A first for ROUGE: we take part in the London Design Festival 2014

August 13, 2014

For the first time ever, we're going to participate in this year's London Design Festival. Our event is called 'The Weight and Beauty of Japanese Money Giving Envelopes' and you can find it on the LDF events webpage.

The idea was sparked by a dear friend's wedding, which I attended earlier this year, in Sendai, the capital of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture.


I was impressed by the delicate, sophisticated money giving envelopes the couple received, as is the tradition in Japan. Once they had served their purpose, these beautiful envelopes became rubbish. Nobody had any further use for them, and my friends were happy to give them to me.

After the wedding, I took the opportunity to travel in Miyagi Prefecture for a few days, before returning to London.

The importance that the Japanese culture places on the presentation of gifts and the amount of wrapping material used struck me as quite different from the British culture, where the gift usually matters more than its presentation. I kept contemplating whether I could find other creative uses for the money giving envelopes I was carrying around with me. And of course, I wondered about the environmental impact of the lavish Japanese gift wrapping custom.

Back home I showed my envelopes to family, colleagues and friends. As gift wrapping is part of our daily business at ROUGE, we all admired them and came up with more questions, such as ‘how much does the small heap of envelopes handed over at one Japanese wedding actually weigh?' and 'how many traditional weddings take place in Japan in a year?’ From this dialogue developed the idea to sign up for the London Design Festival (13th to 21st September 2014) and to showcase the envelopes in an installation at ROUGE that would reflect the layers of aesthetic pleasure and questions they inspired in us.

Seeking to encourage visitors to explore and design new ways of presenting a gift, we decided to complement the installation with a creative hands-on workshop that informally ties the art of gift wrapping in with a conversation about the aesthetic and social value of the Japanese gift giving custom and its environmental impact. We will run the workshop twice, on Sunday, 14th September, at 2pm - 4pm and on Wednesday, 17th September, at 7pm - 9pm. Please note that the workshops are free to attend.

For the practical side, our current work-in-progress plan is to combine origami, the art of paper folding, with some interesting Japanese gift knots and to think about ways to make the wrapping part of the gift. In addition, we intend to look into using cloth and, possibly, other sustainable gift wrapping materials (that we are still sourcing as we are preparing our event).

Speaking of preparation – we will keep posting about ‘The Weight and Beauty of Japanese Money Giving Envelopes’ on this blog and on facebook and instagram. So stay tuned!

If you feel like contributing something to our event – it could be knowledge, skill or even an anecdote – please email me at lei@rouge-shop.co.uk. I would love to hear from you.

Looking forward to seeing you at ROUGE during the London Design Festival - or anytime!