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Every time I read about the terrible conditions in garment factories in other parts of the world, it makes me sick, sick, sick. Sick that my quest for bargains has come to this, sick that we’ve exported our entire garment industry overseas and sick that more of us haven’t figured out a way to turn the system on its ear.

My friend Jennifer has. She bought this gorgeous crocheted cape at a local art fair. It’s a real head-turner. I couldn’t do it justice in these photos. Wonderful little details like the collar, which doubles as a hood. The beauty of it is that it’s one of a kind and it will never go out of style. Phillis Cassidy, the artist who made it, says she prays and then crochets, never knowing where her designs might lead. (You can find more of Phillis’ work on the Etsy store,  Ma and Pa Peddle.

Jennifer was so excited about her new cape that she stopped by my house just to share it with me. I goaded her onto my catwalk for this photo. (Isn’t it ironic? I really do have a catwalk. It’s a little walk that runs between two bedrooms on the second floor of my home. After much experimentation, it’s where I take all my fashion photos.)

Jennifer isn’t just a fair weather friend; she’s like the sister I never had, sharing and supporting my interests and making time for our friendship through good times and bad. Never mind the fact that she has also talked me off a ledge a time or two–no fees added!

So, here’s a thought for you: you’re shopping for gifts this season, right? Why not shop for original custom-made designs? I’ll bet you know a seamstress, knitter or crochet fanatic who would love to earn some extra cash. Remember to pay them well! You might be too late for commissioning something this year, but you can always buy custom on Etsy.

Who is your favorite custom designer? If you know any great Etsy shops, share them here. I’m entering all comments this week in a drawing for a memoir by Vogue’s creative director, Grace Coddington, so don’t be shy! I’ll add your name to the drawing every time you make a comment this week.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.