Hello, 2014.

2013 will be a tough act to follow. It was a big one indeed: we updated everything about our denim (think new fabrics and an incredible new fit for all styles), and thanks to our new designer, our clothes look and feel cooler than ever. As we look forward to a new year—all together now: “how is it already New Year’s Eve?”—we asked four friends from around the office to share their resolutions.

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Cheers to a bright 2014.

The French Way To Get Dressed

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It’s no secret that we’re enamored with French women. Whether they’re toting around freshly baked baguettes at the weekend market or dashing to work in chic little numbers, their laid-back uniform of wear-forever staples (think sexy jeans, tailored jackets and sublimely broken-in button-downs, all worn with a certain je ne sais quoi attitude) hints at a well-considered lifestyle that’s inspiring, to say the least. As a little homage to our favorite Parisians, here are 13 très chic ways to wear the pieces we love the most, from a fresh take on the pantsuit to leather motorcycle jackets, sheer blouses and stackable jewelry. (Accent not required, but certainly encouraged.)

P.S. Remind you of a certain fashionable French editor? Good eye. We think she’s great too.

Last-Minute Gift Wrapping with Creative Wiz Lotta Nieminen

Great-looking gift wrap doesn’t have to be a chore. We tapped one of our favorite creatives—the crazy-talented graphic designer/art director/illustrator Lotta Nieminen—to show us how to create clever, customizable wrappings out of the simplest already-in-your-closet supplies. “I love collecting paper and ribbons in different colors,” she says. “Then I mix and match them based on the gift and the person receiving it.” The result? Packaging so beautiful, no one will ever guess you did it at the last minute.

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Problem: You Need a Red-Ribbon Alternative

Solution: Use artfully tied twine or ribbon to create a patterned effect on plain paper (bonus: this is the perfect way to repurpose all those paper bags you’ve stashed under the sink—just flip them over to hide any logos). Nieminen created a charming crisscross design (above, right) using our favorite Knot and Bow™ baker’s twine. We love the way she doubled up strands for extra texture.

Problem: You’ve Run Out of Paper

Solution: Layer leftover swatches of paper together for a colorful collage. For her Madewell project, Nieminen contrasted tiles of bright tissue with an unexpected accent of hammered copper (above, center). No worries if you don’t have a little stash of scrap metal handy: “Paper stocks of different textures create a similar effect,” says Nieminen.

Problem: Your Present, Uh, Isn’t the Best

Solution: Compensate for a less-than-perfect gift with blow-them-away-crafty wrapping. The Finnish designer cuts out playful figures (above, left) from regular copy paper (the thin paper is easier to handle than thicker stock) and colors them with marker.  Paste down your own artistic efforts using Lotta’s favorite UHU Stic glue. “I’m always covered in glue and bits of paper by the time I’m done,” says Nieminen. “But that’s part of the fun!”

Need something to wrap? Shop our gift guide here.

Show + Tell: Fragrance Designer Leilani Bishop

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With her seriously cool model-off-duty style and her entrepreneurial spirit, fragrance designer and former model Leilani Bishop has us pretty much enchanted. We hopped around town with her and learned how her globe-trotting career inspired a return to her simple first love: the wild-blooming flowers of her native Hawaii.

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Growing up on the lush island of Kauai, Bishop spent lots of time gardening with her parents (“the original eco-hippies”) and forging her own connection with nature. It was while surfing that she was noticed by a model scout—the very moment that launched her decade-long career modeling in runway shows and for magazines like ELLE and Vogue. She calls being discovered a godsend: “I didn’t realize how much I was craving new experiences,” she says. “I needed to explore myself.”

Bishop has since returned to those laid-back island vibes she was raised with, after the whirlwind pace of nonstop traveling and modeling left her craving balance. She grew to love fragrance oils for their calming, therapeutic properties: “Most perfumes are so strong, they give me headaches,” she says—but, she noticed elegant, one-note scents were absent from stateside shops .

Once she moved back to Kauai, she realized that the flowers she loved growing up were a natural match for fragrance oils, so she set out to make them herself. The resulting trio of one-note scents is full of personal references—pikake, the white jasmine bloom, for her childhood; orange blossom, which scented far-flung locations like Africa and southern France where she modeled; and lilac, an ode to the flower she has planted in her garden in Amagansett, New York, the beach town where she and her husband are raising their son.

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Bishop’s old work wardrobe of couture gowns and high-fashion pieces has been replaced by jeans, leather pants and rubbed-and-worn button-downs. She picked up the treasure-seeking bug along the way, so her closet also functions as a miniature world bazaar—a gauzy blouse from an outpost here, an embroidered popover from a market there.

These days, she makes trips to Melet Mercantile, a New York and Montauk–based vintage boutique-cum-wonderland of collected pieces, from Woodstock-era concert T-shirts to broken-in leather brogues. Lest her style sound a little too picture-perfect (and with a fashionable CV like hers, could you blame her?), it’s also pretty practical, and she’s quick to level: “I’m my best self when I’m working and have lots of movement in my life, so my clothes have to be easygoing.” And as for finishing touches, like the diamond tiara she wore on that famous Hole cover? “My accessories are more about sunglasses now. They’re simple, but they can be very powerful.”

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Bishop wanted her packaging to reflect her love of antique cosmetics, and the roll-on vials also make it easy to dab the oil onto pulse points, which heat up and activate the scent. “Fragrance evaporates as it rises, so apply it to your ankles and behind your knees in addition to your wrists and décolletage,” says Bishop. Another reason we love the slender applicators? They’re easy to tuck into a bag and will pass any travel-size regulation. Not that you’d need it, though—the scents alone will transport you.

All Is Merry and Bright (and Shiny Too)

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Because it’s the one time of year when it’s totally OK to out-sparkle those twinkle lights, we’ve gathered some of our favorite gleaming and glittering gift ideas. An old-school silver harmonica for the musically (or nostalgically) inclined. Our shimmery Pavé Arrowstack Necklace as that perfect “you shouldn’t have” present. Or a little gem-like set of jacks to give that kid at heart a way to pass those long winter nights. And with that we say, shine on (and gift on).

Label We Love: Falconwright

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Falconwright is the meeting of two very brilliant—not to mention stylish—minds. Sandi Falconer and Danielle Wright brought their talents (and last names) together to create fun, eye-catching leather bags that are thoughtfully made by hand (Sandi does the screen printing while Danielle takes care of the sewing). We chatted with the Toronto twosome about their original prints, favorite things (spoiler alert: roller coasters top the list) and a grab bag gift idea that sounds right up our alley.

You make everything together. How do you dream up patterns and choose colors?
Sandi: We’re highly influenced by the colors and textures of leather. I usually come up with a few pattern ideas (OK, more like a bunch) and then Danielle and I narrow down those choices to our favorites. We usually have a combination of fun, wild and simple stuff—this balance feels like a natural extension of our personalities.

So then how would you describe your personal style?
Sandi: We’re both suckers for button-down shirts, denim and big sweaters, with some patterns and pops of color thrown in for good measure.

Your designs are so graphic and linear. What’s your favorite pattern, and did you design it by hand?
Sandi: All of our patterns start out as drawings. We love bold, simple patterns that have a bit of a textural feel to them.

Along that line of questioning, what would you stand in an hour-long line for?
Sandi: I would definitely stand in a long line for a really great concert or a roller coaster!

What’s your favorite type of plot line for a book or movie?
Danielle: I’m a big sci-fi/horror fan, so throw some aliens or ghosts into the mix and you’ve got a story line that I’m into. One of my all-time favorite movies is John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s an ’80s movie starring Kurt Russell where a bunch of researchers are stranded in the Arctic with an alien. So creepy and so good!

And a line from a song or a poem that you can’t get out of your head?
Danielle: Our favorite line from a song is probably “sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet emoooooooooooooooootion,” because it is the best thing ever to sing at karaoke.

We love the just-right size of your leather clutch—what would you fill it with if you were giving it as a present this holiday?
Sandi: I would fill it up with candy, cool socks, some movie tickets, a bottle of fun nail polish and a Falconwright Mini Wallet, of course.

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee (in Our Coffeeshop Cardigan)

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We’re big fans of our Coffeeshop Cardigan: Ultrasoft with an easy, slouchy fit, this cozy layer is the ideal companion for  your deliciously lazy, curl-up-with-magazines-and-coffee kind of mornings. We’re also longtime fans of Intelligentsia Coffee, the Chicago-born company that’s committed to eco-friendly, socially sustainable growing practices, with beans that remind us just how good good coffee can be. We knew the two had to meet, so we asked Stephen Morrissey, I.C.’s brewmaster (and 2008 World Barista Champion), for the inside scoop on making a coffee shop-caliber cup without leaving home. Happily for us, he obliged.

What You’ll Need:
Whole beans Get them no later than two weeks after their roasting date (which should be stamped on the bag). “Buy coffee like you’d buy your bread—fresh and in small amounts,” says Morrissey.
An electric burr grinder (as opposed to a blade grinder, which can chop beans unevenly). Because coffee beans start losing their aroma, and therefore their flavor, as soon as they’re ground, Morrissey recommends grinding beans as close to brewing time as possible. Otherwise, he adds, “flavors you’d  like to keep for your cup have already escaped.”
A glass manual coffeemaker Morrissey’s cool with a simple French press. Glass canister styles, like Chemex or Melitta, work too. (These allow you to hand pour the water directly over the ground coffee.)
A digital food scale (It can sound like a bit much, we know, but it can actually come in handy in the kitchen.) “When you only eyeball the ingredients, you will often end up with something too bitter or watery,” says our expert.

How To Do It:
Use 15 grams of coffee (roughly two and a half heaping tablespoons of unground beans) per 8 ounces of water. Boil water and let sit for 30 seconds before pouring over grounds or into your French press. (To take it from here, consult the brew guide for your coffeemaker.)

And remember, says Morrissey, you don’t have to buy a super-dark roast if you like it strong; it can be bitter. “If you want a heftier cup, simply use more coffee or grind your beans a little finer.”

Bonus tip: With coffee this good, if you’re game, you can probably skip the sweeteners and/or the cream. “When you add milk and sugar to great coffee, it can dumb down the flavor,” says Morrissey. May we suggest taking yours with a Coffeeshop Cardigan?

Cheers To Barbour and 9 Other British Things We Love

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This time of year, we’re happy for any excuse to slip into a Barbour® jacket made by the much-loved English outerwear brand that—with its waxed cotton fabric—basically created the concept of “weatherproof” back in 1894. The same family has run the company for 119 years, making us even more enamored of this storied label (which now counts Kate Moss and Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner among its fans). Naturally, that got us thinking about other things from the UK that we think are positively ace.

1. Uncle Harry’s Coat
It would be downright irreverent to mention Barbour without name-checking the oldest known jacket in the brand’s archive. This all-purpose, double-breasted outdoor coat protected three generations of the MacPherson-Fletcher family starting from 1910 until it was donated to the Barbour archives at its home base in South Shields, a coastal town in northern England.

2. Fog
The thick, low-lying mist that rolls through the English countryside and blankets London streets rendered Barbour’s waxed cotton jackets a necessity. And, probably because we don’t have to live with it every day, we find it romantic.

3. A Cuppa
Tea, that is. We like to think of high tea as an excuse to eat tiny cakes and scones whenever our hearts desire. But the “high” didn’t originally mean fancy at all—it actually referred to the tall (or “high”) tables workers sat at during the Industrial Revolution to enjoy their hearty evening meal, complete with a freshly steeped cup.

4. The Smiths
And The Beatles. And The Buzzcocks. And Nick Drake. And Adele. And M.I.A. And Duran Duran. And Fleetwood Mac (Surprise! Explains why Rumours is spelled with a “u.”). And Roxy Music. And Arctic Monkeys. And Dusty Springfield. And The Cure. And Queen. And Led Zeppelin. And David Bowie. And The Rolling Stones, etc.

5. Slang
Why, sure, we have the English language in common, but they pull from an entirely different dictionary—one that includes words like wazzock, naff, buggered and jammy. Just brill.

6. The Ridiculously Cool Women
From Kristin Scott Thomas’s silk pantsuits and Jane Birkin’s high-waisted denim to Kate Moss’s ubiquitous cutoffs and Marianne Faithfull’s floppy hats, we’ve taken plenty of style cues from across the pond.

7. James Bond
There’s plenty to love about Ian Fleming’s dashing, globetrotting spy, but maybe at the top of our list? He worked, in the last seven films at least, for a woman: M, the no-nonsense Head of Secret Intelligence Service, who was flawlessly portrayed by Dame Judi Dench.

8. The Iconic Red Telephone Booth
Some trivia about it: It’s called Kiosk No. 6 for its place in the prototype design sequence, and since many are no longer used as phone booths, they’ve found new life as libraries, art pieces and, odd but true, as easy-access storage for life-saving equipment on street corners of Scottish towns. And Brits now have a chance to own one: British Telecom has put decommissioned boxes up for adoption for just £1.

9. Queuing
As in, “to stand in line.” Doesn’t it just sound more civilized? After all, you know what they say: Keep calm and carry on.

Now Playing: The 12 Days Of Madewell

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Anyone else experiencing a particularly high volume of social gatherings and themed parties right about now? Inspired by that timeless, you-couldn’t-forget-it-if-you-tried carol and our quest for ideas on just-festive-enough holiday outfits, here are a dozen animated answers to “What do I wear today?!” (No turtledoves or red-and-green looks involved.)

P.S. Show us your season’s best with the hashtag #HOLIDAYSMADEWELL, and watch all 12 videos here.