Close your eyes and, if you are not one already, imagine you're an 18-year-old boy trying to buy his adolescent lady love some fine lingerie. Or that you are a grandmother ordering music for teenage grandchildren off the internet. Or maybe you're the Pizza Hut delivery guy and you've just bought a meat lover's pizza round to a puritanical vegetarian's place. Because that's what buying Christmas gifts for your fashion-obsessed friends can feel like.
Style can be very personal - one wouldn't dare to prescribe any sort of quick gift fix for the average follower of fashion. After all, one woman's Louis Vuitton is another woman's trashy, monogrammed handbag. But what is far easier to discuss is the traits that any fashionable gift should have.
Simply use this cunning, interactive glamorista gift guide. Tick the appropriate boxes - if said pressie has more than two or three of the following characteristics, then you should be fine in putting it under the carefully decorated Christmas tree of a preternaturally discerning leader of style. And maybe, just maybe, you'll also get an interesting insight into the way the devious mind of a follower of fashion works.
Let's start with the most obvious quality. The average follower of fashion is a sucker for a designer label. The tricky aspect of this: which designer label? If you can, sneak into their wardrobe to see if you can spot any local or international designer labels.
Yes, yes, most clothes have labels in them. But ignore any brands that are represented down at the local mall; the term designer implies relative exclusivity. If there is more than one of any particular name, you're sorted.
Depending on your relationship with the glamorista in question, you may not want to spend up large on a whole outfit. But there are always accessories - scarves, key rings, socks, wallets, hair ties, perfumes and bubble bath liquids - as well as gift vouchers that the recipient could put towards a larger purchase.
And if you can't figure out which local designer look or label they are into simply by rifling through their things, then go international. No dedicated fashionette would turn down hair bobbles by Louis Vuitton or a Martin Margiela pendant.
Once upon a time, followers of fashion had to have a designer name on everything they wore or carried. These days the truly stylish like to mix it up - everything from chain store cool to vintage to designer. The unique, handmade item definitely has cachet, whether it be a scarf knitted by some lovely old lady from a craft shop or a badge made by some groovy, indie kid on K Rd. Mainly this is because it's completely unique - no other fashionable individual can have one of these because it comes with interesting human flaws.
If you're worried about your choice of handmade - will it be stylish enough? - then avoid the craft shops and head for hip havens of handmade like Royal in Kingsland or Fingers in the city where they specialise in handcrafted jewellery. The Craftwerk market on K Rd (there's one tomorrow night from 6pm in St Kevins Arcade) and the Aotea Square weekend markets are also good options for finding these kinds of gifts.
Looking hot and fashionable is a competitive business. So when you get hold of something good looking that nobody else can have, it makes for extra credibility.
Limited edition items (as in, only a few were ever made) or products of which there may be only one in the country are good examples. If you're quick, you might be able to get on to the internet and order from overseas boutiques.
This is another version of exclusive but, if you're smart, it could cost less cash. You may think your beloved follower of fashion needs a new dressing gown or robe. But you're not close enough friends with Karl (Lagerfeld) that he would make something especially for your beloved and your holiday pay won't stretch to something fancy like a limited edition Versace version.
Instead, personalise a quality robe that doesn't cost you your credit card limit by finding one of those places that sews fancy monograms on to the breast.
Same goes for other products that can be customised, like sneakers or T-shirts.
The internet is a great place to look for these. And if that all sounds a little hard, then you could always make a T-shirt either by drawing on it yourself if you have the skills or sewing or ironing something on that relates directly to the recipient.
Once again, finding something antique, collectible or vintage means your follower of fashion has something exclusive and personal that no one else can get. And, happily, this doesn't just mean clothing. Anything beautiful or associated with dressing up - costume jewellery, vintage handkerchiefs, old powder cases - will be appreciated. Victorian Gilt in Remuera is a good place to look for these gorgeous sorts of trinkets.
Now some might say this is a shallow prerequisite for a gift and that money doesn't buy you love, but it's true that most designer goodies do not come cheap.
And even if your favourite fashion lover doesn't like the designer goodie that you've presented them with, they will still be pleased you spent so much on them. Shows you care. Then later on they can either return it to the store and swap it for something else, or sell it on Trade Me and put the profits toward something flashy they really wanted.
From a fancy boutique
So that even if they don't like it, they can swap it later on. In which case, be sure to get an exchange card.
Tis a cliche but these days green is the new black. Deep in their heart of hearts, serious followers of fashion know that the clothing industry is pretty dodgy when it comes to the environment. So if you can find something that looks good but also makes them feel good inside, you're onto a winning combination. There's no way they could refuse. Happily these days there are plenty of local designer labels climbing onto the eco-bandwagon. Kate Sylvester, Workshop, Barkers, Levi's are just a few to check out and if you're wanting something smaller try one of the brands that specialise in politically correct outfits. Untouched World, Living Nature or even the Trade Aid stores are good place to scout for cute fashion gifts.
Glamour by association
Some brands have made a habit out of associating themselves with fashion labels. Champagne and other alcohol makers, beauty products known to be commonly used on fashion shoots, designer perfumes, trendy music, films or books about fashion are all in the running.
Deep and meaningful
No thinking glamorista wants you to believe they're as shallow as they may sometimes look. Simply go in the opposite direction. Get them season tickets to the Auckland Philharmonia or a book voucher or an intellectual documentary or an art movie on DVD (or maybe a DVD that takes the piss out of fashion). That way you're saying you know they're about so much more than just nice hair, make up and clothes.
Still stumped? Buy a gift voucher from any fashion, shoe or beauty store you know they like shopping at. Where? OK, get a gift voucher from a large department store like Farmers or Smith & Caughey's where they have a wide range of products, some of which may be construed as eminently fashionable.
Righto, this last one is for the truly clueless. If you have read all of the above and you're still not sure what exactly is going on, then it may be best to find your favourite fashion luvvie a gift that will never see the light of day. Things like lingerie, pretty singlets, stockings and designer socks they may not like so much but they will wear anyway, some time or another when they run out of clean laundry, because no one is going to see these items anyway.
If you have ticked this box, you should start again. Practical is a nice quality in a gift for most of your friends but it's certainly far from essential in a fashionable present.