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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in April

Photo-Illustration: retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying. Which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we all bought in April.

Chris Mandle, writer

Photo: retailer

This month, I really struggled with finding the perfect gift for my Mum’s birthday; she is still working through the hand cream I got her at Christmas, and a nice bottle of something boozy always feels impersonal to me. But as soon as I read Ailbhe’s ode to the solar fountain that spruced up her garden, I knew it would be perfect for Mum. She has a pond at the end of her garden and she and my Dad regularly have their coffee out there in the mornings when the weather’s nice. She absolutely loved it and has popped several videos of it gently puttering away into our family Whatsapp group. I can see why so many people bought one on the Strategist last month — and I’m now considering getting one for my balcony.

Speaking of birthdays, my best friend Sam and I have been buying each other a pair of socks for as long as I can remember. This month, I was browsing End for inspiration — previously, I’ve gifted him pairs from status-y brands like Rototo and Hikerdelic — and chanced upon Socksss, a Stockholm-based brand I first read about in the pages of GQ. I bought him a pair, and then couldn’t resist treating myself to some — I chose this ombre-hued pair in watermelon-y colours, which I plan on wearing with my Birkenstocks this summer.

Once the outdoor restrictions lifted in the U.K, I used a well-timed day of annual leave to head into town and do one of my favourite things: mooch. The pandemic has definitely made mooching a bit of a slog, but I made sure to nip into Muji, because during lockdown a lot of their stock was sold out online. Not only did I get one of my favourite candles (which I’ve written about before), but I picked up some storage baskets for my bedroom — I’d heard a few friends rave about their cotton-linen baskets and storage boxes, particularly because of the handy zip tops. I picked up two of the shallower boxes, which my boyfriend and I keep our gym stuff in, and the taller boxes, which slot quite nicely under our bedside tables.

£60 for 2

Speaking of restrictions lifting, one of the first things that opened was tennis courts, and I’m lucky enough to live quite close to one. We decided tennis should be our new ‘thing’ we do as a couple (at least until restaurants open properly), so I picked some a couple of rackets on Amazon. I asked a couple of friends, including one who worked as a tennis coach in the Maldives for a short spell, if there was anything to look out for in choosing a tennis racket, but apparently unless you’re considering going pro, any inexpensive one will do the trick. This set came with three tennis balls, but we picked up an extra canister, too. We’ve only played a couple of times so far this month — booking a court is like trying to get a seat in Padella — but these are lightweight and easy enough to stash in a tote bag when we head out in the morning.

Ailbhe Malone, senior editor

From £13
Photo: Ailbhe Malone

Every year, I stalk the Magnum photos square print sale. If you’re unaware, for one week every year, the photo agency has a charity sale of signed or estate-stamped photos by its photographers. The prints are 6” x 6” and £100 each. I was thrilled to pick up the photo I wanted (Nan Goldin, signed!), and wanted to get a frame that would suit it. Magnum offers custom framing, but luckily, I have a guy. Well, a site — Picture Frames Express. I’ve used Picture Frames Express for practically all my custom-framing needs for the past two years. You can add archival backing and custom mounts — but the site uses MDF and plexiglass to keep costs low. However, I’ve never been let down by it (and I’ve used the site to frame everything from a 90cm x 90cm silk scarf, to a print by artist Mary Herbert,). This frame came in at around £25, for a 6mm polished silver frame, mount, and acid-free museum backing. By the way, if you want to find out more about the Magnum print sale, you can sign up for the email notifications here.

After a winter of not particularly thoughtful purchasing, I decided to implement a beauty product ban until I could get through my backlog. And then I got sent a surprise sample of a delicious-smelling peppermint-and-coffee body scrub from Upcircle. I am ambivalent about body scrubs (my go-to is the vitamin E scrub from Superdrug, perpetually on offer). But the Upcircle scrub is made from leftover coffee grinds from London cafes, and peppermint oil — it’s an exceptional exfoliant that’s not as scratchy as my normal sugar scrub, and it smells like a mint Aero. Once my tub ran out, I bought another — pleasingly, Upcircle has just brought in refills.

I also picked up the face serum with coffee oil. I’ve only tried a minute sample of this (my scrub came with the “pamper pack”), and I liked it. For £15 I’m willing to swap my just-emptied MILK watermelon serum out for a trial run.

Earlier this month, I was noodling around Gumtree, trying to find a replacement for my slightly wonky vintage Anglepoise. For as long as I’ve owned it, the lamp has flip flopped when I try to adjust it — I presumed that the springs had just given out. Somewhere along my online search, I noticed that Anglepoise had recently announced a lifetime guarantee on their products (along with a commitment to refurbishing older models, in an effort to reduce waste). I messaged the help desk with a couple of photos of my lamp (it speeds things up if you can include as many details as possible), and a query as to where I could buy new springs. The next day, I received an incredibly thorough email from Simon at Anglepoise. “In terms of springs losing their tension this is very unlikely to happen over time unless they are overstretched at some point”, he explained. But, he’d examined my photos and had noticed that my Model 90 had a bulb which was perhaps too heavy for it (the bulb was peeking out of the shade). He suggested I replace the bulb with something weighing under 65 grammes. I bought these bulbs on Amazon, and the problem was solved immediately. Now, my once flip-flopping lamp lurches forward no more.

My model 90 is no longer in production, but the Anglepoise website suggests the Type 75 as a modern-alternative.

Rosie Percy, senior audience-development manager


With socialising (sort of) back on the agenda, I’ve had a reason to wear makeup again. However, after largely avoiding it over winter, my previous black eye makeup suddenly looked too heavy on the much more natural face I’d gotten used to. I watched beauty writer Sali Hughes use Eyeko’s Black Magic eyeliner pen in Cocoa on Instagram, and it created exactly the softer look I was after. The price point was affordable enough to take a punt so I ordered it, and the mascara in the same shade.

The nib of the eyeliner pen is soft and gentle — unlike other felt tip liners I’d tried that dragged along my eyelid — and it has an ultra-fine tip for the precise wings I prefer. It leaves behind a semi-opaque, buildable line that looks almost professional. The mascara is just as impressive: It gives full-coverage volume without clumps, and the subtle pigment achieves the “no makeup makeup look” that I was after. When dry, it doesn’t go stiff or flake as my other mascara had. I love them both so much that I won’t go back, even when I start wearing more makeup everyday again.

Did you know that you can’t clean your stainless-steel appliances with general cleaning products? Because I didn’t! Previously I’d sprayed kitchen surface cleaner around the scuffed-up sink in my dated London flat and considered it clean. Then last month, I moved into a new place on the Kent coast with sparkling appliances — as everything was new, all marks showed. A warm pan sat in the sink left a ring mark. Coffee dregs stained the plug hole. Limescale speckled the taps.

When my usual routine failed, I Googled cleaning advice and found that abrasive cleaners not only don’t work, but can damage stainless steel. After a panicked text, a friend recommended this eco-friendly, cruelty-free cleaner from Method — she was so impressed with the results that she’d taken a photo of her reflection in her gleaming kitchen tap. Before using it I dried the sink (an important step), applied the spray to a microfibre cloth and carefully, but firmly buffed away. Within minutes everything looked brand new again, and my deposit was saved. Now I use it every other day to stay on top of any stains, and the bottle’s still nearly full.

Birkenstocks were my go-to summer shoe when I lived in London, and quickly became an everyday essential when I moved to the much more chilled out Folkestone. Living a ten-minute walk from the sea means that short-notice paddling is often on the cards, and the Arizona Eva sandals are perfect for that. The pebble beaches here can be tough on bare feet, but the plastic Eva sandals are waterproof, so I wear them to wade into the waves and back up the beach without hurting myself. They’re also great to quickly step into to accept a delivery, or walk to the shop. They’re so comfy that I’ll even wear them with socks when it’s too cold for bare feet, to really lean into my new beach bum persona.

At £35 the Evas are much more affordable than the standard cork and leather Birkenstocks — with prices starting around £60 — so I can buy multiple pairs. This khaki pair was bought as a replacement for my white ones that were looking a little scuffed, and I’ve already got my eye on a summer-appropriate lilac pair that have recently arrived on the Office website in time for summer.

Rachel Mantock, writer

I was after a less spenny alternative to Bower Collective’s liquid hand wash — it’s the only thing that didn’t leave me slathering my hands in steroid cream every night. A quick browse brought me to Faith in Nature’s bar soaps. I am typically sceptical of brands that boast all natural ingredients, because they sometimes equate this to being automatically non-irritating. It’s not uncommon for these products to be packed with essential oils, which while ‘natural’, can cause severe skin irritation, especially for those with dermatitis or allergies.

So, I initially panicked at all the essential oils in their bar soaps, but I eventually narrowed it down to two — the seaweed soap (containing no fragrance or essential oils, but seaweed extract instead), and their moisturising coconut bar soap. The unfragranced option turned out to be quite drying, while the coconut soap stayed true to its moisturising claims, and hasn’t broke me out in a dermatitis rash yet.

While mindlessly scrolling Instagram, someone in an almost neon pink and navy bra made me stop and bookmark. Suddenly, this prolific non-bra wearer had an urge for nice, grown-up lingerie. But years of non-bra wearing (outside the gym) meant I had no idea what size would fit.

What I did know was that I typically fell just outside of the non-inclusive range of sizes from your average brand. But Dora Larsen caters for more than just bralette wearers. One of their reps even went back and forth with me over email guiding me on self measurement and size conversion. I’ve never had a better fit from a bra, and I can stand to wear it for more than half an hour (even though it has an underwire). The colour scheme is even better in real life, and it’s made from recycled yarns for sustainability points.

On the hunt for a new sofa, this landed in my Made.com basket almost instantly (after checking dimensions). The brown velvet with cinnamon undertones, along with its smooth curve sold it for me – it almost looks like a fluffy chocolate cake. Its design was modelled on a 1960s bubble sofa, so it gives our living room its own Mad Men corner.

It took me less than ten minutes to put it together, (it was just a case of screwing the black metal legs on). It comes with two matching cushions, so doesn’t need any extra fuss. It’s effortlessly chic, and deceivingly roomy, despite not taking up too much space, or looking bulky. Its large seat pad (that’s fixed to the frame with velcro) is thinner than what it replaced, yet still plush and firm (I was worried it would just sink upon sitting).

Sitting on it and looking at it is oddly satisfying — it’s a standout accent piece without being at all overpowering. I still have the urge to take a bite out of it, though.

Working from a sofa designed for lounging (yes, ok, and sometimes a bed) was beginning to throw my already bad posture out of whack, and cause pain. I didn’t want to pair a proper and sensible desk chair (that are never that comfortable anyway) with my gem of an eBay find bureau desk. It would throw off the interior direction, and make the space look cluttered. A bit of research led me to saddle stools, that apparently strengthen stomach and back muscles, aligning posture by forcing you to sit upright.

This is meant to also alleviate back pain. This saddle stool looked less officey than the others, mostly because its metal encased, grey rubber wheels are more inconspicuous than the run of the mill black ones. My sister described the tan (faux) leather saddle as ‘sexy’ (I agree). Some Amazon reviews said it wasn’t something you could sit on all day.

But, this is the only thing I can sit on throughout an entire work day that keeps me effortlessly upright, engages all the right muscles, and doesn’t make me feel like my spine is crumbling by 6pm. A word of warning for the clumsy — be careful when first positioning yourself on the saddle, the wheels do not have brakes and you, the stool, or both can go flying if not paying attention. I survived one of these encounters, luckily the stool and I were unscathed.

And FYI, it’s probably not one for penis havers, according to Amazon reviews (uncomfortable), and an orthopaedic blog I stumbled on that said something about saddle seats putting too much pressure on the base of the penis, and possibly overheating the testicles.

Rachael Griffiths, intern

Much like Rosie, the recent reopening of the world and the subsequent need to glam up has come as a bit of a slap in the face. After a year mostly spent at home, my face has become accustomed to going foundation free, my skin actually rather benefitting from its year-long-breather. Not fancying (or even really requiring) the full face I used to opt for, I decided to give Charlotte Tilbury’s Flawless Filter a try. It was actually recommended to me by my makeup artist last Christmas, she uses it as a glowy base for both full and minimal coverage looks. She said, of all the products she uses, it’s the one that most of her clients end up buying to use themselves (case in point: me). I’ve found that a few swipes of the filter dabbed on with a damp beauty blender gives me a (more than) sufficient glow to hit the beer gardens. I actually don’t miss my foundation at all, and haven’t reached for it all month.

I managed to (finally!) get my hands on one of PeachyDen’s Kernel jumpsuits this month. I’m known amongst my friends as the token goth, so I opted for the suit in a colour a tad out of my comfort zone, a summery pink. The suits are available in sizes 6–16, and the site has plenty of sizing guidance to help you make your choice. I opted for the XS, and the way in which the slinky mix of polyester and spandex hugs my body is so flattering, it looks almost as though the suit was tailor made. So far I’ve paired her with some trainers for a picnic, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the suit looks dressed both up and down throughout the coming summer months. By the way, I reached out to PeachyDen to ask if they have plans to expand their size range – they said they have no plans as of yet, but are taking enquiries into consideration.

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in April