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Shopping for American-made holiday gifts

With many shoppers in a patriotic mood after the election, the focus turns to gifts made in the USA this holiday season.

November 18, 2012|By Shan Li, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles is a fashion hub full of designers creating beautiful clothing and accessories appropriate for the season.

American Apparel, one of the biggest local retailers, has a variety of cold weather apparel such as jackets, fishermen's pullovers, scarves and beanies that can be stocking stuffers or wrapped up under trees. Chief Executive Dov Charney predicted that velvet might even be creeping into menswear soon.

Those looking for pretty frocks for holiday shindigs can try on outfits from a flotilla of Southern California brands such as Single, Karen Kane and Morgane Le Fay.

Eva Franco designs a Los Angeles brand under her own name that can sometimes be found at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. She recently unveiled her holiday collection, chock-full of lace, brocade and sequined dresses priced up to $300. (One of Mitt Romney's daughters-in-law wore one of the designer's dresses during Romney's concession speech, Franco noted.)

Everything is designed in a studio in downtown Los Angeles and then contracted out to local factories, Franco said. "We have people hand-cutting lace flowers and stitching on the flower by hand," she said. "I'm doing Chanel and Valentino couture in L.A."

Craft fairs

Holiday markets typically draw dozens, if not hundreds, of local artisans selling knit scarves, glittery ornaments and hand-soldered jewelry — making them top destinations for finding American-made presents.

In early December, more than 350 mostly local designers and artists will flaunt their wares at the Unique L.A. Holiday Show in the California Market Center. That's followed by the third annual Renegade Craft Fair at the Los Angeles State Historic Park on Dec. 8 and 9.

Marat Shaya, Unique's new media director, said the traveling fair grew from one show in 2008 to seven this year in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. Shoppers can find graphic T-shirts, handmade necklaces and unique arts and crafts.

A venue called Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles just rolled out in San Pedro this summer. Nearly 100 vendors open up booths every weekend — Friday through Sunday — in two warehouses. There are booths galore filled with soaps, gourmet doughnuts and hand-knitted scarves.

Inside one building, Jennifer Priest sells an eclectic collection of home goods under the Hydrangea Hippo brand. For the holidays, she offers glass snowman ornaments, scrapbooks and beer mugs etched with cheerful holiday greetings.

"People are looking for more handmade items because they want unique gifts, but also because of the economy," the Hesperia resident said. "You can go into any store and buy what's made in China, but that doesn't help create jobs here."

Wine and cheese

Edibles may be one of the easiest ways to go native — especially in the Golden State, rich with wine, fruit of all kinds and a bountiful assortment of nuts.

"Food is really easy to give in California, since the state is pretty much the breadbasket of the United States," said Joel Joseph, chairman of the Made in the USA Foundation in Los Angeles. "Other gifts take more effort."

The aptly named California Delicious sells baskets stuffed with goodies such as Napa Valley Cabernet, Sonoma jack cheese and Ghirardelli chocolates.

"Pretty much 90% is made here in California, but the rest is from the United States," spokeswoman Lisa Consani said. "So we have Godiva in New York and Starbucks in Seattle."

Another option for vino fans: wine memberships. Specialists like the California Wine Club and local shops such as Silverlake Wine will send subscribers two bottles a month with a subscription.

Online collections

Among the best resources for made-in-America presents this holiday may be your laptop or smartphone. Searching for "Made in America holiday gifts" brings up millions of links to stores and guides.

Online retailers offer a wide selection of U.S.-made options. San Francisco-based ModCloth, for example, carries more than 1,700 pieces of clothing, accessories and gifts made by independent American designers, co-founder Susan Gregg Koger said.

Other Web markets such as Etsy, which specializes in handmade or vintage items, function like the digital version of the craft fair. Shoppers can find all manner of inventive and handmade gifts, especially after the recession pushed more out-of-work creative types into crafting goods to sell online, said Matt Stinchcomb, the company's vice president of brand and social responsibility.

Dave Schiff and two buddies left well-paying ad executive jobs this year to start a flash-sale site called the Made Collection, which specializes in products manufactured in the U.S. He also co-founded an advertising agency dedicated to companies manufacturing only in the U.S.

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