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Graphic Communication Alumna Starts Reusable Fabric Gift Wrap Business

By Sophie Lincoln

America Romero
Cindy Estes

Since graduating from Cal Poly in 1989 with a degree in graphic communication, Cindy Estes has worked as a freelance graphic designer, a children’s clothing designer and an entrepreneur.

While she enjoyed her work designing clothes for her children’s clothing line, Seam, a few years ago, Estes was ready for something new. Around that same time, Estes’ longtime friend Monica O’Neil came up with a business idea while Christmas shopping.

“I’m at the register with a lot of giftwrap, about to spend a ton of money and I looked at the cashier, looked at my cart, looked at the cashier and I said, ‘this is such a waste’,” O’Neil said. “I said, ‘do you sell reusable gift bags?’ and it was a store that sold a lot of giftwrap. [The cashier] said ‘no, that’s a really good idea’ and I literally got in my car, and I was like ‘this is a really good idea. I’m going to do this.’”

In need of a creative partner, O’Neil called Estes to tell her about the idea.

“Monica called and I had all of the contacts,” Estes said. “So, we used all those contacts and a lot of those fabric sources to reach out to a lot of people, and then, we actually took some of the old Seam fabrics we hadn’t used, and we put them into Rapt.”

Estes’ and O’Neil’s business, Rapt, offers sustainable, reusable giftwrapping fabric. It is based off of the Japanese art of gift wrapping, called Furoshiki, which uses a simple folding technique to wrap gifts.

“The more Monica and I played with snap tape and extra stuff and elastic, we realized that the easiest way was just to build a square and then place the gift on a diagonal in the center, which is part of the history of Furoshiki in Japan,” Estes said.

Rapt Gift Wrap
Rapt Gift Wrap

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Estes began creating additional ‘accents’ to purchase with the fabrics, including pom poms made out of yarn and remainder ribbons and fabrics.

While her role at Rapt involves less design and creativity than some of her previous jobs, Estes says she is still able to utilize her graphic communication education.

“It came out in designing clothes [for Seam], and now, it’s coming out in designing the [Rapt] website, designing all of the printed materials and in photography,” Estes said.

Estes said that her main objective with Rapt is environmental.

“I feel like we really got into this from the standpoint of saving waste,” Estes said. “It feels kind of good all around, actually.”

Estes also said that the environmental priorities of younger generations makes her proud of Rapt.

“The other thing that’s been wonderful for us is that people in their teens and twenties are some of the people reaching out to ask about what we’re doing,” Estes said. “That is wonderful for us, as parents, to be able to know that we are doing something that means something to our children’s generation.”

Rapt offers three classic ensembles in red, navy and neutral, as well as seasonal ensembles, limited edition sheets, individual accents, gift tags and ribbon spools.

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