Back in the day, I wrote about the world of fashion for a bunch of big-time newspapers. I covered the models, the designers and the people who loved them. But one of the more interesting perks of the job—if you want to call it a perk—was covering New York Fashion Week. Seven to nine days of glamour, booze and cigarettes in the town so nice they named it twice.
If you’ve never been to Fashion Week, I promise you you’re not really missing anything. It turns out to be little more than a trade show for people who ask for cucumber water as an entrée. The snippets they show on E! News or Entertainment Tonight are literally all of the good parts. The rest is just hours and hours of standing in line next to people who use their blinged-out cellphones to call someone named “Heeeey giiiirl!”
And while I might come across as jaded (there’s only so much you can say about tulle on a regular basis), the one aspect of the experience that I still find fascinating is the power of the invitation. If you are lucky enough to get an invite from a designer to one of his or her shows, it could be the most extravagant and/or bizarre thing you’ve ever received in the mail. I once had a doll’s head show up tied to a non-matching leg via twine, paired with a note telling me where to find the rest of my baby. Once there, waiters wearing diapers served champagne. I should have picked up on the foreshadowing, as those diapers were the last defense between us and what we were about to experience on the runway. And, sure enough, my doll’s torso was waiting for me on my seat when I arrived.
Other invites I’ve received included everything from carved fertility gods to key-ring flashlights that projected the event details on a wall or other flat surface—both remarkably handy in the dark.
Nevertheless, my point is that as party season bears down upon us, we need to up our game when it comes to invitations. One wrong move and it’ll look like you’re throwing a birthday party for a 6-year-old at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And no one is coming to that.
Remember, an invitation is only an invitation if it’s memorable. And it’s the first impression of your event. A decapitated doll may not be the vibe you’re going for this season, but there are many other less traumatic options out there. So here are some inspirations from local professionals and also some of my personal favorites from Fashion Week.
Say what you will about Kanye West’s hideous Yeezy collection; at least his invitations are interesting. From windbreakers to long-sleeve T-shirts, West’s invites are printed on usable clothing that, thankfully, isn’t from his own line. Best of all, they tend to arrive just two hours before the show is scheduled, meaning you probably won’t be able to make it. Aww, shucks. That’s probably not a good plan in Southwest Florida, as we tend to like to have time to think of an excuse, but with a little more warning, printing details onto the front of a UV-protective Snikwah crewneck would be pretty awesome. snikwah.com
Lighting the way
Event planner Milda Vaivada of Soiree Atelier in Naples handles some of the more upscale parties locally (and abroad) and has delivered some pretty outrageous invitations to her clients in the past. “I recently did a Taj Mahal-themed dinner for Susan and Gary Garrabrant (for a Naples Winter Wine Festival Friday night dinner), and the invitation was an actual lantern with a candle inside,” Vaivada says. “It was 12 inches high and bejeweled with turquoise gemstones.” (We presume the lantern was unlit, as the Postal Service frowns upon flaming packages.) The details of the dinner were etched in Mylar, and the entire thing was delivered in a box that featured one-of-a-kind paper designed exclusively for the event. She’s now even thinking of doing snow globes as invitations if the right event pops up. “Ted Turner used them for his 70th birthday with a 3-D image of him inside,” Vaivada says. “But you need a fairly large event to keep the costs down.”
Louis Vuitton did little three-dimensional paper blouses as invitations a few seasons back. No more than 7 inches high, they included laser-cut lace collars with mother-of-pearl buttons down the front. Super cute. You were pretty sure what you were getting yourself into with that invite. LV, as you might expect, has their stuff together when it comes to things like invitations. They’ve done origami invites and, my personal favorite, leather luggage tags that were handcrafted at their factory. Vaivada created laser-cut invitations two years ago for another NWWF Friday night dinner for the Garrabrants, themed You Oughta Be in Pictures. Using the Busby Berkeley theme, she designed a multi-tier laser-cut invitation that folded out to feature cut-out dancing girls on various stages. Laser cuts allow for such intricate detail that you can’t help but stare. The more detailed, the better.
Silk-screening your party invitation onto miniature parachutes and then launching them into a crowd so that they float down and land onto invitees certainly creates great theater, but one gust of wind can have you hosting people you’ve never met before. So most invitations of this nature tend to come in a standard bubble-wrap envelope with the understanding that you will throw it into the air yourself for hours of enjoyment. Hopefully the party will be more fun. Embroidering party information on a piece of fabric is another cool option that is both fun and tactile. Of course, you could also silk-screen details onto a handkerchief that can be folded and mailed out. Make it really nice and your event will live on for years and years of people blowing their noses or wiping their glasses.
Belgian designer Dries Van Noten’s invitation to his summer 2015 women’s collection was a clear plastic pill box filled with moss. Show details were printed in white on the front of the clear box. (The moss was a hint to a theme for the upcoming show, as the runway was covered in the stuff.) Adding a bit of nature gives invitees a nice textural sense that also implies you’re environmentally sensitive—even though you had to cut down a tree to do it. DM Paper Designs in Fort Myers has been known to send out cross-cut trees and air plants as part of their invitations. dmpaperdesigns.com
It stands to reason that if you are going to go to all of the trouble of throwing a party, the least you can expect from your guests is to make them work for it a little bit. It’s always fun to print details in a negative format, requiring guests to put the cards up to mirrors to read them properly. Other options feature it as a card with one side of smooth foil against the reverse-printed information. Kelly McWilliams Events of Cape Coral can do such glamour better than most. kellymcwilliams.com