One of the things I love about fashion is how it lavishes love and attention – and yes, okay, money – on piffling stuff like invitations, or the kind of thing frequently left on the seats at fashion shows. There are many reasons, you could argue, that a brand would do such a thing. On the one hand, it’s a great pissing contest between different labels, to show off exactly how much they’re willing to waste on something that will never, ever, bring in any profit (unless they wind up on eBay, as many do). On the other? They’re painstakingly wrought, imbued with love and time and affection, despite their truncated lifespan. I wonder how many throw this kind of stuff away, how many editors discarded items such as John Galliano’s enigmatic 90s invites – a ballet slipper, a key with hand-written luggage tag, a cachet of love-letters and a rose – or Martin Margiela’s A/W97 invite of a Paris map pinpointing the place that his models would disembark a double-decker bus clad in the forthcoming collection. Many apparently threw the latter away before the show even began.
I don’t know why I covet this kind of stuff. Maybe because it’s a memento – a reminder of a specific moment in time, a “Wish You Were Still Here” postcard. Some kind of concrete, forensic evidence that, indeed, I Was There, that I Saw It. But I don’t keep everything, nor even things that were especially memorable, or notable. Some stuff I hoard because it was beautifully crafted, like a Louis Vuitton Venetian mask in Damier check canvas; some because it’s useful, like a Lanvin fan I’ve cracked out a few times when especially sweaty, although it frequently threatens to splinter and crack. But these items are valuable precisely because of that, because they’re means of making the temporal concrete, of capturing a moment in time. They’re mementos. Miuccia Prada even patched print-outs of the invite to her July Miu Miu resort show to the dresses. I’m not sure if they’re going to end up in stores, but I love them, for the literal way they sought – and actually managed – to nail the moment. That’s why I love these things too; and will possibly meet my final demise under a landslide of them.
Loewe paper Amazona bag, S/S12
This was the missive issued to press to confirm their attendance at Stuart Vevers’ S/S12 presentation for Loewe – a painstaking recreation of the Amazona bag in Tyvek, designed to fall to bits when (and if) used. Life expectancy, we were informed, was 30 days. But I’ve kept mine boxed up ever since. It’s anatomically perfect, and even has a (real) Loewe padlock and key. It reminds me of the hand-carved wooden pavilions erected as ballrooms during the twilight of Marie Antoinette’s reign. Or, you know, something a bit less pretentious.
John Galliano sleeve invite, 'The Baby Maker' A/W96
John Galliano was one of the first designers to really think about what he was sending as an invite – and what he sent out was literally that, an invite into the world he was crafting, rather than just a way of confirming the place and time. Sometimes those basic details were tricky to decipher, hand scribbled as they were on boxing flyers or slips of paper inside battered handbags. This is the invite to his Autumn/Winter 1996 show, which I inherited from a friend and cherish dearly. I wasn’t there, obviously. But god, I wish I had been. And you can’t get closer to that than this, really.
A Lanvin fan, A/W12
This is from a Lanvin show – the 10th anniversary collection, if I remember correctly, scribbled with Alber Elbaz’s sketches. It’s immensely practical, much as I hate a man with a fan outside of Choderlos de Laclos. It’s not actually that special – they placed one on every seat at that show, and I noticed they were back out for the menswear collection Lanvin showed in June. Which is fine. It’s still great, and I still love it.
Maison Martin Margiela necklace invite, S/S09
I’ve never been pretentious enough to wear this as a real necklace: it’s from Maison (then) Martin Margiela’s twentieth anniversary show, for Spring 2009. I remember missing the show before it to patiently go and sit myself as close to the front as possible (back then, Margiela seating was a free-for-all apart from the assigned first row). It was Martin’s last and was truly extraordinary. I’m sure there’s all kinds of interesting points to be made about the notion of a backstage pass – a recognised mark of elitism even within fashion’s system of elitism – being rendered as a precious necklace. They even sold refined versions of this in the shop. They rounded off the edges a bit more.
Louis Vuitton Damier mask, 2013
It’s tough to believe that this was never intended for sale – it actually came with a slip of paper instructing you of the fact, in case you tried to make a swift buck on eBay. This was created for a Louis Vuitton exhibition called “Timeless Muses” in Tokyo: if you held it up to your eyes in front of giant video screens, images would magically appear via lenticular. It was all very clever, and this is very very pretty. The blokes got Damier check masks, the ladies Monogram.
Louis Vuitton luggage tag invite, S/S12
Another Vuitton: this one from Marc Jacobs’ carousel show. When John Galliano bowed out, Jacobs seemed to pick up his mantle of spectacular shows and evocative invites, especially at Vuitton. I always wondered how much time – in materials, and development – the house must have spent on invites like this slightly oversized tag in the house’s signature Vachetta leather? Nicolas Ghesquiere sends his Vuitton invites out in equally covetable Epi leather envelopes. They’re part of the draw of going to the shows, to be honest. You don’t want to miss one. Like Pokemon, you’ve gotta catch ‘em all.