If you’ve ever come across an image of an event on Instagram that made your heart skip a beat, chances are Fiona Leahy, the founder and creative director of her namesake event design agency, was the imaginative force behind it. Her superpower is creating seriously decadent, atmospheric, devastatingly stylish parties.
Think of a celebrity or taste-maker, and it’s likely Fiona told them what sort of flowers they should have at their wedding or launch or birthday bash. The former fashion editor knows how to dress a room for that jaw-dropping wow factor, but she readily admits that dressing herself is a different story. “My wardrobe is split into two personalities,” she says. “There’s the real me, who spends most of her time in leggings and sweatshirts, because I love to work out, and then there’s the fantasy me – and she gets a whole lot more airtime when I shop.” Fiona admits that she absolutely loves eveningwear, which is evident from her impressive collection of dresses and sky-high heels, as much works of art as they are footwear. Get ready to be seriously inspired by the women behind the soirées worth attending. Trust us, you’ll be displaying your favourite pair of shoes on your mantlepiece by tomorrow.
“I have a dressing room with a vintage dentist’s table that’s full of accessories, and pink lacquered wardrobes filled to the brim. The state of this room swings between ridiculously clean to looking like I’ve been burgled. I recently had Declutter Dollies help me get organised and I did a huge clear out. It was so satisfying. I was hanging onto moth-eaten cashmere and expensive designer mistakes. Now I only have what I love and wear.”
“I’m absolutely obsessed with hats. I have pale skin and I love reading, so I always feel like a giant hat is both sunscreen and a privacy screen. Plus, I’m very nostalgic and an oversized hat is such a glamorous statement. Although I bought that giant Gucci hat (top left) for my fantasy-self. It won’t even fit on a plane. It’s ridiculous. For hats I love website Hood London, a Barcelona store called Eliurpi, and Koibird in Marylebone.”
“I love dresses – they’re so much easier to style than separates. And I’m obsessed with The Vampire’s Wife. This dress is a little Barbie on acid, and I love wearing it with metallic pink Gucci sandals. Sometimes when I’m going out, I ask myself: “Would Kylie Minogue wear this?” If the answer is yes, I know I’m on the right track.”
“When I first started piercing my ears, usually to celebrate some rite of passage, I could only get it done in New York. There just wasn’t anywhere to get pierced with precious jewellery in London. Now I go to Maria Tash at Liberty. I never take these off. I just think that if I can wake up like a peacock with diamonds in my ears without having to do anything, that’s perfect.”
“These Gianvito Rossi shoes have been to so many parties that they’re on their last legs, but they really are the perfect strappy sandal. Super-flattering, but with an edge. I don’t think they make them any more, and it’s times like these I wish I was famous, because then I would ask the designer to remake them in every single colour. I would buy them all.”
“A friend recently told me that not every pair of sunglasses I own needs to be novelty – but I’m not so sure. I gravitate towards retro styles that go up at the edge, and love the heart-shaped styles from YSL and Cutler and Gross. Unfortunately, I also lose them as fast as I can buy them – I call it my idiot tax. I don’t get too hung up on stuff, but there was a pair of pale blue, crystal-encrusted Louis Vuitton Lady Panther glasses that I still think about.”
“I do collect vintage pieces, but it’s random. In London, Portobello and Golborne Road in Notting Hill is the perfect hunting ground for fabulous vintage. I also love One Vintage and Resurrection, but if I’m shopping online I stick to designers I know. For instance, I’ve tried on enough Mugler dresses to know that in the right size, they fit me like a glove.”
“I used to have hundreds of shoes, but have since got rid of so many pairs; that purging was crazy-satisfying. When it comes to strappy heels, there’s a real art to making the leg and foot look great, which is something I’ve learnt the hard way. Sometimes chunky platforms are just not that flattering, especially if you have short legs. For me, it’s all about creating an illusion, something this Prada pair does beautifully.”
“Can you believe I won this initial from Louis Vuitton at the Fashion Fund Fair? I have a triangle in my astrological chart and it sometimes means I have extreme good luck. And the name necklace is from Canal Street in New York, which I had made when I was living there in my twenties, inspired by the Puerto Rican girls who had them. This was before Sex And The City!”
“I made a conscious decision recently to stop wearing so much black. It’s my default setting and so colour takes effort – and I’ve been loving it. The truth is that more often than not I’m wearing a sweatshirt and trainers, because I am that girl who wears her workout gear way after the workout. But I think when there are extremes, that’s what really keeps things interesting.”
“I go a little overboard with accessories, because they’re such an easy way to add interest to an outfit. I think I’m also quite lazy, so I’ll simply grab a bag like this amazing one by The Vampire’s Wife.”
“I love this tiara, which is by Magnetic Midnight and is made of raffia – each piece is hand-made in Colombia. For me, it’s the perfect way to transition from work to play if I’m staying on at an event. I do loved a one-shouldered gown with a tiara.”
“The designer shoes I own are beautifully crafted objects, and I don’t get to wear them all the time. So if they’re out then I can appreciate them alongside candlesticks, books and ceramics. I really enjoy mixing those things up. For me, displaying the beautiful things I own allows me to really admire them.”
“I’m drawn to things that have a grace of movement, and I don’t think there’s anything greater than a feather coming off your ankle. In fact, I love these Prada shoes so much that I display them on my mantlepiece when I’m not wearing them – they go with my pink walls. I don’t like to hide beautiful things away.”
“I love symbology – I think it’s super-interesting. The snake is about being close to the ground and it’s quite exotic but rooted at the same time. And also shedding skin and transformation. I like things that have meaning and take my breath away – just like these snake plates and Gucci shoes.”
“I’m always curating and putting things together, and I think rooms, outfits and tables are all really about the correct balance. In the same way that you might add statement earrings when you’re wearing something plain, you also need to pay attention to the proportions of a table by layering colours, textures and objects until you have what you want.”
“Patterned wallpaper is too much for me to live with every single day, and I wanted to make my apartment look like a faded Venetian palazzo – at least in one room. So I hired a scenic painter, and she hand-painted the walls in that amazing gloomy pink using many different shades. And then she covered it all in beeswax – I thought it was so amazing I got in there and helped. And every time I walk into that room I am still in love with those walls.”
“This top from Whiting & Davis is like chain mail. I’ve had it for 20 years and it’s the best boob-flattener. It’s very heavy and I feel like I’m ready for war when I put it on – and I always have a good time. But for me, a red lip is the ultimate armour. If I’m feeling a little tired or need a lift, that is my answer every single time. My go-to is a MAC lipstick in Russian Red.”
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