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A Glamorous Night of Fashion and Flavour!
In the month of September, we were delighted to host an extraordinary titled 'Beyond the Little Black Dress' dining experience in honour of the iconic exhibition titled 'Beyond the Little Black Dress' at our esteemed partner venue, The National Museums Scotland. This exquisite exhibition explores the profound influence and significance of the little black dress in fashion, showcasing an impressive range of design classics and cutting-edge catwalk creations.
Join us as we sit down with Senior Event Designer, Jonathon, who will share all the intricate details that went into creating this iconic, immersive dining experience. From the initial ideation to the seamless execution, we'll uncover the magic that was brought to life to celebrate the renowned 'Little Black Dress' exhibition!
How did you incorporate the essence of the 'Little Black Dress' concept into the overall design and ambiance of the dining event?
As the Event Designer for this special project, I was delighted to bring my expertise in fashion and apparel design to the table. With a guest list of around 60 people, we had the privilege of hosting the event in the magnificent Grand Gallery of the National Museums Scotland. This breath-taking space, capable of accommodating up to 1200 people, provided the perfect backdrop for our immersive dining experience. With my Honours degree in fashion and apparel design, I was able to contribute valuable insights during the brainstorming stage, drawing from my knowledge of the fashion process from design to construction. Having previously visited the captivating 'Beyond the Little Black Dress' exhibition, I was greatly inspired by its emphasis on sustainability and the incorporation of more than 60 looks from esteemed collectors and designers worldwide, tracing the evolution of the iconic little black dress over a century of social change. With the exhibition's spotlight on the concept of pushing boundaries and timeless elegance, I was determined to infuse this event with the same energy. In keeping with the iconic black dress, our colour scheme revolved around the classic hue.
Collaborating with the talented team at Planet Flowers, we transformed the space into a fanicful vintage haberdashery wonderland, taking inspiration from my own vintage black and gold Singer sewing machine. The resulting tablescape and associated floral arrangements designed and constructed by the fantastic Gemma at Planet Flowers and her team perfectly captured the essence of our vision, featuring delicate details such as florals, traditional pattern pieces, wooden haberdashery elements, and tape measures. Together, we created an atmosphere that truly embraced the elegance and allure of the iconic little black dress.
Were there any specific details or special touches that you added to make the dining event extra memorable for the guests?
The evening was meticulously curated, filled with thoughtful details that made it a unique and cherished experience for all our guests. Drawing inspiration from the art of creating garments, where individual pattern pieces are traced on large brown paper and packed into envelopes with working drawings and garment details, we crafted our menu as a bespoke pattern piece enclosed in a charming envelope. This bespoke menu featured the exhibition’s name, a specially designed barcode, and a collection of working drawings and illustrations sketched by me. To further elevate the evening's atmosphere, we included a quote by fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld, that perfectly encapsulated the essence of the exhibition and the exciting night ahead, ‘one is never overdressed or underdressed with a little black dress’. The menu itself incorporated marking lines, mimicking the intricate process of cutting and designing a garment, adding a personalised touch for each guest. Another delightful detail I incorporated was the table cards presented as tape measures, paying homage to the fashion industry in an ingenious manner. These sleek designs featured our guest's names and were positioned on their wine glasses with a stylish fold, giving the impression of a discarded tape measure during the creative process of garment making. Our thoughtful name cards became evergreen mementos as our guests took them home, excited to find a special place like their office or living room to showcase them and remember the unforgettable evening. And for that extra finesse, each member of our waiting staff wore a black jester pin as a nod to Heritage Portfolio, ensuring a cohesive and stylish touch throughout the event.
Can you share any unique challenges you faced when planning this dining event? How did you overcome them?
In keeping with the essence of the iconic exhibition, we took dining to a whole new level by transforming it into a captivating fashion show. During the blue-sky brainstorming phase, numerous ideas were thrown around, from setting up a long table with mannequins to even having our waiting staff strut their stuff on the table while serving the guests!. Eventually, we settled on creating a catwalk-like entrance and exit by setting up a pipe and drape at the end of the dining table, complete with a spot for enthusiastic paparazzi. To capture the electric atmosphere of a fashion show, I collaborated with the talented photographer and videographer, Craig Heaslip, to recreate the flashing lights and buzz of the paparazzi using multiple photography lights.
To ensure a truly immersive experience, we shared the concept with our chosen staff members upon their arrival on the night, enlightening them on how we planned to recreate the theatrical ambiance of a fashion show. After a quick pep talk, all the staff took turns in the kitchen, practicing their catwalk moves. Throughout the evening, their performances became more and more thrilling, much to the delight of our guests. To add an extra touch of authenticity, I took on the role of the fashion show director at the top of the catwalk, ensuring every bowtie was perfectly adjusted and making last-minute alterations. What the guests didn’t see was the additional staff members back of house, timing, running and pacing the models to ensure an unforgettable experience.
Although there were initial worries about whether our idea would come to life, I was absolutely thrilled with how the fashion show theatrics unfolded on the evening and the immersive experience it provided for our guests, an experience beyond food.
What type of atmosphere and ambiance did you strive to create for the guests attending the dining event?
Throughout every stage of planning and execution, our dedicated team at Heritage Portfolio worked tirelessly to create an experience beyond food. We aimed to transport our guests to the front row of a runway and into the realm of high fashion, channelling the theatrics and drama of a captivating fashion show. With the 'Beyond the Little Black Dress Exhibition' as our muse, we sought to pay homage to the cutting-edge creations that have shaped the past decade of runway glamour. Our ultimate goal? To create an evening filled with unforgettable memories that our guests would eagerly share with their loved ones and community.
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