From woolly mammoth tusks to gift-wrapped Mustangs, this lady knows her stuff
For certain couples, the usual cards-and-candy exchange just isn’t going to cut it anymore. After you’ve given your significant other, say, a giant flower installation for Mother’s Day and 150 gifts (and counting) for Christmas, it becomes tough to top yourself year after year. That’s where Simone LeBlanc comes in.
The L.A.-based gift specialist started her business in 2011, and now splits her time between conceiving super-thoughtful gifts you can deliver to friends and loved ones (Jaime King is a fan of her boxes) and coming up with incredibly elaborate custom orders for her “money-is-no-object” type clients. So we had to ask, with Valentine’s Day on the horizon (and a private jet trip with Drake planned): What’s the most insane gift she’s ever masterminded?
For the wife of a tech mogul, LeBlanc was tasked with creating a 40th birthday experience that was less a “gift box” than a “gift room” — literally.
“There were 40 unique, ultimate, meaningful gifts in the mix,” she says. “We crafted an environment in which every item in the room was a part of the gift, from clothing items to custom luggage to art you’d swear was swiped from The Broad [Museum] to a 1930s phonograph with a collection of rare records to accompany it. We imagined it like stepping into a room-sized version of one of our gift boxes where every corner hides a special thing. The scale alone was quite impressive and extravagant.”
But with a “sky’s the limit” budget, it’s the little things that make the difference. “Every single gift would have been incredible on its own. But what I loved pausing to reflect on was that the range of the gifts was so varied, and that they were all equally special and meaningful, regardless of price,” she says. “Even with a very generous budget, sometimes it’s the small things that are priceless. Amidst all of the fancy things, there were also some virtually “free” items — sentimental gestures that were just as special, if not more!”
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That’s not to say that certain impossible-to-find things aren’t also pretty darn special. “Woolly mammoth tusks dating to the Pleistocene Era pulled from the Black Sea for a wedding party” have been among the hardest things to track down. And once, at eight months pregnant, she was asked to go to Palestine “to procure something that Indiana Jones might have been better suited to procure. Needless to say, I had to say no, even though I never like saying no.”
LeBlanc also excels at a wrapping job no one else wants to take on. One standout item? “A vintage 1968 Mustang, which was totally a challenge! The gift tag ended up being basically the size of my body and we had a sign painter paint it. Safe to say that was the most art directed bow I’ve ever made.”
Other boxes that would blow the average mortal’s mind?
• Her most expensive box to date: “It involves a yellow diamond and many zeroes.”
• “We created a holiday gift for a media company where the idea was a step-by-step guide to a cozy and very fancy winter’s eve in New York City. Inspired by the client’s favorite spots and indulgences in the city, the gift included favorite cocktail recipes from the Carlyle Hotel, plus matches and napkins from the bar, Petrossian caviar which we had to have overnighted, a sterling silver and mother of pearl serving set, and black truffles overnighted from Italy. It’s always fun to deal with customs!
• “We worked for about a year to produce this one honeymoon gift ‘box.’ The vessel, in this case, was a set of custom-made Bottega Veneta luggage in the most gorgeous pale-pistachio-meets-icy-gray hue. Inside of the luggage we included trip itineraries and everything the couple would need on the various trips we designed. A beautiful camera, clothing, you name it! It was quite over-the-top!”
• “There was an ultimate game room gift box, for which we worked with a famous London-based games fabricator. In addition to the custom-designed marquetry Backgammon board which featured mother-of-pearl and onyx playing pieces engraved with special messages, the gift featured cigars, an Eli Bleu humidor that we imported from France, a vintage sterling silver tabletop cigar lighter from the year of the client’s birth, and a very nice bottle of scotch.”
So if you’re not quite working with that budget but you’d like to make the same level of impact, any suggestions? LeBlanc recommends their LOVE Keepsakes box (pictured at top) with a few special extras. “It’s a mix of really luxurious everyday essentials and timeless keepsakes that feel at once old-world special and modern and fresh,” she says of the box. “Around that, we’d recommend he create a languid, luxurious day or weekend. Waking up at San Ysidro Ranch with our LOVE box on the pillow … or something else that feels a touch extraordinary. It’s all in the details!”
So…how do we get someone to buy us one of those “boxes?”
— Alex Apatoff