When I first opened my store on Bleecker Street in 1995, I had little money to spend on luxuries. And yet, I wanted to have gift-boxing which befitted the moniker "Handsome Gifts." Wrapping paper was out of the question—too expensive, too wasteful, too impractical and too time-consuming at the cash desk. So I searched for alternatives and settled on a plain kraft gift box—embellished with a copper LEO Design "hot stamp" embossment (which did cost a little something)—tied-up with black grosgrain ribbon. Though not very jolly, this gift-boxing was easy, inexpensive, non-seasonal, non-denominational and (most importantly) distinctive—no one else was doing anything like it.
Several years in, all's going well, and Marc Jacobs opens his first (of many!) stores on Bleecker Street, one of them four doors down from my shop. His gift-boxing choice? White boxes with black grosgrain! And no one would believe that I had come-up with the idea first. So I decided to use-up my existing packaging supply and move-on to a new look—which conveniently coincided with the tenth anniversary of LEO Design. I wanted something rich, something masculine, and something unique in the market.
The idea for my new gift box color scheme came to me at a fancy theatre arts dinner event in San Antonio, Texas. I was seated next to ultra-conservative firebrand Diana Denman. What would I say to her? What could I say to her? We talked about two things: dogs and her beautiful Saint John knit suit. It was a rich chocolate brown, edged in a delicious maroon-berry trim. And, when the dessert finally came, I had unearthed a third appropriate topic of conversation: the flourless chocolate cake—lashed with raspberry sauce—which matched her suit beautifully. It was the sign I needed to confirm my choice: chocolate brown boxing with maroon-berry ribbon . Sitting there, flushed (though behaving admirably!), I concluded that the search for new packaging would commence as soon as I returned to New York.
Two quick notes: First, nobody produced a stock color grosgrain that I liked; eventually, I had to custom-dye the ribbon, 10,000 yards at a time (per width—three widths), to get the shade I wanted. And second, years after forgetting about my dinner with Diana Denman, I was pleased to hear her mentioned on an NPR news report. Apparently she was on the 2016 RNC platform committee and expressed her surprise (perhaps dismay) that the Trump campaign's only involvement with the platform was to nix the arming of Ukraine against the former Soviet Union (which had invaded their borders). The story took me back to that long-ago dinner in San Antonio, to her beautiful knitted suit, to the delicious flourless chocolate cake, and to its legacy: the chocolate and maroon gift-boxing which I still use to this day.
The frame shown here was made of pewter, cast in New York City. It is surrounded by a handsome "grosgrain" ribbing. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248
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