Every so often I get a publicist pitch telling me that in these days of email, there's a renewed interest in handwritten notes. I'm skeptical, but there is definitely something seductive about great paper -- stationery, wrapping paper, notebooks -- even if you never actually use it.
As we head into prime wedding season, I'm also reminded of how much the process of creating wedding invitations has changed since I was married 25 Junes ago. Invitations now come in every shape, color, and font imaginable, offering great opportunities for both meaningful personlization and really horrendous taste.
Enter Wanda Wen, who combines these two themes as the paper-loving the proprietor of Soolip, a paperie in West Hollywood (and online), a designer of letterpress stationery, and the curator of A Soolip Wedding, a selective annual gathering of wedding vendors who share her aesthetic.
DG: Why paper? What does it have in common with the other fashion businesses you've worked in?
Wanda Wen: I have had a fascination with paper since a young age, taking interest in writing letters, mail art, stamps, ephemera, and packaging. I appreciate paper's accessibility in all forms - as everyday, ubiquitous material - i.e. kraft paper bags, thin white sandwich bags, as well as luxurious special-occasion component - i.e. silkscreened Japanese Yuzen, hand-marbled Italian sheets, deckle-edged 100% cotton sheets.
Having had a background in the fashion industry, I approach paper as "fashion." One's personal stationery, calling cards, invitations, and greeting cards are all absolutely an extension of one's aesthetic and personality. There is a breadth of choices in paper, just as much as there is in fashion. When one wants to make a statement putting forth a blue-blood, well-monied air, one set of personal stationery might be engraved in midnight blue, on a 100% cotton thick cardstock, perhaps edged in gold. When that same individual wants to make a fashion-forward statement, she may opt for a set of letterpressed notes printed using two ink colors in a chic typeface.
Similarly, if a classic bride desires a wedding that is formal and conservative, she may choose a classic script typeface, engraved in black on a sturdy cardstock with envelopes lined in a decorative gold sheet. On the other end of the spectrum, a chic, modern bride who is getting married on a farm or ranch would most likely opt for a letterpressed invitation using 100% cotton paper with deckle edges, and possibly enhancing the invitation with pressed flowers and a touch of skinny gold twine wrapped around.
DG: You've written a book on gift-wrapping (The Art of Gift Wrapping: 50 Innovative Ideas Using Organic, Unique, and Uncommon Materials). Why go to a lot of effort to wrap a gift when the wrapping is just going to be torn off?
WW: Why does one get dressed in the morning, to head to a business meeting or an evening affair, to only return home and take off their clothes and put on their sweats, pajamas, or nothing? Its all in the presentation.
Seriously, taking time to put thought into wrapping a present for someone shows that you care.
DG: Who are your customers?
WW: Our customers are those who appreciate paper and generally are in tune with aesthetic. Many work in the design industry - graphic, interior, architecture, fashion, and the entertainment business. Though our customer base includes more women, our male clients are very loyal. We also receive a lot of support from those in the event industry.
DG: What are Soolip weddings and how did that idea come about?
WW: The event, A Soolip Wedding, is an event that caters to the modern bride, hopefully inspiring her with beauty in all facets of wedding planning, and providing resources and information that will help her successfully plan a wedding that is perfect in her eyes. I conceptualized this event back in 1999 as I felt there there needed to be one place where the bride and groom with a more modern and refined taste level, could go and find a curated collection of bridal-related resources, offering invitations, flowers, cakes, party favors, gowns, jewels, etc., resources who generally would not be caught dead in the typical convention-center-type bridal fairs. I have always envisioned this event to be a "fashion" experience, as well as being a bridal event, offering the bride a hi-fashion experience with the fashion show, where we typically feature one headline designer.
A Soolip Wedding has become the wedding event of choice by many colleagues in the wedding and event industry. For newcomers in the industry, it is an opportunity to be sitting next to well-known and respected brand names like Harry Winston, Monique Lhuillier, The Peninsula, Williams-Sonoma, giving them an immediate validation in the marketplace. For more mature businesses, it is an opportunity to be in the company of a distinguished group of event providers, thereby strengthening or maintaining their brand name in the industry.
Q: What do your wedding partners have in common?
WW: Our wedding partners are generally very passionate about their businesses and their craft. Their heart and soul are involved, its not just about making money. They generally cater to an upscale market, where the customer is most-likely well-traveled, sophisticated, and appreciates a modern aesthetic.
DG: How has what couples (or brides) want in a wedding changed over the past decade or two?
WW: More than ever, couples desire weddings where intentions are heartfelt, where their wedding is deeply rooted in either cultural heritage or personal values. I find that couples are desiring more intimate weddings, compared to the lavish-for-lavish sake events that were ubiquitous a decade ago.
DG: What does "wedding glamour" mean to you?
WW: A bride and groom who are self-assured and confident, sexy in their own skin, dressed in a gown and a suit/tux that represents who they are, and TOTALLY in love with each other.
DG: Does the idea of a "fairy-tale wedding" still appeal to brides? If so, what does it mean?
WW: Yes, the "fairy-tale wedding" still appeals to brides. However, I think the term has taken on a somewhat of a negative connotation. Brides still want the perfect wedding, but the sophisticated bride certainly wouldn't refer to hers as desiring a "fairy-tale wedding." The "fairy-tale wedding" or "perfect" wedding is one where the bride plays the main part in this beautiful and enchanted fantasy that she has dreamed up for herself, sometimes for years and years. The wedding is the one time in a woman's life where it is socially okay to go all out and be extravagant on herself, and throw a party where all her favorite things are in place - the perfect gown, the most amazing food, her most favorite flowers, invitations that connote this special event, her personal self at her best and most beautiful.
I've been saying for years, and hoping that this resonates with brides and grooms, my idea of a perfect wedding. It is rooted in gratitude, living in the present, and respecting each other and the wedding guests, versus the "fairy-tale wedding," which is rooted in a self-serving mentality.
A perfect wedding is one in which all the unexpected surprises and events turn into the most glorious and memorable moments.
It is one in which all the details are tended to, and where each and every guest feels special, honored and considered.
A perfect wedding is one that is a reflection of the bride and groom, and nobody else.
Finally, a perfect wedding is one in which the process of getting married is as fun as the wedding day itself, and that most importantly, that the meaning behind getting married is not lost in the process.
DG: Explain the idea of a couple's garden.
WW: Wanting to integrate something meaningful and grounding into the process of getting married, and desiring to see individuals play their part in stewardship of the Mother Earth, the very thing that sustains us all, the Couple's Garden was born. The idea is for the newly-engaged to plant an edible and/or floral garden during their engagement period, sharing the bounty with their family and friends at the wedding, whether it be lettuce greens to be used in the salad at the wedding dinner, or flowers that they've grown together to be a part of the bride's bouquet as she walks down the aisle. The garden symbolizes birth, nurturing, growth and sustenance, all qualities that a healthy marriage is made of.
I think more than ever, couples are wanting to find more meaning in their wedding, and are taking more interest in creating things of their own, DIY in some cases. I see this as a good trend, and something that bodes well for the health of our society.
The DG Dozen
1) How do you define glamour? Self-assured, charming, and sexy but in a graceful way
2) Who or what is your glamorous icon? Marilyn Monroe
3) Is glamour a luxury or a necessity? Neither. It is a character trait that just "is".
4) Favorite glamorous movie? Can't think of one right now.
5) What was your most glamorous moment? Going to a ball in the 1980's at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a bunch of conservative lawyers and their wives, and wearing a flesh-colored fish-scale sequin long body-conforming dress, with silver Skull Earrings, all by Stephen Sprouse. Far from being a celebrity at 26 years old and being new to NYC, I made it in the society pages, probably because of that dress.
6) Favorite glamorous object (car, accessory, electronic gadget, etc.)? My mother's vibrant green Jade and Diamond Ring from Hong Kong
7) Most glamorous place? Paris
8) Most glamorous job? Any job where one is at the top of their game. They call the shots. That is alluring, sexy and powerful.
9) Something or someone that other people find glamorous and you don't Fashion industry jobs
10) Something or someone that you find glamorous whose glamour is unrecognized My Mother
11) Can glamour survive? Of course. Always.
12) Is glamour something you're born with? Don't think so. Glamour comes with maturity and wisdom.