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Sean “Diddy” Combs’ White Party of legend this was not: no Hamptons, no A-list celebrities, no catering. But as the sun set Monday over Lincoln Center Plaza — where 3,000 guests decked out in white feather hats, boas, wigs and tuxedos gathered for New York’s second annual Dîner en Blanc — the scene seemed every bit as indulgent.
Billed by organizers as “the world’s first viral culinary event,” the dinner party, coproduced in New York by Gilles Amsallem and Pierre Battu of events firm French Tuesdays, had humble beginnings. Twenty-four years ago, founder François Pasquier threw a small dinner in Paris to reconnect with friends. So many people wanted to attend that he advised partygoers to wear white so that they could find each other. The gathering grew each year by word of mouth, and in recent years has taken place at the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Now it’s become global: It will pop up in Philadelphia, Chicago, Singapore, Vancouver and Brisbane, Australia, over the next two weeks.
This story first appeared in the August 22, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’m really happy to see that people are taking on a challenge like Dîner en Blanc,” said Aymeric Pasquier, the event’s producer and son of François. “It’s a lot of investment.”
Guests, who paid $25 to attend, were required to BYO-everything: tables (white), chairs (white), food and drink (not necessarily white), while adhering to a strict, elegant, all-white dress code. Arriving by public transportation was mandatory, and the location was revealed only an hour before the start time.
It was either an adventure or a hassle, depending on whom one asked. Most agreed it was well worth it.
“People are just really finding a love for the event,” said Sandy Safi, director of development at Dîner en Blanc International. “The spontaneity of it, the fact that it’s different, enjoying the outdoor space, dressing up.…I think it’s all of the elements together that make it interesting. Connecting with people all over the world who have a love for the same thing is really what we’re trying to build.”
Last year’s feast — the first in New York — took place at the World Financial Center in Battery Park with a waiting list of more than 30,000 people. This year, the list garnered 10,000 hopeful names.
“Of course, not everyone can attend and I’m sorry about that,” said Pasquier. “But we have to grow slowly, otherwise we couldn’t have it at such amazing places. There is no profit for anyone here. It’s all volunteers.”
Dinner took place from 6:30 p.m. until about 9 p.m., when an announcement was made signaling a move to the designated dance area. Guests waved napkins in the air in unison, and some chose to dance on top of their chairs. A violinist and a DJ serenaded the crowd.
“I feel like I’m at a really nice wedding right now,” said partygoer and volunteer Billy Butler, an event-planning intern at Americas Quarterly.
“The more you do it, the more organized you get with it,” said Rachel Kirwin, a law firm assistant who attended last year’s dinner. “Bring wheels. Anything with wheels. Don’t even try to carry everything on your own.”