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The Joy of Bespoke Stationery for the Holiday Season

This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s blog Luxury Defined.

Bespoke stationers understand the importance of the personalized, and how the perfect event begins with the perfect invitation—Luxury Defined looks at where to go when only the best stationery will do.

When the holiday season comes around and a beautiful invitation or letter arrives in the mail, you know that someone has really put thought into it—from what style of invite would best evoke the event and which words to put on the front, to the typeface, colour, and thickness of card, die-stamping, or embossing. No text or email can ever match the thrill of receiving something handmade—and if it’s thick and embossed with your name in gold letters, so much the better. We profile three of the best bespoke stationery companies around.

Barnard & Westwood

Barnard & Westwood stationery
Barnard & Westwood produces everything from personalized stationery, business cards, and brochures through to event invitations, menus, and place cards for the table. Banner image: A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson’s atelier in Paris.

London’s Barnard & Westwood fine printers and bookbinders has been producing bespoke handmade invitation, stationery, greetings cards, and journals since 1921. It specializes in combining traditional skills and methods with modern technology to produce beautiful pieces of print, and what’s more, is the proud holder of two Royal Warrants granted by both Her Majesty The Queen (held for more than a quarter of a century) and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales (granted in 2012).

“Every project is different, and we take great pride in tailoring each invitation to the needs of each individual client,” says director Alasdair Abrines. “Giving an invitation the desired wow factor” can be achieved through many different means, be that using traditional raised printing methods such as die-stamping or selecting textured papers to give the material itself a unique tactile finish.”

Invite to Vivienne Westwood event by Barnard & Westwood
Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is one of Barnard & Westwood’s high-profile clients.

Barnard & Westwood has worked with a huge array of companies and institutions such as Moët Hennessy, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Design Museum and, of course, The Royal Household.

Whenever possible, it invites customers to visit its workshop close to London’s revitalized King’s Cross neighborhood, as the process of designing an invitation, or any stationery, is a very tactile and creative process. “Clients might draw inspiration from walking through our factory and seeing our artisans at work. Or perusing their collection of printed samples showing what can be achieved through the different processes,” says Abrines.

Barnard & Westwood letterpress
At Barnard & Westwood, skilled craftsmen specialize in a variety of different printing and bookbinding techniques including die-stamping, letterpress, foil blocking, embossing, gilding, and thermography.

Customers will often bring in their own designs and or artwork, but Barnard & Westwood is also able to work from ideas. “From the moment the invitation drops through the letterbox you are setting the tone of the event and establishing your guests’ expectations,” says Abrines. “Through our years of experience in designing and producing printed event stationery we can ensure your invitations convey the right message and give guests a sneak preview of what to expect on the night.”


Mrs. John L. Strong

Invite by Mrs. John L. Strong
New York City-based Mrs. John L. Strong is known for its creative and modern bespoke stationery designs, made using traditional printing techniques.  

Founded in 1929, New York City’s Mrs. John L. Strong still uses traditional techniques to create invitations and embossed monogrammed paper and envelopes. “In a fast-paced world of digital communication, Mrs. John L. Strong still upholds the tradition of the written word,” as its mission statement puts it.

Flora, the original Mrs. John L. Strong, worked from her sister’s trousseau shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the company’s HQ is still on Madison Avenue. Clients can visit the bricks-and-mortar store to browse stationery from an archive of house dies or commission something truly bespoke, including monograms, family crests, lettering, and more.

Mrs. John L. Strong also produces place cards, so you can ensure your dinner party guests are perfectly positioned, along with menu cards and coasters for drinks.


A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson

A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson design
Traditional craft methods are used at A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson, which is a treasure trove for lovers of pattern and design.

The founders of A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson met when they were working as freelance paper conservators, saving wallpapers in some of France’s oldest palaces.

Working on a project in Auvergne they needed to replace 18th-century “Domino”—decorative sheets of paper used on walls, distinguishable by their 16.5-inch (42 cm) by 12.6-inch (32 cm) size. When they struggled to find exactly what they were looking for, Julie Stordiau, Vincent Farelly and Jean-Baptiste Martin decided to make their own, establishing A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson, with the aim of bringing lost wallpaper techniques back to life. 

Domino papers by A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson
A Paris Chez Antoinette Poisson’s range of Domino papers, based on original decorative wall sheets from the 18th century.

Today the trio, working from an atelier in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, produces colourful domino papers, some inspired by their 18th-century counterparts, others original designs, wallpaper roll, notebooks, and stationery, all handmade using traditional methods. 

A flamboyant Rococo design, rediscovered by the Antoinette Poisson team, recently caught the eye of Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, leading to a collaboration that led to the designs being used for Gucci’s summer 2018 resort collection as well as on the hand-painted floor of the newly refurbished Gucci Wooster boutique in New York City.


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