A recognized force in the design world Ceci Johnson is an influential and highly regarded entrepreneur, artist, editor, speaker, loving wife and mother. Her career has been dedicated to the pursuit of beautiful living through design. Ceci’s powerhouse design agency, Ceci New York, is globally regarded as the leader in luxury invitation design. Ceci herself has been widely recognized as the founder of “Couture Invitation Design”. Her fashion-forward style and sophisticated aesthetic have lead her to be named by Tory Burch as a “Woman to Watch” and called by Anna Wintour of Vogue magazine “a favorite designer”.
It was in NYC with an invitation she created for a coworker’s wedding, that the Ceci New York story began. One referral lead to another, and then rapidly multiplied over the course of the years. In 2004, armed with a fierce desire to disrupt an industry that did not offer true “couture” invitation designs, Ceci established her eponymous New York agency. Her New York studio has won numerous awards including the prestigious ModernBride “Trendsetter” award, named “Expert Stationer” by New York Magazine and won successive “Best Of Invitation Design” awards.
Ceci has designed for international luxury brands, celebrities, rock stars, artists, royalty, dignitaries, presidents and titans of industry along with lovers of great design from around the globe. Her corporate client list includes “The Emmy’s”, Perrier Jouet, Patek Philippe, Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons and Hugo Boss to name just a few.
Here are some excerpts from the interview conducted with the highly acclaimed Ceci Johnson, where we get an insight about how she turned her passion into a career option that has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception.
Where do you get your inspiration from for you stunning invitation designs?
I truly believe inspiration is everywhere. You just have to open your mind to see it. We find inspiration in everything especially fashion, travel, culture and the world around us. Sometimes, just walking down the streets of NYC can be inspiring. But our ultimate inspiration is our clients. We love being inspired by them – what excites them, excites us and from there we combine that with our own vision and dreams –that’s where the magic happens. It may sound kind of funny, but I’m always tucking away in my memory, all the inspiring things I see. When I meet clients that I think those ideas would be perfect for, they surface and come out even better than I originally imagined.
What is the most unique invitation you have designed?
Every invitation is unique. We pour our whole heart and soul into our projects as they are very personal works of art for our clients. Plus, we always strive to challenge ourselves every day on each new creative project as we’re constantly pushing to innovate and create what’s never been done before. It’s boring to do the same thing over and over again. We thrive on creating unique, never-been-seen before, jaw dropping invitation statement pieces exclusively for our clients. Coming up with new ideas every day is the best challenge ever!
Do you have advice for Brides and Grooms who are just starting out on their search for a designer?
With all the time, effort and money you put into your wedding, it’s worth it to find someone dependable, creative and with a sharp eye for detail in order to be sure it all comes together for you. Cutting corners, never works out in your favor. That being said, relax and try to enjoy the process – you’ll have way more fun that way. Always go with your gut and follow your heart when making decisions on who to work with for your creative team. Once you hire them, turn yourself over completely and let them do what they do best. That’s when the innovation happens. To me, it’s the ultimate luxury to have a designer, design and create exclusively for you! Do not drive yourself crazy looking online at thousands of images of what has already been done before. Trust your creative professionals to take you to special places no one has ever gone before. How cool to be a trendsetter!
Are there any particular trends in stationery that are popular with your brides at the moment?
What trends do you see being popular this year?
The intricate and detailed laser-cut printing technique reigns. Brides love it! They’re obsessed with the luxurious look and quality. It’s like lace on a wedding dress, beautifully delicate yet so special. It also can be done in many creative forms from a belly band to duplexed, to the invitation, to an envelope holding the invitation and beyond.
Having a custom watercolor painted for your invitation is a big favorite. Loose watercolor done in a painterly, artful way is very popular. I’m painting everything from wedding crests to floral prints and even portraits of the wedding venues.
Garden flowers of all variety are and always will be popular. I especially love illustrating more unique arrangements and flowers that are personal and important to my clients whether in their wedding decor or found at their venue location.
Refined, romantic and going beyond the expectation is never out of style. I thinks its more or less pushing the limits and telling the story, your very special story.
Personalization is huge. It is bigger than ever and brides are seeking out that extraordinary detail that will set them apart and make a beautiful unique impression. Working with a couture invitation designer will remain the ultimate in wedding stationery.
Lastly, brides now more than ever are seeking a timeless, elegant look for their invitations. They’re having fun with Save-the-Dates and extras like envelope liners and menus, but the classic invitation is making a comeback. Some are topped with a custom monogram or edged with a dramatic bevel, but they are all a throwback to a more traditional time.
How far in advance would you advise a bride to start sourcing their wedding invitations?
I always recommend to start early. Do not wait to hire your invitation designer. Once you book your venue, you should book your invitation designer immediately. Everyone always underestimates how long this process takes. You have so many important details to communicate to your guests so it’s best to not delay. You must account for longer lead times to design and create your save-the-dates and print the invitations, so plan accordingly. Our recommendation is to order the save-the-dates once you book your venue and reserve your wedding date. We tell our clients that invitations should be mailed out 2 months before the wedding date. So plan to order your custom invitations about 5-8 months before your wedding. The earlier the better, I always say!
Can customers request bespoke designs? What is the most bizarre request you have received?
At Ceci New York, we have two levels of service our brides chose from: Ceci Collection and Ceci Couture. With Ceci Collection you can make custom changes to a variety of our invitations that we have designed and make them your own. You have the flexibility to choose your ink colors, fonts and even the placement of artwork. That’s the beauty of the Ceci Collection, your custom colors and personal style choices make the invitation uniquely yours!
We had a bride who wanted to “walk on water” down the aisle. So we thought how cool would it be to incorporate that into her invitations. We figured out a way to produce plexiglass invitations submerged in water sealed with a nice material so it wouldn’t leak of course. We also once custom made aluminum paperweights in the shape of beach pebbles for a wedding in the Hamptons. They were engraved with the logo we made for the couple and sent in hand made velvet boxes. All hand delivered! Unusual is our thing. We thrive in creating the unique!
What is your company’s philosophy when working with couples soon to be wed?
We love to figure our client’s style. For us, it’s easy and fun. We try to eliminate the stress of having to know an exact invitation design before starting the process. That’s our job! Our Ceci Design Experience begins with a consultation where it’s all about asking a lot of questions, and doing a deep dive into who you are and what makes you tick. Each bride gets a dedicated expert Account Manager who, we joke, becomes your new BFF, because we work so closely every step of the way, on all the details together. Since this is such a personalized experience, we consider what kind of person you are, what your home looks like, what your style is, what you love individually and together as a couple. Once we define your style, we start brainstorming ideas for your unique invitations.
From there we present our design ideas, sketches, mood boards, color palettes and font studies and then you get to select your favorite concepts for us to start refining. This is where it comes to life before your eyes! The chosen direction goes through many rounds of refinement until it’s just the way you want it. Once ready, your invitation design goes into production and is handmade by our printers. Each invitation is meticulously created and overseen by my team to ensure it’s up to our quality standards and just the way we envisioned it. This process involves many artisans on our team and takes about 2-3 months, so best to book in advance so you can enjoy the process without being rushed. Once it’s finished, we can be as full service as you wish and even stuff, seal and mail your invitations for you. The best part is when all your guests start receiving your invitations in the mail and the compliments flow in of how amazing they are and how they cannot wait to celebrate your special day with you! That’s the absolute best!
For more information visit www.cecinewyork.com
Images Courtesy: Ceci Johnson