We had the honor of welcoming Simone LeBlanc last year as she joined us on Bungalux to talk about Valentine's Day gifting. Her VALENTINE'S GIFT GIVING ARTICLE remains one of our most-read stories ever, and it's a must-read for all of you who have a Valentine this year and are in search of the perfect gift.
For those of you who don't know her, Simone not only founded the world's most fabulous luxury gifting service, Simone LeBlanc, but she is also one of those women whose real life mirrors the incredible life she creates for others. Simone is fashionable, stylish, fun, and down-to-earth.
We wanted to do something different this year ... so we did. I sat down and interviewed Simone and it's one of my favorite interviews because she was so warm and forthcoming. Of course Simone gave us advice on Valentine's gift giving - 'tis that time of year after all - but she also allowed us a sneak peek at her secret shopping spots and a few outrageous gifting stories as well.
For those of you searching for the perfect gift for that perfect someone, we highly recommend you contact Simone for assistance. Gifts from Best Buy for Valentine's Day don't count - be creative!
Photo of Simone taken by Katrina Dickson.
What are your favorite gifts you've personally received?
My favorite gifts I've received are the ones that carry the most personal sentiment and show that the giver really knows me and thought about my life. My fiance gifted me a stunning miniature, ceramic Victorian boot from 1880 after our first date. He found it while traveling and was compelled to bring it home for me. He was almost embarrassed when he gave it to me - it's so specific and could potentially go wrong. Unbeknownst to him at that time, I am obsessed with miniature, hand hewn shoes...especially from the Victorian era. I was stunned at his intuition and so moved! I also have a favorite teapot that was gifted to me by my brother. I am a habitual tea drinker and consider my tea-time a sacred ritual. The teapot is simple - but the sentiment behind it of his knowing how much I savor those moments was extremely touching.
What's your advice for Valentine's gift giving?
My Valentine's Day gift giving advice is to first - calm down, focus, and don't get caught up in the details of what's right or appropriate. This holiday is really about honoring your feelings and appreciating the sweetheart in your life. Think about the things you love about this person. Think sexy, think romantic, think intimate, think personal. Whatever direction you choose to go in include a special detail that shows that you really know the recipient. If you gift a FLORAL ARRANGEMENT, mix in a few blooms from their birthday month. If you give jewelry, add a monogrammed initial. If you're lusting for lingerie - make it about the both of you by giving a set that you would love to see her in as much as something you think she would love. Another fabulous idea for Valentine's Day is to gift with couple-dom in mind. Give a gift you can experience together; create a picnic indoors with your honey's favorite foods, hole up in a room at your favorite local hotel and bring sexy games to play. Get creative and don't be afraid to express yourself.
What's on your own wish list? Dream big!
On my wish list is the gift of a beautifully landscaped garden. I would love to be given the gift of working in tandem with a landscape architect to build the backyard of my dreams. I love experiential gifts that you can live with for a long time. I also wouldn't be mad at a small collection of GOYARD ...
What's your own home style like?
Cozy, relaxed, eclectic, edited and chic. Seemingly effortless with a natural, California - modern feel. Our home is filled with pieces gathered from our lives lived; our objects, art and furniture have reached out and grabbed us and speak to our specific and personal taste. I'm currently obsessed with this photograph by DANIELLE NELSON MOURNING from Taylor De Cordoba gallery. We have a large scale print that hangs in our kitchen, an unexpected place, but it completely works.
What's been your greatest gift challenge?
My greatest gift challenge has been one of physical logistics. A client decided that he would like all of his 40 executives to be styled in black tie for their formal, 1930's themed Holiday Party - a few days before the event. This entailed pulling in every single stylish tux from across the country, setting up racks with options for each individual. They needed to be styled from head-to-toe - down to the pocket squares, cufflinks, shoes and socks. I had never met any of the gift recipients and gauged sizes and taste based on photographs. I think I had 400 tuxes - and took over an entire floor of a building.
On another occasion I had to open Barneys in NY to shop for gifts with a client 2 hours before the store was scheduled to open on a Sunday. With the right contacts & budget, there is nothing off- limits or that can't be done.
How did you find your profession?
I honestly say that my profession tracked me down and revealed itself to me. People asked, and I responded. My purpose is to inspire, touch, and move people through my creativity. There is no better profession than the creation of family heirlooms, specialty gifts and creating heartfelt gifts & goods with a message than this. Previously, I was personal stylist for private client who began to rely on me for all things tastemaker and lifestyle oriented. I began creating very customized, in depth gifts for their significant birthdays and anniversaries - objects to mark the moment in a unique way that no one else would have. I was bit by the bug, my clients were thrilled and here I am now! The volume work that I do for companies as well as my collection of gifts + goods are a natural extension of the gifts I create with my private clients.
You help some of the world's preeminent celebrities and business icons with their gift giving. Explain that process. What's difficult about it? What's easy?
The most challenging thing about working with high profile, successful clients is the time factor. These people lead extremely busy lives and their time is extremely valuable - getting face time and focused answers can be a challenge at times. This has led me to be better at what I do by really diving in to my client's world and tastes, always having a well-edited set of options at a moments notice, and knowing the history and sensibility of their recipients as well as themselves as much as is possible. These things are all time savers and they build trust - which is crucial in creative work. The easiest thing is that I get to work with extraordinary people who value quality, innovation and taking things up a notch. When a gift moves a client to tears, I know I've done my job well and my heart sings.
What's your advice on finding the perfect gift for the guy or girl who has everything?
Go deep and play detective. Put the time in to research, ask questions and prick up your ears for little tidbit details that give insight to the recipient's hidden hobbies and habits. This is where you can get creative and track down that first edition book that you know that they love, that VINTAGE RECORD PLAYER from the year they were born or that ceramic piece made by that local artist on their trip to Mallorca last month. This is where it really gets exciting! And if you happen to be short on time and just need something in a pinch - gift them something that you absolutely love yourself and has brought you joy. To be able to speak with passion and have a story about the gift will turn up the wow - factor a million.
One of our readers asked our advice on monogramming recently - when it's appropriate, when it's not. Are you a monogramming fan?
I am most certainly a monogramming fan. It is appropriate when you have reached the point of authentic friendship or intimacy with the recipient. When given as an introductory gift or added to a wedding gift of a couple you barely know, it can seem disingenuous. Test yourself: have you shared laughs, exchanged embarrassing stories and perhaps have been told something in confidence by the recipient? If so, go monogram.
What are a few of your favorite shopping spots?
DE VERA OBJECTS on Crosby St. in New York is my all time favorite shops for esoteric objets. Birch in San Francisco for floral inspiration and unique and simple items. March SF in San Francisco is fabulous for utterly chic home & hostess gifting. Garde, here in Los Angeles is an inspiring spot for home items. Silverlake has a few great spots as well - Mohawk General & Clare Vivier have well curated, smart lifestyle options.