Throwing a party with Fiona Leahy is like offering to help Karl Lagerfeld with the cut of a tweed jacket. Let’s just say that we knew we were in safe (and super-stylish) hands. The party, which we threw to celebrate Fiona’s cover as well as our wonderful ICONS girls throughout the year, was perhaps one of the most magical we’ve been to. So we decided to share with you exactly how it was done, with a step-by-step formula and tips from the experts.
The end of the year is a time to take stock. And this year at Wardrobe ICONS HQ we found ourselves reflecting on how grateful we were for all the amazingly talented women we get to call our friends. So we decided to celebrate. The evening was about Fiona, our party-issue cover star, and our Perfect Wardrobe cover girls of 2018, including Racil Chaloub, Olga Vilshenko, Belma Gaudio, Anna Bromilow, Carmen Borgonovo and Maria Hatzistefanis. We also invited the talented women we collaborate with: Lucy Edmonds, founder of Quill London, whose pen is never far from our invites, name places and menus; florist Nikki Tibbles, founder of Wild At Heart, whose ability to elevate with blooms always astounds us; and Louisa Alan, part of the team behind the dreamiest tableware we know, Summerill & Bishop. In our humble opinion, something truly amazing happens when we gather a group of powerful and creative women under a cloud of gypsophila.
SET THE TONE
It all starts with the perfect invite arriving in the post. “When I’m designing an invite, I like it to have a link to the way the evening will look and feel. It should be a hint of what’s to come without giving too much away,” says Fiona. “And since we’re all obsessed with bows right now, that seemed like a good place to start.” Don’t underestimate the human touch: “I think receiving something handwritten that you can open and hold is magical,” says Laura, who even sends invites out for dinner parties at home. Our envelopes were all written by our lovely friend Lucy Edmonds at Quill London.
LAY THE FOUNDATIONS
Laura has been looking for an excuse to use this tablecloth for years, after falling in love with the navy and gold version. “The more beautiful the table setting, the longer people will spend at the table – it’s that simple,” says Sebastian from Summerill & Bishop, whose block-stamped ‘Falling Stars’ tablecloth was made especially in pink for our dinner to match the colour theme. Rather than opt for something plain, laying this beautiful, textured print over the banquet table – with detail that shimmered so beautifully in the candlelight – was an amazing starting point. “A meal should be savoured, not rushed,” says Sebastian. “So the environment you serve it in is hugely important.”
GO BIG WITH THE BLOOMS
We wanted a red and pink theme for the party: red feels festive, while pink feels modern. From there, Nikki, founder of Wild At Heart, worked her magic: “When Fiona and I work together, we consider the balance of fragrance, texture and, of course, colour too,” she says. “Ultimately, the end result needs to be completely dreamy.” For the gorgeous arrangements that ran down the centre of the table, Nikki chose tonal shades of blown garden roses, Italian anemones and butterfly ranunculus. The result was wild and pretty and breathtaking. In other words, utter perfection.
THE WOW FACTOR
Walking into a room with a twinkling, flower-filled table is welcoming. A huge flower cloud suspended above the table made it magical. “This is a very pretty canopy room, but the flower cloud made it feel so cosy, in an ethereal kind of way,” says Fiona, who came up with the idea just days before the event. “Styling a room and a table is a bit like getting yourself dressed – you keep adding and taking away until you get the balance just right.”
“The key is to always elevate the mundane,” says Fiona. “That’s when people are really charmed – when you take ordinary items and replace them with something special. For me, that’s always what makes a table feel considered.” On the evening, that meant swapping regular glasses and plates for blush-pink glasses and charger plates, as well as cutlery and printed linen napkins from Summerill & Bishop, alongside weighty gold name-card holders and candlesticks.
THE WRITTEN WORD
We love calligraphy. “When I’m throwing a special dinner and really want to give it that final polish, I always ask Lucy at Quill London to write name cards,” says Laura, who loves to have invite envelopes and menus written in beautiful cursive too. “It’s so simple, but really makes the evening feel like it’s going to be special.” Starting prices at Quill London are £1.20 per place card and £4 per envelope .
CONSIDER THE VIBE
If you’ve ever been to a large dinner party and experienced that awkward moment where everyone has to decide where to sit, we’re here to tell you that name places are a life-saver. “We all spent a lot of time deciding who should sit where,” says Fiona. “It’s really important to consider your guests – their energy and interests – so that when they sit down they have a great time. Because while everyone loves a pretty table, as the host, a big part of what you need to do is think ahead and ensure everyone is comfortable.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Once a dinner party has started, the menu is an essential: it creates anticipation, and also, people do like to know what they’re going to eat. “Sure, you can just print a super-simple menu, but for me it’s another opportunity to do something interesting, and in this case, continue with the party theme of stars and bows,” says Fiona.
The block-stamped ‘Falling Stars’ linen napkins from Summerill & Bishop were just too beautiful to hide away under cutlery. “There is a trend to place napkins under plates and having them hanging down, however I loved the idea of layering the stars over the charger plates, and then placing the bow on top,” says Fiona. To create this shape, fold the napkins once to create a large triangle, then fold in the sides so that you have a square shape that is narrow enough to cover a third of the charger plates. Then fold the top down and flip.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
A personalised touch is the ultimate way to make a guest feel welcome. Some of our favourite keepsakes include a water glass with an initial written on it by Quill London, notebooks with embossed initials, and even a linen napkin with an embroidered name. If you include someone’s whole name, it can double-duty as a name place as well as a lovely gift. And while the sky’s the limit in terms of how much you can spend on these sorts of treats, it doesn’t have to break the bank – look no further than the super-creative (and economical) keepsakes Fiona dreamt up for our party.
“While it’s by no means essential, it’s lovely to give people something they can take home,” says Fiona. For the gorgeous bow clips, inspiration struck on the morning of the event. “I had a big roll of gold lamé ribbon on my desk, and I started tying it into a bow and realised it would make a perfect hair accessory,” says Fiona, who shows that with a little creative know-how (and some superglue) you can create something special with a simple formula. Once the bows were tied and attached to a barrette, it was simply a case of sticking on everyone’s initials. On the night, these simple gifts created quite a buzz.
Some decisions need to be left until the very last minute. In this case, it was the long, tapered candles from The Conran Shop. “I bought four different colours because I really didn’t know which ones would work. Often it’s not until you see things all together that you can decide,” says Fiona. “On the night, I tried light pink, which looked too Barbie. Then I tried brown, which just didn’t work. In the end, it was the pale green that complemented the flower stems and looked perfect.” As a general rule, long tapered candles are the most elegant choice for the evening.
When a party brings new friends together, like this one, it’s helpful to have a conversation starter. In this case, we went with Summerill & Bishop crackers, which we then opened and personalised. Alongside the miniature deli gifts which came inside these gorgeous crackers, we added a crystal with a card detailing its meaning and a Charlotte Tilbury lip gloss. Once everyone was seated, we all linked arms and pulled. “For me, when that cracker bangs it really heralds the beginning of a good time,” says Fiona.
A final word on the table. While we love a round table for smaller dinner parties, a banquet table works so well when you have more people, as you can have a conversation with the people on either side as well as those across the flowers. And for us, that’s one of the most important parts of a night out with friends. The great conversation. The laughs. Because while we enjoy living vicariously on Instagram, what we value most are those rare moments where we can just be in the moment with women we love and admire.
“I think what really creates that party energy in the end is when you make your guests feel comfortable,” says Fiona. And that is happening every step along the way, from the moment they walk in the room and see the beautiful setting to the keepsakes that make them feel welcome and the crackers that kick off the conversation. And, of course, champagne. When all that comes together, you’ve got yourself a fabulous party!
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