“If people are going to talk about your party, it’s going to be because they’ve seen it,” says Ron Wendt over the phone from an upcoming party site in Southampton, N.Y. “If they weren’t invited then they’re going to be talking about a photo that they’ve seen.”
Wendt is the design man behind some of fashion and society’s most prestigious parties, a recent roster of which includes the Society of MSK spring ball, Chanel’s New York Public Library dinner, Louis Vuitton’s Objets Nomades installations in Miami, and the opening of the Cartier Mansion on Fifth Avenue last fall. As spring gala season reaches its peak in New York, he is busier than ever.
“I love gardening — I love flowers, but it’s also about color and texture, which is just like interior design,” he says of his business, which he runs with partner Philip MacGregor. Wendt, who has been in business for more than 20 years, began his career in garden design. “It started out with us just doing flowers but early on, as the company grew, we started doing a lot of high fashion brands — we worked immediately with Chanel. The fun part is working with color and texture and interpreting what these brands are really looking to convey to their audience. It’s always interesting, it’s always different.”
He has continued to work with Chanel, as well as Vuitton, for which last year he brought in 24,000 pounds of sand to create beaches in the Miami Design District store. Recently, he did a party on the West Coast for Chanel for the Camellia jewelry collection, as well as a Cartier event in Beverley Hills.
“They are very specific type of clients — there is always an object to meet,” he says. “Most of them are Paris based, and they have very specific directives they’re looking for. But then there’s an interpretation, because this is New York, and it’s not Paris, and there’s that tweaking and that balancing between the directive. You never really think that it’s going to be different but it always seems to be. There’s always an interesting take, whether it’s for fashion or for jewelry or for fragrance.”
As anyone who has spent a handful of nights out on the town — or sat at home scrolling on Instagram — will speak to, social media has drastically changed the way party planning is thrown. It’s not enough to simply have a beautiful tablecloth and fresh flowers; an Instagrammable backdrop is a must, as are photogenic props and pops of color. For a recent event, the School of American Ballet winter ball, Wendt hired Fashion Institute of Technology students to help create enormous pink flowers made from 5,000 pieces of Italian crepe paper.
“Oh totally,” Wendt says when asked if Instagram has changed the way he thinks about design. “It goes even further — it ups the ante. People need to realize that especially if it’s a charity ball, or something like that where you’re trying to draw in a crowd, it really does matter what is seen and what photos are taken. What is your backdrop? How are guests being framed? What does the decor look like? Oddly, I have to admit that until you asked, I hadn’t actually thought of it. But yes, it definitely does.”
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