“What do you mean you’ve never partied with a body-painted Grace Jones, a dozen drag queens and people dressed as neon monkeys?” chuckles Garrett Moore. “Oh my. You have missed out.”
I fear I have, and so might you. Indeed, whatever you were doing this New Year’s Eve, it will likely to have been tame compared with those soirees thrown by the new generation of exclusive events organisers, such as Moore, 30, and his business partner Francesco Pastori, 34, who together run London’s most in-demand party planners, Immersive Cult.
The duo has taken the circuit by storm, creating increasingly luxurious and wacky bashes for moneyed and discerning customers, such as Robin Birley, owner of Mayfair private members club 5 Hertford Street, fashion bible Love magazine and a host of celebrities they are too discreet to name. If you follow the popular “Rich Kids of Instagram” social media account – which captures the holidays, parties and shopping sprees of the outrageously wealthy – then you will get the picture.
Nothing, it seems, is too OTT, from conjuring up a real bonsai forest (loved by Harry Styles, Suki Waterhouse and Georgia May Jagger) to building a fake Berlin Wall, or sourcing a life-size mechanical polar bear. “Let’s not talk about the human ostrich who escaped from a fireworks display laying golden eggs along the way,” Moore mutters.
The son of the Earl of Drogheda, Moore has loved entertaining since childhood and grew up in Notting Hill, where people like Margaret Thatcher used to drop in. And when it comes to partying, he thinks the super-rich “one percenters” are more flamboyant than ever.
“I love to see people have a good time,” he says. “I think the British party scene has always been wonderfully eccentric and wild. But it is becoming ever more out there – in part, fuelled by film special effects and Instagram.”
Charlotte Aitken would likely agree. She is the co-founder of Albion Parties, which she has been running for eight years with Katie Crichton-Stuart, her business partner, and they organise two-dozen exclusive events a year.
“Our clients have deep pockets and they’re not affected by things like Brexit,” says Aitken. “They have high standards and it’s important to them to have something unusual.”
She says that, in 2017, they saw a rise in popularity of projections. “They’re the new fireworks. We’ve done them quite often on the exteriors of people’s stately homes. One was themed around Dante’s Inferno.”
Heliospheres, she says, are also popular. For the uninitiated, these are huge tethered balloons with an acrobat hanging off the bottom. But it is money-can’t-buy experiences, Aitken says, which really top the party wishlist.
“A few weeks ago, we had Florence and The Machine play for 150 people at Salma Hayek’s house,” she says. “You can’t really buy that because acts are often committed years in advance. It comes down to connections.”
Gastronomy, she adds, is another way that partying has stepped up. “People want different food through the night – a crepe station which opens at 1am, an usherette stall with doughnuts at 2am.”
Consumables are always the centrepiece of events curated by Bompas & Parr. The duo formed 10 years ago and says that entertaining has changed hugely over the past decade. “Gone are the days when party food was just something to line the stomach,” says Sam Bompas. “Nowadays people drink less, and food has become entertainment, so it has to be a spectacle.”
He says this takes planning. “We like to knock the top off champagne bottles with a sabre. It’s instant theatre. If you’re really good you can even do it with an iPhone, or the stem of a wine glass.”
When his sister got married at London’s St John restaurant, he says: “It was low-key, but I did arrange for a 6ft claymore sword to be covered in flame paste and set on fire, so they cut their wedding cake with a 6ft flaming sword – which was fun.”
Having a personal party logo is a must, too, says Sophie Hale, events planner at luxury concierge brand Quintessentially, which caters to the whims of the world’s wealthiest 0.01 per cent. “We work with our clients to create a bespoke party logo, which will go on almost everything – projections, stationery, on the front of the DJ booth, on the mirrors, on monogrammed napkins… the works,” she says.
Deluxe adult party bags
Then there are deluxe adult party bags, delivered before the event.
“We threw a three-day party in Amsterdam last year for a client launching her custom-built yacht,” says Hale. “Translated, the boat’s name was ‘Fairy’. For two weeks prior to the party, we sent out teasers themed around the name. Then, guests were flown to Amsterdam from the US by private jet and there was a dinner. Unbeknown to them, we’d rigged an enormous structure above the table. Periodically, a bell would ring and ‘the fairy’ would lower gifts to people sitting below using invisible fishing wire. People were blown away.”
Aitken has a similar tale. “We did a party in St Tropez. The hostess had personalised hand-painted canvas bags for each guest, delivered to people’s hotel rooms on arrival. Inside each was a handwritten note, a block-printed towel made in Italy that featured the logo of the party, and some other personal pieces.”
She also tells me that instead of hiring crockery and linens, the one per cent now buy handmade plates from Laboratorio Paravicini in Italy and bespoke linens from Summerill & Bishop in London.
“Tables are important. The aim is to be tasteful and chic,” Aitken says, “not flashy. Very wealthy people don’t want to look too extravagant.”
It is a sentiment echoed by party supremo Sacha Forbes, who is special events editor at British Vogue and a freelance party consultant. “Tablescapes are now becoming more of a party feature,” she says. “Think block-printed linens with dramatic flowers, candles and a personalised take-home gift on your place-setting.”
This is also the signature of Fiona Leahy, known for creating balloon ceilings, tented dining pavilions and intricate stylish table-settings for everyone from Dita Von Teese to Jade Jagger and Christian Louboutin.
“The Rum Runner are fast becoming London’s favourite cocktail supplier among the fashion set,” Forbes confides. “They design bespoke bars and cocktails – they even serve from an Airstream caravan, and the Cellar Society cater London’s most glamorous parties. The entertainment has to be visually strong, too. I love people like The Cuban Brothers – who played for Elton John – and DJ Fat Tony, who recently did superstar hairstylist Sam McKnight’s 60th at Tramp nightclub.”
Bompas has fulfilled many a wacky request, from sustainably sourcing 10,000-year-old ice for drinks – “so guests can drink whisky with ice dating back to before the dawn of civilisation” – to creating 200-course meals. But he says the main thing about hosting a bash for the well-heeled is simply “inviting great folk”.
“Put together a great dress code, something that’s fun but ensures people can also be fashionable. This sparks conversation and excitement. People are invested in the night instead of just turning up.
“My favourite type of party is one with too many people, in a room that’s too small and has too much furniture. Turn the music loud, too: it’s scientifically proven that people only dance when it’s above 80 decibels.”
Moore veers towards laid-back. “I love a relaxed party more than anything,” he says. “The less that happens, the better… the darker the lights and the more candles the better, too.” He did, however, have a 20-piece Brazilian samba band at his own Egyptian speakeasy-themed 30th birthday party, which doesn’t exactly fit that brief.
He laughs. “Ultimately, all anyone wants, from any party is to come and connect with each other and themselves.”