Alexa Hirschfeld loves to entertain. But when she talks about a good party, she doesn’t mean a nice cheese plate; she means a dress-to-impress-stay-until-the-wee-hours-talk-about-it-for-months-afterward bash. Her brother James feels the same way, so it’s not surprising that in 2008, when their peers were figuring out what to wear to their first interview (Alexa was 23; James, 21), they were launching Paperless Post, an online company that offers gorgeous, personalized digital invites. “An invitation is really your first chance to set the mood,” says Hirschfeld. “And we couldn’t find any sites that offered invitations that give an impression of the party you’re going to throw.”
From those very first sketches in the living room, Paperless Post has grown into a multimillion-dollar company that has sent over 85 million user-generated cards—celebrating everything from birthdays to pool parties to Oktoberfest. And Hirschfeld works to ensure that each invite is just right. “We’re the only online invitation company with in-house designers,” she says, and the company recently began collaborating with a carefully curated group of outside—marquee—ones. You can now select vintage nautical-themed save-the-dates by John Derian, gilded wedding invitations by Oscar de la Renta and adorably cheeky beach-ball-shaped party invites by Jonathan Adler. Hirschfeld’s eye for design informs her personal style as well. “I keep things simple but special,” she says. “I love to mix a basic like dark skinny jeans with a colorful vintage Dior or YSL blouse and Miriam Haskell jewelry.”
Hirschfeld’s customers share her love of personalization. Though the plan was to keep the invites strictly online, last year a vocal contingent of snail-mailers convinced her to launch PAPER, a printed stationery business. “They already had their favorite designs from making online invites,” she says. “And they wanted to see them in paper form.” The results are printed on luxurious cardstock and encased in colorfully lined envelopes. “We had to make sure the physical products were just as well designed as what our customers are used to online.”
Despite the fact that she has a growing company to oversee, Hirschfeld still finds time to throw an amazing party. “Any time I can get six people together, I’ll host a dinner party,” she admits. “And then my brother and I try to put together a big bash once or twice a year.” Last February, they hosted a Winter Olympics–themed party in a Brooklyn warehouse. They chose February because, as Hirschfeld says, it’s a time of year when “everyone is so bored and needs something to get excited about.” After sending Olympic-themed PAPER invites, they got to work on the space, setting up multiple projectors to play Olympic events on the walls and finding a DJ who would keep guests dancing all night. Costumes, naturally, were mandatory. “We had a lot of figure skaters show up,” says Hirschfeld. “But we also had a bunch of bobsledders and even some curlers.”
So how do you top a party like that? Hirschfeld is already dreaming up the next one. “The theme is going to be Mykonos in the ’70s,” she says. “My brother and I have gone to Greece every year since we were little, so we know exactly how we want it to look.” Think Jackie O sunglasses, strings of lanterns, huge arrangements of bougainvillea and ouzo and masticha shots. And to wear? “White jeans, gold Lalaounis bangles and Greek sandals, of course!” she says.
Click through the slideshow above to see the key pieces Hirschfeld needs for her next big bash.