One of the most underrated skills a person can have is the ability to gift wrap a present well. From the classic box to the unusually shaped, whatever the gift Jane Means is sure to package it perfectly. A professional gift-wrapper for the likes of Chanel and Christian Dior, she has designed a card for the Queen and wrapped presents for the Beatles. Jane shares her expert advice with The LuxPad below, and tells us more about her fascinating career…
What were you doing before you started your own business?
As a young child I was a trader selling everything from old toys to my father’s potatoes and knew that one day I would have my own business. When I left school I worked in the travel business, and was lucky enough to see the world with my job. This gave me a huge insight into cultures, ideas and unusual products which you couldn’t find at home. I would scour local markets for different materials including papers, ribbons and decorations and bring them back to sell at local craft fairs. Always interested in creativity I was then a florist and made handmade cards, before starting my gift wrapping business. I started my business from scratch in 1995 and have never looked back.
What inspired you to get into gift-wrapping and crafts in the first place and how did you turn it into a career?
I’ve always loved crafts and was an avid Blue Peter fan. As an only child living in the countryside, my days were filled with creative projects and even at school we made presents and cards for our parents.
When the handmade card market became flooded in the mid-‘90s, I decided to embark on a new gift wrapping challenge after seeing a gap in the market. 20 years ago there were very few gift wrapping services (which were very poor) in the UK so I decided to do something about it.
What has been the most interesting gift that you have ever been asked to wrap?
Crikey there are so many to mention here, I have wrapped a rocking horse, a 6ft leather rhino for one of the Beatles and an ornate marble clock which took 3 of us to wrap for a Russian billionaire. One of my biggest challenges was being given a bicycle to wrap on television in a small studio full of BBC film crew (they all had to take their shoes off!).
What are your top three gift wrapping tips?
- Use double sided tape wherever possible. It is our best-selling product and instantly makes a gift look more polished.
- When wrapping a box measure your paper so you don’t have a lot of excess. Too much paper will look bulky and feel unmanageable.
- For awkward shapes go for flexible wrapping such as tissue, cellophane, crepe, fabric or even paper tablecloths.
What do you think is the most common mistake people make when wrapping gifts?
Using far too much paper and sticky tape! Gift wrapping is no different to sewing, cookery and make-up, where too much excess and bad preparation will be a disaster.
You’ve worked for many prestigious brands from Chanel to Dior; do you have a favourite commission that you have worked on and can you tell us why?
I have a great relationship with all of my clients. Many whom I’ve been with for years and have had some fantastic opportunities and experiences. Last year I was made the brand ambassador for Scotchtape and love working with the brand. They are the sponsors of National Wrapping Day and I’m constantly thrown with challenges of wrapping awkward shapes from guitars to food blenders, to dreaming up 50 uses of Scotch pop up tape. It’s really refreshing to work with a brand who are so enthusiastic and I never know what I will be challenged to do next.
Can you talk us through what a typical work day is like for you?
I work incredibly long hours as my work involves so many variations. As well as the gift wrapping school and services, a day can include designing ribbons, writing magazine columns, filming commercials, speaking at conferences, styling photo shoots, product launches, blogging, TV work and demonstrating. Since the launch and worldwide publication of my book ‘Giftwrapped’ I’ve started doing courses in Singapore and we’re looking at doing these in Australia and other worldwide destinations which is very exciting.
What has been the most challenging thing that you have ever been asked to wrap and how did you conquer it?
Whilst working at Harrods last year, I had the challenge of gift wrapping a china tea service which had to be packed in a suitcase to go to New York. It involved a lot of padding as the protection came before the presentation. I decided to pack it in a shallow circular box which was then wrapped. This was probably one of my biggest challenges whilst the gift wrapping team and customers looked on with amusement.
What type of client do you most encounter at your Gift Wrapping workshops, and what is your favorite element of running these classes?
Every workshop is different and it is usually a varied mix of ages, genre and nationalities. Most people attend alone and are a mixture of those wanting to improve their skills, enjoying a nice day out to those needing expertise because they have an online gift business, a bricks and mortar shop or have been sent by an employer or brand. I love meeting people and still feel so honored when people travel from all over the world to attend my courses. Many attendees have ended up joining our seasonal Gift Wrapping Team, so the courses are an ideal marketplace to pick the best of the best.
What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday?
I rarely get spare time out of the public eye, and when I do it is all about relaxing and enjoying peace and quiet. My husband lives in Singapore so I live in both UK and Asia. A long walk with a nice lunch finished off with a favorite film would be my ideal Sunday. Many weekends in the UK I head out to friends at their country homes or catch up with family.