Tell Us Everything, Event Designer Preston Bailey
Last week, high-end event planner Preston Bailey gathered hundreds in the sprawling 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan to celebrate the launch of his fourth book, "Preston Bailey Celebrations." The gorgeous book is filled with images of the lavish events he's designed the world over (with rates starting at $250,000), from a stunning Tiffany-glass inspired wedding in New York to a reception with giant floral animals in Bali. So you can expect his own party would be a stunner - not to mention celebrity-tinged.
Bailey created a magical environment with no shortage of glitz (above). Two giant disco balls dramatically projected light throughout the room and dreamlike trees glowed at the entrance. A giant runway ran down the middle of the room, which was projected with a rotating image of pages from his book, giving it the illusion of a printing press. The runway served as a stage for performers such as Martha "Everybody Dance Now" Wash and Gloria Gaynor, then later was filled with attendees dancing. Bailey was true to his theory that a diverse crowd makes for the best parties. He was feted by quite a diverse crowd.
Pictured above, from left: country singer Clay Walker; the former Mrs. Billy, Katie Lee Joel; Preston's partner, Grammy-nominated jazz singer Theo Bleckmann; Preston Bailey; his client, Joan Rivers; and interior designer Nate Burkus.
We sat down with Bailey at the start of the party and asked him to share a few secrets to his smashing success.
What's been the most extravagant event you've designed?
We're fortunate enough that we plan events all over the world. We did an amazing royal wedding in the Middle East this past December and we're planning at least two or three more this coming year.
It sounds like you have a lot of clients in the Middle East.
I have an office in the Middle East and I have one in Indonesia and of course my main office in New York. It's great, I get to travel lots of miles.
What about your work is influenced by Panama, where you grew up?
If you'll notice my work has a lot of trees in them. So, you know, nature. I grew up in the rain forest and I'm big on bringing trees indoors and I try and translate them in many different ways, reinterpret what a tree should look like. That is very much from my background.
A common theme I see in your work is an abundance of flowers, but a reinvention in the way they're used. Flowers become sculptural elements ...
Thank you. Well, you know I started in this business as a florist so that's still my passion. And, years ago I had the concept of what it would be like to bring an entire garden or an entire fall - imagine seeing this beautiful fall in the country and what it would be like to bring it indoors. Or what it would be like in the spring to bring all of those cherry blossoms indoors.
That's very much the basis of my design; trying to bring nature indoors and show it very much as it is in nature. I don't mix a lot of flowers it's just one or two and I just bring lots of them and display them in a certain way. I love the abundance. Nature is very generous. And I love the idea of being generous with flowers inside. I get into trouble, a lot of people think it's a little too much, but I love it.
You've answered my next question about where nature comes from ...
Mostly from nature and from traveling. I see a lot of different cultures, Oh my God, I'm fascinated by the different art and just people have their own thing, their own way of interpreting things, that inspires me a lot. I'm inspired by fashion, I love going to a fashion show and seeing what's coming for the next year and being inspired by it. John Galliano inspired me tremendously.
Any particular culture that you've been turned on to recently?
Russia. I've been completely turned on. I had a job recently for a Russian client and I had a chance to really explore it and I was fascinated by it.
And Russian influences were on the runway recently...
Yes, it was last year.
What has been the most unusual request you've gotten?
I like to think of myself as a designer so there's no such thing as unusual. I encourage the unusual. I think my job is to try to interpret it to make it feasible so I'm not afraid of the unusual, bring it on!
Has there been something someone suggested that you never would have thought to incorporate?
A lot of the work that we do is a contribution between me and my clients and what they come up with... For instance I had a client yesterday who is fascinated by the [iPad] that is coming out and what he is going to do with it. So you know it's a matter of really getting inspiration from them and being able to come up with the design. But I don't think there's weird things, I want people to be weird a little bit. I think it makes it a little bit interesting. That's why they pay me the big bucks, to be able to translate it properly.
How do you personally entertain? What for you is the most ideal kind of occasion?
I love getting tons of people of different [backgrounds] together and creating an environment that is beautiful and generous and just see what happens. I think that is what entertainment should be. People are so afraid and so controlling. Me, it's like just throw them all together and give them a good environment, good food and good drinks and it's a great party. That's very much my secret, just put them together and let them party.
See more images of Preston Bailey's book launch party at Guest of a Guest. Or read more Tell Us Everything interviews.