical ingredients while whisky N°8 is produced using German barley and Swiss water and aged for eight years.
Following the success of its sleeves for Apple devices, Dutch label Mujjo has continued the theme with a smart wallet for the iPhone 5. The snug wool-felt case includes handy pockets for earphones, credit cards and loose change; the leather strap is tanned and dyed using organic materials.
The pharmacists at Argentum have concocted a natural solution for a youthful complexion using the latest technology and an ancient ingredient: silver, an element long revered for its healing powers. La Potion Infinie, an ultra-hydrating cream with microscopic silver particles, promotes tissue regeneration and softens fine lines and blemishes. The dark pot with a tight lid stops light from entering and weakening its restorative properties.
South Tyrolean producer Puni is Italy’s first whisky distillery. Set up in 2010 in Glurns, a tiny medieval walled town in the Vinschgau valley, the family-run spirits maker uses mountain spring water as well as wheat and rye grown in the surrounding Alps for its single malt. The distillate is prepared in copper stills custom built in Scotland and aged in wooden casks, including barrels once used to make marsala.
With their firm Stiff, forward thinking Swedes Jukka Viitasara and Karl Berglund are championing an unlikely material: plastic. Their venture is dedicated to producing plastic products made with a high level of craftsmanship and first up is a sleek billiard pipe, the world’s first thermoplastic pipe cast in one piece. With a briar wood tobacco chamber, it is part of a limited edition of 400 proving that plastic can indeed be fantastic.
When Jane ní Dhulchaointigh came up with a patented type of play dough that transforms overnight into a near-indestructible rubber, little did the art student realise its endless possibilities. Capable of everything from fixing a mug handle to repairing the sole of a shoe, Sugru’s first product launched in December with fencing equipment firm Leon Paul London. It was also used by British fencers at the 2012 Olympics to create customised grips for their foils.
Japanese architecture firm Torafu’s building blocks for adults and children utilise dowels – as in the rods commonly used to reinforce furniture joints – and brightly coloured plywood shapes.
Kay Bojesen’s wooden monkeys are an iconic part of Denmark’s design lexicon; less well known are his cutlery designs. His award-winning Grand Prix set, until recently manufactured by Rosendahl, has been relaunched by his granddaughter Susanne. She took production into her own hands because she felt that the design was no longer true to the original.