Author of the Classy book series, Derek Blasberg has never been shy about stressing the importance of practicing old-fashioned etiquette. When we learned that the manners guru had collaborated with the ultra-cool Opening Ceremony on a stationery line our ears perked up—in the Twitter age the handwritten note almost seems novel. And while most who preach etiquette face constant eye rolls, Blasberg always manages to infuse a dash of humor into his work, as made evident by his amusing take on stationery. After checking out the collection firsthand at Blasberg’s fete hosted by Opening Ceremony at New York’s iconic St. Regis Hotel, it was immediately apparent that these quasi-handwritten, fill-in-the blank, multiple choice notes will be an instant hit.
As many of us begin the New Year in severe thank-you-note-debt, these notes seem like the perfect solution to give thanks in a timely, entertaining, and, of course, classy manner. We chatted with Mr. Manners himself on the art of the handwritten note and why its ripe for a revival.
The Vivant: So Mr. Blasberg, what are the occasions when you think it’s important to write a handwritten note?
Derek Blasberg: I think you should write a thank you note anytime you want to be invited back.
How would you differentiate between a personal note and a professional note?
Well, I grew up in Missouri. I’ve got this very archaic, midwestern code of manners and ethics that my mom drilled into my head. My parents wouldn’t let me or my brother use our birthday toys or Christmas presents until we wrote a thank you note. She was really serious about it. So when I came to New York, I realized that no one else had that experience and no one else was as tortured as I was, but it was engrained in me to write the notes after I’ve been invited to a dinner party, after you’ve gotten the thoughtful present. And I really think it’s true versus e-mails and things like that. I really think that people skim e-mails but read letters.
Often we get thank you notes and we barely read them, we disregard them because they’re so cookie-cutter. What made you want to infuse some cheekiness into this line?
I think that what’s going to make a handwritten note seem attractive in this day and age is a little bit of a wink and a smile, and something that’s truly memorable.
Do you have any dos or don’ts in terms of writing a letter? Is there anything totally taboo or off-limits?
I think there was a day and age when you had to address someone in the correct way, or you had to sign off in the correct way, but nowadays I think the only to-do is just to do it. Even if it’s on crappy hotel stationery or a napkin (please buy my stationery), people really remember and love to get them. I really like the idea that the handwritten letter is so singular and unique, unlike an e-mail that you can forward. It’s real and it’s private and it’s typically between two people.
Why collaborate with Opening Ceremony?
I’ve always had this idea but I’ve never been encouraged to do it, and then Carol [Lim] and Humberto [Leon] at Opening Ceremony were all over it. I told them this idea, and they said, “This is fantastic, this is right up our alley.” I’m really good friends with them, and they’ve done collaborations with Chloë Sevigny, Yoko Ono and now Derek Blasberg.
And in terms of the Mad Libs part of it?
I had this whole concept, but the execution was Susan Barber at Opening Ceremony. She took my idea and ran with it. The notes are funny and witty and enjoyable both for the one who’s writing it and the one who’s receiving it. What’s better than that?
Share your thoughts in the comments below—would you rather receive an e-mail thank you, a phone call, or a handwritten note?
MORE: Etiquette 101: Everything You Need to Know About Being Polite