The art of giving the “perfect present” is something that many of us struggle with. We can’t even begin to count the hours that we’ve spent in a cute shop, staring at endless wares, feeling uncertain on what our recipient will love most. Of course, that’s only if there’s time to make it to the shop in the first place! Imagine our delight when we discovered Simone LeBlanc – a gifting service that is truly exceptional. Simone and her West Hollywood team unearth unique products from around the globe, finding pieces that are truly one of a kind. Whether it’s a small housewarming gift for your best friend or 100 welcome boxes for the guests of your wedding, Simone can make it happen with ease and style. (And we’re not talking tacky can coozies, either. Each item is artistic, thoughtful, and inspiring.) Today, Simone is welcoming us into her sunny studio, showing off her new branding, and sharing her etiquette and gifting expertise along the way. By the end of the interview, we think you’ll be just as smitten as we are:
First things first, how did you get started in gifting? Can you briefly walk us through the evolution of your brand?
I had been working as a personal life-stylist where the projects focused on my client’s personal clothing tastes and design preferences. I loved connecting with people in this way – finding an object for their home or a gift that was ‘just the right thing.’ It opened up a world for me and I realized that there really was an opportunity in the marketplace for my perspective on gifting. My experience with my private clients allowed me to create relationships all over the world, with masterful craftspeople and artisans, building highly customized items that have meaning on an intimate and personal level. These experiences infuse every part of my work. I use the perspective of personalized, high-end gifting, and a knowledge of craftsmanship + fabrication from a design perspective.
In 2014, I decided to expand beyond the luxury gifting and offer some of my favorite gifting ideas online, to a broader audience. The shop is a natural extension of my custom gifts, and the boxes are just the beginning!
Congrats on the new branding – labels, notecards, etc. What was the look and feel you were after and how did you achieve it?
Thank you so much! I really wanted to create a cohesive look that felt like a step forward for my business. I wanted to create a design that carried our philosophy behind our gifts – artful, elevated, cohesive with fine hand touched fabrication and details. I wanted to go a step beyond what I see out in the field in the day to day and keep pushing forward. The most important element to everything that we create is that these are gifts – given by someone who has a message that they want to convey. I really work at trying to find that balance between my vision and the gifter’s voice. They have to work together and be perfectly balanced. I used those considerations with the new designs.
What is your process when putting together the perfect “gift box” – are there certain elements each must have?
Each one of our gift boxes tells a story. The story comes from a balance of gifting instinct (and thousands of hours of practice!), a deep understanding of what’s in the marketplace, and a real focus on the balance of the elements. The items need to be a mix of personal but not too intimate. I spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of all of the details – the ingredients of the products, the label colors and packaging, the quotes that I choose, the name of the boxes. I try to get inside the head of the gift – giver. I always strive for a hand touched tactility, mixed with a meaningful message and elevated presentation.
You are known for your impeccable taste and attention to detail. Why are those things important when it comes to gifting?
Why, thank you! I will not let anything leave the studio without the perfect finishing touch. As a business, we are here to represent our clients messaging and vision. I truly feel honored to be trusted with that responsibility. It’s a heartfelt exchange, and it’s our job to over-deliver and make the gift – giver the hero. When the recipient receives their gift, I want them to feel a sense of wonder like time has stopped and they truly get to savor a moment for themselves. The details are an essential part of the whole story and vision.
Without spilling your sources, how do you go about finding new inspiration and product sources?
I’m pretty much always ‘on’. Unless I’m with my little Lillian, or in yoga, or taking intentional downtime, I’m living in the land of ideas, creating, and sourcing. The inspiration is everywhere, so it’s really just a matter of filtering it and deciding what works best where. Something may catch my eye and I’m not sure what it will work for yet, but I’ll clock it. Inevitably, it makes sense down the road.
You’ve done an excellent job with a consistent brand look and feel. What are your top 3 pieces of advice when it comes to building a branding?
Have Vision and Purpose. You must truly have a vision and a purpose that drives you. Every day I have so much more that I want to make, create, build. I know what I have inside of me to put out into the world, and I just need more hours in the day to do it! Vision and Purpose will get you out of bed, carry you through rough waters, keep you learning and keep you excited.
Have Resilience. Accept that you will make mistakes and you will be disappointed. There will be frustrations, there will be unwise choices, there will be costly slip-ups and this will all be challenging. But regroup, think about the long game, and get back up again. Each day you get better because you get wiser.
Be fearless in your commitment to putting yourself out there and be able to personally detach from your brand in order to make smart business decisions. Master the balance of dedication, passion, and detachment. You have to ask the tough questions – get advice, get feedback, ask your customers about their experience with you. Be prepared to hear things that don’t always feel great. Have the wisdom to personally detach from that feedback and look at your brand as a business, something bigger than just you. This can be challenging when you are a creative and your brand is a direct extension of you, but it’s important for growth. I work on this all the time!
Not only are you a creative but you also run a successful business. What was the business lesson that took you longest to learn?
Recognizing the areas that I excel in versus the areas that I am less comfortable in and how to balance my focus in that regard. I agree whole heartedly with the idea that one person can’t do everything and you should ideally focus on what you do best. However, with a small, growing company, that concept is sometimes a luxury. So, at this stage of my business, I try to identify the areas that I am least comfortable in and make sure that I am not ignoring those areas because it’s not what comes easy and what I gravitate towards naturally. Balance, and self-awareness and how that manifests in my business.
Okay, let’s talk a bit about your beautiful studio! Can you tell us a little bit about the space and the atmosphere you created for it?
Yes! The studio is in West Hollywood. My vision was to create a light filled space with many windows and a flow of fresh air – no stagnation! I am a collector of materials – paper, ribbons, scissors – bits that can inspire our projects. I tried to balance that aspect of myself with a neutral, minimal, earthy space with much storage. The studio is in constant flux with the all of our projects, so a simple space allows everything to move through easily.
In your opinion, what are the 3 elements every workspace should have?
Windows for keeping the flow and movement in the space, a designated place for all of the small tools of the trade (so you don’t waste time losing things!) a beautiful, well loved plant or two. It’s important to have nature around as much as possible!
We’ll be applying those to our own offices, for sure! Lastly, any gifting etiquette we all should follow?
Always be mindful of your relationship with the gift recipient, and the message that you want to send. The perfect gift is something unexpected, but at the same time very on point and touching. It’s meaningful and nuanced, and resonates clearly and directly with the recipient. It’s an experience and a means for authentic connection.
We’re endlessly impressed, Simone! Thank you for sharing your space with us. To our readers, start the slideshow to see more. Or, if you’re ready to get gifting, click here.