Few occasions lend themselves to the seamless melding of art and personality as well as a wedding. The ceremony might take place in a house of worship that is in itself an architectural marvel or it might occur outside against a dramatic backdrop of nature such as soaring mountains or a sun-kissed meadow, a scene that is worthy to be the subject of a fine oil landscape painting. Music might range from the regal strains of a pipe organ playing Handel to the exuberant dance music at the reception. Gorgeous flowers, ancient readings and modern poetry provide more opportunities to personalize the artistic elements of the big day.
But this idea can extend to paper as well—as a new art-driven stationery line is showing. With their boutique online retail offerings, Dixie Design Collective connects style-conscious brides with designs by well-known artists.
Necessity: The Mother of all Invention
Jennifer Hunt, a Russellville native who has called Mountain Brook home for 11 years, founded Dixie Design Collective in 2015 after she became frustrated in her search for the perfect Christmas card. Although Jennifer’s degree said “accounting,” her heart said “art,” which resulted in her running her own art gallery that specialized in photography before venturing into the world of paper. When Jennifer couldn’t find a card that reflected the artistic aesthetic she had in mind, she drew on that experience in the art world and took matters into her own hands. Dixie Design Collective, named after her beloved childhood pet Boston Terrier, was born.
One of Jennifer’s first moves was to approach Holly Hollon, a local calligrapher and graphic designer whose work Jennifer had long admired, about joining her new venture. Holly recalls their first meeting with a laugh. “I wasn’t even sure why she wanted to meet with me, and I certainly wasn’t looking to take on more responsibility, but she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer!”
When Holly signed on as creative director, she began the process of seeking out artists whose work she felt would satisfy the lofty standards Jennifer had set for Dixie Design Collective. The company currently works with more than 20 designers from as close as Birmingham to as far away as Seattle and South Africa. Jennifer offers high praise for Holly’s eye for talent. “Holly has her thumb on that creative world,” she says. As a result, the two women have been able to attract many sought-after artists to create exclusive artwork for stationery products from holiday cards to birth announcements to invitations.
Going to the Chapel
Once the company launched and orders for Christmas cards started pouring in, the move to offer wedding invitations and other bridal stationery seemed like a natural progression. Jennifer says that after the second year of holiday sales, she realized, “Okay, we have all of these wonderful everyday items, we have our holiday products, but when you think of paper, you think of weddings. We loved what we offered in all those other categories, but wedding was missing.”
Launching the wedding collection was a huge undertaking to identify designers who could bring their strengths to invitations that were frame-worthy for a bride’s special day. After working for months, the line was officially introduced in August 2017 with a two-day event that included an evening launch party featuring wedding stationery-themed tablescapes and then an Etiquette and Entrepreneurship luncheon the next day for the creative career woman. Both events featured Myka Meier, etiquette director at the Plaza Hotel in New York and founder of Beaumont Etiquette, a top etiquette consulting firm.
Jennifer and Holly, firm believers in the importance of proper etiquette, are happy to help direct a bride who’s uncertain with questions that may arise concerning wedding invitations. “Etiquette can seem so stuffy and unapproachable, but it doesn’t have to be,” Jennifer says. Both ladies believe that social rules don’t have to be intimidating, and they welcome opportunities to lessen the stress that already nervous brides might be feeling.
Dixie Design Collective offers couples the opportunity to “brand” their special day with a seamless, unified theme throughout all their wedding stationery. Each wedding suite is composed of just about every piece of wedding paper imaginable. From the initial save-the-date to stationery for thank-you notes and everything in between—think wedding programs, accommodation details and menus—the bride and groom can present their guests with beautiful pieces that reflect an artistic vision that goes beyond the usual wedding copperplate on heavy linen paper. Holly notes that their typical bride is one with “high style expectations but also wants to work within a budget.” The quick turnaround on orders is a bonus, too.
Jennifer and Holly both agree that one of the most exciting things about Dixie Design Collective’s wedding stationery is the opportunity for brides to have an artist’s exclusive designs at non-custom prices. All of the designers are artists who already have an impressive portfolio in graphic design and art, and they are carefully selected for their ability to bring something new and fresh to a typically traditional market. Jennifer is adamant: “It has to look hand-made. We want to set ourselves apart from the myriad of stationery companies out there. We want ours to have a custom and unique feel to it, even though it’s semi-custom.”
While wedding stationery is certainly a traditional product, online retail is not, although it’s becoming more prevalent. Jennifer admits that she prefers the freedom of online retail to the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. “We’re all able to work out of our homes,” she says. With an appealingly clean and easy-to-navigate website, the products are simple to find, and advertising comes through the testimonials and recommendations of satisfied customers. For online retail, she says, social media, bloggers and influencers are the best form of advertisement.
For Jennifer, Dixie Design Collective offers the opportunity to combine two passions, art and paper, into a product sure to please the discerning customer. For brides overwhelmed at the sheer number of choices for wedding invitations, Dixie Design Collective provides one-stop shopping for their paper needs—and all the more so for their desire for artist expression.
Trends and Traditions
Tips from Dixie Design Collective’s Creative Director Holly Hollon
Couples today are feeling more confident in their decisions to break free from many long-held wedding traditions, but Holly cautions against getting too carried away when it comes to wedding stationery. Nothing worse for a bride, she says, than “looking back on her wedding five or 10 years from now and thinking, ‘Gosh, I hate that I did that.’” With that in mind, Holly recommends:
- Keeping the actual invitation fairly classic. Traditional wording will stand the test of time. Be sure to use both inner and outer envelopes, which help keep the invitation looking fresh.
- Adding a fun pattern to your envelope liner. Here is where it’s okay to express yourself a little more.
- Experimenting with wedding suites that contain watercolor elements. This is a current trend that feels both timeless and contemporary.
- Allowing a bit more personality to shine through other wedding papers. Save-the-dates, menus, programs and wedding weekend details are all areas where it’s easier to use less formal language and fun details that might not be suitable for an invitation.