Updating a Classic

photo from The World of Gloria Vanderbilt by Wendy Goodman

It seems that the art of fine writing is back. Almost all the blogger gift lists this holiday season included some stationery or cards and I’ve seen articles everywhere extolling the virtues of the hand written note. Perhaps it’s our dependency on the computer and internet that has everyone hankering for a bit of old fashioned civility. Or perhaps it’s all the talk about how luxury goods companies should focus on the heritage of their brands – just read the discussions from the IHT luxury conference in London this fall.  It brings to mind proper desks, elegant pens and monograms. New stationery lines are popping up every day with fun options for festive invitations or appreciative thank you notes.

One of the classic stalwarts in the realm of the printed note is William Arthur. They have been faithfully serving customers for 60 years. An understated reliable upscale brand, their lovely products don’t always make the current “it” lists, even thought they produce beautiful work (my quintessence business cards, which get endless compliments are theirs). This would all change if everyone knew about their incredibly chic and stylish blog. Subtlely linked to on the home page, I recently discovered this delightful online destination.

This is a veritable treasure trove of not only examples of beautiful stationery but fun and interesting tidbits that relate to the line. Even this charming monogram, for the “about us” section represents many of the thoughtful details evident that don’t appear on the main site. Take yesterday for example. The focus was Wedding Style/Save the Dates featuring this charming invite.

perfectly paired with this fabulous image of a country barn wedding

photo lovely + gracious

or this Caribbean colored save the date imagined for this destination nuptials

photo: martha stewart weddings

One of my favorite features is the Monthly Pairing, where one of their stationery items is matched up with another image that somehow echoes the same aesthetic. This month’s is the very charming Vera Wang Lotus Scallop wedding invitaion

paired with these fabulous 20th century French oyster/scallop plates

Of course it cemented my adoration that they included this tantalizing tidbit – “The scallop—which resembles the setting sun—was used as a badge of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.”

Considering the recent release of Intel’s fabulous video featuring Scott Schumann aka The Sartorialist, you might enjoy the Sartorial Stationery feature that matched fashion icons from Scott’s blog to William Arthur products. Take this great shot of Olivia Palermo (and her now famous Birkin) paired with the Vera Wang Damask Personalized Three-Fold Notes.

And then some of the entries aren’t linked to a product at all but are somehow associated with the concept of writing like last month’s Cleopatra/Papyrus, featuring Stacy Schiff’s wonderful Cleopatra and a brief history of papyrus. Fabulous!!

This is a beautifully designed, interesting, intelligent site that I would love even if it wasn’t promoting a product; but as a marketing venture, it’s brilliant!! It’s a perfect example of creative use of digital opportunities to update and modernize the image of a classic brand – everything done here, both visually and conceptually, directly and indirectly, only enhances the appeal of the product.  I only wish that William Arthur’s main site would take a hint from its oh so chic little sister!

55 thoughts on “Updating a Classic

  1. Is there anything more gorgeous than beautiful sttionary and notes?!

    Also, I have a Great New Giveaway from Blydesign! Come and enter!

    The Scallop Plates are fabulous!!

    Also, I have a Great New Giveaway from Blydesign! Come and enter!

    Art by Karena

    Art by Karena

    • Hi Karena – I always have several choices on hand. It’s great to have an assortment for different occasions.

  2. In my early career I designed personal stationery and invitations for a company in Toronto, since then I have always had a passion for stationery. Not just for the product but for the art of sending handwritten notes (my mother taught me well). I received tow in the mail yesterday and isn’t it the most wonderful pleasure? Lovely post and I have some William Arthur notecards, though I could also go for the Vera Wang set. Can never have too many notecards! XO

    • HI Sande – Oh designing stationery must have been fun! Getting a handwritten note is always a delight but unfortunately doesn’t happen often enough!! I agree – I think a wardrobe of stationery is a must!

  3. First may I say that I am a very big advocate of writing, not typing, not texting, not bbm’ing, not voicmeail but old fashioned writing especially to wish a congratulations, give a thank you,etc…..so glad to see its back. I have always been a big writer and people I know have always complimented me on it (though many of them do not) so am happy to see it making a comeback, I hope for good!
    Second, those wedding pictures were dreamy…the barn wedding…fabulous! The beach wedding, a fairytale. Wow…thank you for sharing those fabulous pictures. And thanks for your comments and stopping by my blog.
    Great job here!

    • EH – I think it is making a comeback – hopefully. And I think most people definitely appreciate the time and thought that goes into a hand written note.

  4. One of the loveliest things I enjoy receiving . . . a postcard, a greeting card (especially when it is not a birthday or holiday), a note, (gasp) a “letter” in (exterior) mailbox. Thank you, Quintessence! At last . . . everything old is new again.

    • Hi Catherine – Yes, I love when something old makes a new appearance (except for bad movie remakes). And I agree, it’s especially lovely to receive a note for no special occasion at all!

  5. There is no better feeling than getting an amazing card or a letter from someone you love. Lately, I find myself looking at stationary websites and shops all the time…Some of those stuff are truly magical..Sometimes I even want to frame a few:)
    Hugs and kisses, my dear

    • Hi Diana – I love getting notes as well and am always interested in the cards and stationery that people choose.

  6. I am absolutely passionate about stationery, bespoke or otherwise. In fact, my blog related stationery wardrobe is from William Arthur. I’ve moved quite a bit in the past decade and each time it was WA that I went used for my “new address” card. They were quality with just the right touch of panache.

    I hope the hand written note never goes away. Nothing brigthens my day more than seeing a handwritten note amongst the mail.

    • PPT – Your love of stationery is well documented and admired!! William Arthur had wonderful products and I hope this fabulous marketing tool brings them even more attention.

  7. I just discovered the William Arthur blog a few weeks ago myself while researching a post. I think it’s wonderful to see older brands using digital media to appeal to younger audiences. Onward and upward!

    xo Kelly

    • Hi Kelly – Exactly!! It’s a fabulous blog and will hopefully bring a wider appeal to their long established brand.

    • WA – Thank you!! So glad you liked our coverage of your wonderful site – keep up the great work!

    • Hi Kate – I agree – always a wonderful treat to get a letter in the mailbox!! Stay warm indeed – it’s FREEZING today!

  8. Hi Quintessence,
    I am envious of anyone who received stationary for Christmas this year…and perfume for that matter…both on my list, both missed….
    there is always next year…
    wonderful post…

    • Hi Maureen – I did indeed receive some lovely personalized stationery for Christmas – but no perfume!

  9. I love paper. I send cards and notes every week. Yesterday I mailed no less than 4. I much prefer to both send and receive written invitations and don’t get me started on “e-cards”. I do not know William Arthur but will be popping over. These pairings are great and oddly my daughter and I going to be doing a pairing tomorrow, words and images but still I used the word pairing as I wrote the post this morning so I still feel the connection a bit. The only thing I don’t like about sending written cards is my handwriting, just have never liked it much.

    • Hi Jeanette – How lovely that you send notes every week – what a thoughtful gesture!! You will love William Arthur – they have a wide assortment of lovely products. I particularly love the Very Wang collection. I’m sure your handwriting is lovely – if you’re not satisfied, you could always get a calligraphy book and practice!! Will stop by soon!

  10. I love the fact that writing handwritten notes is making a comeback. My mother being from the south drilled into me the importance of thank you notes, so I always pick up beautiful notes whenever I can so I have a stash handy when I need them. It’s one of those indulgences I realize now as I’m older that is a habit I can actually be proud of {!} Love that pairing of stationary with images–such a beautiful idea!

    xo Mary Jo

    • Hi Mary Jo – There are so many lovely southern gestures that I think we could adopt – this being one of course. Your mother was a good teacher!!

  11. I love good stationery. I have boxes of Smythson notelets designed by Giles that he gave me when he collaborated with them last year.

    Those plates are gorgeous. I have my eye on a majolica set but these are nicer xx

    • Hi Christina – Love Smythson of course – lucky you!! Aren’t those plates divine?! I’ve been looking for something like these for years.

    • Hi Tabitha – Good stationery is indeed a necessary luxury. I love having several different designs appropriate for different occasions. And those plates are indeed fabulous – one of the reasons I picked that pairing!!

  12. I love sending beautiful stationary thank you notes to clients. It seems because people got out of the habit of writing my clients are over the top to receive a personal, beautiful note.

    • AO – Love that you send thank you notes to your clients! I would indeed love to receive one from a designer I hired – and it would make me want to give them more work in the future!!

  13. Ah the hand written note! Wonderful when a daughter born in this decade decides to write a thank you note to her aunt at 10 pm on a school night for lovely earrings given to her months ago. The note was about the joy of wearing the earrings and written on monogrammed stationary that coincidentally were also a gift albeit from her contemporary! Looking for a stamp was a whole other experience! Thanks for this lovely reminder of the power of the written note!

  14. I tend to save the handwritten cards that i receive because they have that personal touch. I tend to collect beautiful stationary and have them as a part of a collection-waiting for the chance to send a thank you note, invite friends over for cocktail etc. I love the Vera Wang damask version a lot too! XX

    • Hi Stacey – How lovely that you save all your cards! I also have a collection of stationery to have on hand for last minute missives.

  15. Sort of a pendulum thing, fashion is, really don’t you think? We seem to lurch from one thing to another in response to our need for change. I agree that beautiful hand-made exquisite cards and papers are a wonderful antidote to the mass production that abounds. And somehow, if someone actually takes the time to write a real note, it is a special, special gift.

    • BF – Fashion is definitely cyclical as the old becomes new again. I think that a thoughtful note is always an appreciated gesture!

  16. I think this is a must! Nothing is more personal than writing, not typing! I love receiving notes or letters too. Those that do it to me has a better place.


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    PS: Q, thank you for your visit. I love seeing you there!

    • Hi Luciane – I think we all agree that handwritten notes are a tradition worth keeping alive. Nothing replaces the thought and effort that a note represents!

    • Hi Jeanne – Welcome back! Hope you had a nice trip in NY and a lovely stay at the beautiful Crosby (my old stomping grounds)!

  17. Nothing like a love letter or beautifully engraved invites to make one’s heart beat a little faster….in the mailbox!

    • pve – couldn’t agree more – just love seeing something other than bills with my name on them!

  18. I for one intend to keep the hand-written note alive. Just wish that parents would continue to teach the value of a well penned thank you to their children. I can’t remember the least time I received a written thank you from a niece or nephew for a gift. We are doing our children an injustice for not passing along this important slice of etiquette. Great post as always!

    • Hi Deb – Oh me too. Even my boys have personalized stationery. Our rule for the kids, however, is that if you received the present in person, and delivered a face to face thank you then a note is not necessary. But for any other situations, it’s a must as is a thank you for a house visit or birthday party gift that was not opened in the presence of the giver.

  19. Handwritten notes & stationery will never go out of style for me. I always write thank you notes, even for small things, and there’s really nothing like sending notes on beautiful paper – or better yet with your monongram! :) Great collection of items here.

  20. I love writing notes! I found that I write more often if I always have a variety of stationary & note cards at hand.
    I have my grandmother’s beautiful desk in the livingroom. It has many little drawers and nooks and a beautiful leather writing surface. I go there to write and the words flow. I think my grandmother must be smiling.
    William Arthur has an incredible selection and I applaud the talented author of their blog ; )
    Always wonderful to visit here.
    xo Lisa

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