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The Goods

A Handle on Giving

Hot items: Thoughtful and personalized gifts that also help various charitable causes.


The holiday shopping season kicks off today with the country at war and in a decidedly changed mood. Shoppers have been cautious since mid-September, staying away from stores and malls. Spending in these uncertain times seems so self-indulgent and so last year.

Instead of big-ticket items this year, retail analyst Karen Schaffner believes shoppers will be looking to give more "thoughtful" gifts. For some, that may mean customizing gifts to make them more meaningful, or shopping smarter: buying a present and supporting a cause at the same time. Here are a few fashion ideas that might fit the bill.

British designer Anya Hindmarch, who has made a name for herself decorating handbags with humorous photographic images of Chihuahuas, beach babes and more, is offering a custom option this holiday season. Shoppers can have their own personal photographs transferred by computer onto evening bags and daytime totes.

"We have had such an incredible response to our photographic bags, and we have had several requests for bags to be made with someone's own picture on it," Hindmarch said.

"I had always dismissed this as a naff, until I made one up as a joke thank-you present for a friend and it looked amazing!"

Bags, $195 to $225 each, take approximately four to six weeks to make. Proceeds will benefit Gilda's Club, a cancer support charity. For information (and to see examples of bags created by Sophie Dahl, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver and other celebs), log on to

Following in the tradition of the red AIDS ribbon, the burka "symbol of remembrance" is the latest political pin decorating lapels.

The Feminist Majority Foundation is reporting a surge in Web orders for the $5, square-inch burka swatches since last week when cameras captured images of Afghan women emerging from beneath the tentlike shrouds that they were forced to wear by the Taliban.

The mesh-like swatches are meant to represent the part of the burka that covers the eyes, according to Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the foundation. The fabric is hand-woven in Pakistan by Afghan refugees, who receive all proceeds from sales. Other native crafts such as dolls, embroidered wall hangings and shawls are also for sale on the organization's Web site at

Post Sept. 11, the Internet isn't just a news and community resource; It's an event location. For security reasons, the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund wasn't able to hold its Super Saturday designer sale at the Paramount lot as it did last year. So the organization moved the event online to

Today through Dec. 15, the online boutique (owned by actress Tracey Ullman) will host the sale, featuring discounted clothing from Marc Jacobs, Cacharel, Diane von Furstenberg, William B. and others.

All proceeds will benefit OCRF.

Speaking of shopping for a good cause, Divine Design is right around the corner. This year's event, scheduled for Nov. 30 through Dec. 3, offers fashions at up to 50% below retail for men, women and children from more designers than ever, including Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, Cynthia Steffe, Earl Jeans, Eddie Bauer, John Varvatos, Nautica, Kenneth Cole and more. The sale will be held at Santa Monica Airport's Barker Hangar, with proceeds to benefit Project Angel Food, an organization that delivers free meals to people living with HIV/AIDS.

For more information, visit or call (323) 851-9933.

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