Pinch Corners, Fold Sharply: A Guide to Gift Wrapping

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Photography by Mathilde Agius

The arrival of National Stationery Week offers prime opportunity to perfect our present-giving; here's our guide to impeccable wrapping from AnOther Magazine S/S16

“You could be gifting the smallest symbolic object, but the intention in the giving – card and wrapping – makes all the difference,” says Julia, proprietor of Choosing Keeping, an excellent stationery shop nestled in Columbia Road, east London. The shop may be small, but its stock – ranging from Kaweco fountain pens and Midori brass pencils to marbled storage boxes and glass paperweights – is beautifully curated. As well as a brilliant edit of stationery porn, gift-wrap solutions play a leading role in the Choosing Keeping aesthetic. “Basically, it means you care,” explains Julia, who is passionate about the art of wrapping. “Like sending a card in the mail, you score top marks with your recipient – people remember these efforts. They rarely go unnoticed or unappreciated.”

Julia’s love of stationery is deep-rooted in her childhood upbringing in Japan, where “gift-wrapping is elevated to an art form, and the etiquette of gifting is thoroughly complex”. Furoshiki, the traditional reusable cloths used to wrap gifts, date back to the Edo period. Julia later moved to France, and as a student worked in a Parisian perfume store, where she found herself drawn to the wrapping counter. “The shops had a strict ‘no tape’ policy.”

Choosing Keeping first opened its doors in 2012. “Not born as the result of a particular will to own a shop, or an exercise in branding or conceptual retail – simply, a good old-fashioned shop that is personality driven and the reflection of one person’s experience, knowledge, tastes and interests,” Julia says. It was a fine opportunity to put into practice those finely honed wrapping techniques. “My philosophy is less is more, and my taste is neat and classic. I like the traditional pairing of beautiful paper with double satin ribbon. I’ve become more confident with my paper sourcing over the years, bringing in more bold prints – which can bring a strong statement to a small gift – and industrial papers, which when paired with ribbon have a beautiful simplicity and refinement. I like unorthodox combinations.”

A well-prepared desk space is Julia’s ideal wrapping environment, but she is also a practiced “traveller wrapper”, taking Scotch tape, small flat scissors, a small Japanese tape dispenser, a few rolls of paper and some ribbon, whenever they may be needed. Her recommended wrapper’s toolkit comprises quality tapes (preferably invisible), tape dispensers, ribbon and twine, and old-fashioned die-cut gift tags. “Speedy, effective and precise gift wrapping relies on having the correct amount of paper,” advises Julia. “With clean hands, pinch corners and fold sharply.” And the ultimate breach of wrapping etiquette? “Using that ribbon you curl with scissors.”

This story first appears in the S/S16 issue of AnOther Magazine. Visit Choosing Keeping at 128 Columbia Rd, London, E2 7RG.