Meet The Founder…
“You owe me $40.” That’s what Ashley Fouyolle put on her best friend’s birthday gift. Ironic, right?! In fact, she personally designed his wrapping paper just for him. She knew that he loved Supreme, so she created her own red logo-inspired paper. Instead of saying “Supreme,” it read, “you owe me $40.” Needless to say, everyone at the party couldn’t stop laughing! That is what gift-giving means to young Brooklynite, Ashley Fouyolle. For her, gifting is about the experience and the revelation of unveiling something special, given between friends or family.
Fouyolle can actually pinpoint the moment that changed the course of her life. She reflects on her time at Baruch College with fervor, learning that failure can be the best ingredient for success. Fouyolle began her journey at Baruch pursuing a degree in marketing. However, after failing a required math course she questioned if marketing was the right path for her. She took a leap of faith and decided to enter design. Ashley now reflects on that “failure” with gratitude, for if she had not flunked out of her math requirement she would have never found her passion. Fast forward 5 years after graduating in 2013, and she has been features in a number of magazines from Essence to Ebony and beyond only a year into starting her gift-wrapping company, UNWRP. Not only does UNWRP reconfigure our relationship to gift-giving, but Fouyolle emphasizes the beauty of something that may now seem so archaic: paper.
I’ve always loved paper for how versatile and dynamic it is! I had made a habit of personalizing my friends’ gift wrap. There’s something special about watching someone open a gift that has been personalized for them. It makes the experience of gift-giving that much more enjoyable because it makes them feel special. It is really about the art of something tangible in an age where we do not cherish physical experiences. The way paper moves and bends excited me.
Seeing your designs in person means a lot. I often think about catering a gift to someone specifically. It is about the art of gifting. Paper is not alive. The internet crashes. I want something I can hold. It’s a physical memory of that moment.
Ashley Fouyolle’s work conveys just that. Each UNWRP design features vibrant colors and lively imagery. She takes paper seriously, as it is the original and timeless medium through which humans have always recorded our lives. Paper, although not immortal, is precious. We still hold dear our favorite old photographs, works of art, books, cards, and magazines. We may be sinking deeper into the digital abyss, but Ashley Fouyolle sees beyond the quotidian artifices that we depend on for every day life to the existential question of what makes a memory special? Fouyolle is re-personalizing moments that Instagram and Twitter can’t capture. There’s nothing like touching and experiencing a gift so personal in an age where everything is made for everyone to see. She allows us to be selfish again through giving. Spoken like a true Brooklyn-native, she even credits Brooklyn for her outlook on life:
I am a Brooklynite through and through! Brooklyn taught me passion! It gave me culture. Growing up here made me understand what love truly means. Like we say, ‘spread love it’s the Brooklyn way!’
However poetic that may seem, Fouyolle is aware that a paper company may seem more like a hobby than a life-long passion. She is adamant about the respect that UNRWP deserves.
This is not a side hustle. Unwrp is not a small business. I don’t like that term. It’s not a small business because it consumes so much of my time. I started this out of my bedroom, and I live and breathe it. I do everything. I’m doing social media, email, and printing. When you contact or order from UNWRP, it’s me.
UNWRP, isn’t just a wrapping paper company, either. The site also features wallpaper, Japanese-style reusable gift wrap, gift tags, and ribbon. It all has to do with paper, but absolutely no corners are cut. The designs are vibrant and each product feels as though it will stand the test of time. Her reusable “fabric wrap,” in particular, stands out as a product for those of us who want something a bit more fortified.
These are reusable cloth inspired by a Japanese form of wrapping gifts called Furoshiki.Furoshiki cloth does not need to be taped, and can be folded in a variety of ways. Even though paper is great, it still decays. Cloth can be kept for much longer and reused for many different gifts. That way it becomes more personal because it stays with you.
In addition to featuring a variety of products, UNWRP also showcases work by other designers. As a designer herself, it was important to Fouyolle to create a platform for digital artists to see their work manifest in real life.
I had been following and admiring so many graphic designers and artists, so I just hit them up on Instagram! I don’t know where I’d be without social media. I was able to reach out to people I had already been following and pitch them my idea. To my surprise many of them said yes! I had ideas for things I wanted to see, of course, but I really wanted to showcase digital artists that don’t really get a chance to see their stuff in the physical world.Designing paper is a great way to do that. I also wanted to emphasize the art of giftwrap. A lot of times when you get a gift in really nice paper, you say, ‘oh this is so pretty,’ but you don’t get to enjoy it outside of that moment. This way you can save the paper and even frame it, and keep it as art because that’s what it is.
Fouyolle speaks of fervently of collaborator, Kimothy Joy, whose work you may recognize from one of Gucci’s “In Bloom” fragrance campaigns. She continued to ensure the Fouyolle was being recognized for her work and creativity.
Kimothy Joy was really down to earth. She had an established platform and was still willing to meet with me. She didn’t just provide designs. Kimothy made sure that I was the face of the brand. Most of the artists that I work with, I have a personal relationship with. This is a true partnership.
From inception to delivery, UNWRP centers art. Fouyolle references design from unexpected places and incorporates them in her own way.
It used to be that people didn’t encourage you to go into the arts. I ignored that and wanted to follow my passion. Now, with such a visual culture, it’s the number one influence. I started off with a small capsule of cultural references from Off White, Rugby RL, to the the beloved Tumblr. There are so many different designs and infinite places to get inspiration from. Similar to how nail artist work, pulling ideas and displaying your interpretation on such a small canvas. I’ve always admired their creativity.
Believe it or not, UNWRP is less than a year old! With so much success already, it’s clear that Ashley Fouyolle is going places! As social interactions become less and less personal and in-person, people may be clamoring for products like hers as they look for ways to maintain human connection. Sentimentality is surely on the rise. Fouyolle herself has her own visions for the kinds of collaborations she’d like to pursue.
I’ve always said that I would love to collaborate with Swizz Beats. I relate to him because he is creating a platform for newer artists. He’s on the mood board for sure.
Even though she has accomplished so much in just a year, she remains humble about her process. When asked for advice for young entrepreneurs, she is straight forward.
Just start! There is no right way to start a business. No one has everything figured out right away. But if you don’t start you’ll never know what can come from it.