Hold me tight

The fashion show invitation is the perfect tool with which to build anticipation, sometimes even surpassing the offerings on the catwalk for creative ingenuity.

London Fashion Week is about to kick off. The doorbell rings. Burberry Prorsum’s invitation has arrived in a crisp envelope. As I unfold the thick double card within, an intricate pop-up cityscape of London takes shape. This is one for the mantelpiece.

Although seemingly a small part of a brand’s seasonal package, the fashion show invite is significant; luxury brands and niche labels alike invest considerable time and money to perfect them.

In the foreword to a newly published book on the subject, Invitation Strictly Personal, by Iain R. Webb, New York designer Anna Sui writes that she agonises as much over the weight of the paper and printing effects as the colour of the envelope. She even considers which stamp to use, as every detail must echo the vision of the collection she is about to unveil.

John Galliano: Autumn/Winter 2007

Show invitations come in many different guises. Some fashion houses seek to build continuity, sticking to one particular formula for a few seasons running; Italian brand Marni’s vividly coloured, logo-adorned paperboard card is one such example. Others prefer to surprise their audiences with something new every season. Emerging British menswear designer Kit Neale’s versions are as quirky as his collections.

A recent presentation involved an all-over print crawling with rats and cockroaches in fond homage to the south London area of Peckham. Come show time, Neale has had the fashion crowd lining up clutching anything from colourful car-freshening trees to paper dolls.

It doesn’t necessarily take a label as idiosyncratic as Kit Neale to dream up boundary-pushing concepts. Global powerhouses cut from a more conventional cloth often summon the fashion elite with a sense of fun. British brand Mulberry’s designs hold definite appeal. For the spring/summer 2012 show, press and buyers received an ice cream wafer that played a cheerful tune upon opening. Central Saint Martins art school alumna Sarah Thorne is the brains behind it.

Mulberry: Spring/Summer 2012


Zandra Rhodes: Spring/Summer 2007

What triggered the idea? “Mulberry’s collection was inspired by the ‘Great British Seaside’, so the wafer came directly from that theme,” Thorne explains. “I had been interested in musical birthday cards, hoping I could use that mechanism somehow. The Mulberry team had decided to park an ice cream van outside the show venue, so the two merged together.”

Are there any dos and don’ts when in the delicate process of designing invites? “They shouldn't give too much away, just subtly set the scene and build anticipation,” Thorne says. “I imagine opening it and how that would feel. I make lots of mock-ups, playing with board and different types of paper. I try to make everything in 3d as opposed to on-screen. Beyond that, it should just be as amazing as possible, and hopefully become a memento after the show.”


The late Alexander McQueen, enfant terrible of the fashion world, summoned press and buyers to his spring/summer 2005 show with a playing card invite suggesting “it’s only a game”.


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