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After twenty years of pushing himself and his clients to their creative and emotional limits with his fully-immersive multi-sensory life experiences these days Christopher Mills gets to hand-pick his projects, and the people he takes along for the ride.
It’s not the occasion itself that is interesting to Mills; they’re just the excuses he needs to transport his often well-heeled clients to the very frontiers of their minds.
Be they international luxury brands, Dior, Rolls Royce, royalty, musicians, or paradigm changing charities, ‘elite party architect’ Mills sees his mission to boldly redefine what weddings, birthdays, and even Christmases can and should be.
Christopher has recreated fairy tales complete with ancient castles and mythical beings, orchestrated nuptials that bought ‘all the flowers’ in Holland, and recently he pushed himself to a new frontier as the the star of the BBC’s Big Proud Party Agency. No more is Mill’s creative talent on show than at Christmas; here he shares his top tips for replicating the festive parties of the rich and famous, whatever the budget.
Christmas is a time to reflect on the year that’s been and the New Year to come, but it is also a time to indulge and to be surrounded by those we love, and one might agree, to spoil each other where we can. For those who, in their own words “have it all”, the festive period marks an opportunity to push the boat out (excuse the pun) and to splash the cash, but spending patterns are changing. Does this mean that investing in experiences over commodities is the new done thing at Christmas? What exactly are the rich and famous spending on at Christmas and can we, as everyday people, relate?
For me, Christmas is all about nostalgia, tradition, and happiness. In essence, the tastes, scents, visuals and sounds of Christmas are what make me giddy, and regardless of the spend behind gifting, I am guaranteed happiness if I get to experience at least some of the personal traditions deemed necessary for my own unique Christmas celebration. But we are all on different levels and the types of clients I work with have deep pockets and seek amusement through bespoke experiences that most will find inaccessible. But experience trumps money and though these trends have a certain price tag, there are always ways we can bring a slice of the magic to our own Christmas party experience by diffusing each trend to suit our own budget. But what are these trends and how can we possibly compete with the uber rich?
Immersive Christmas Parties
“Immersive” is the first word I hear when discussing a party brief with a client, especially at Christmas time. The transformation from a simple theme into a dreamworld is what my clients ask of me, turning a design into theatre where you authentically step into a new narrative surrounded by intricate details. One way of achieving an easy immersive fix would be within by creating an immersive luxury bar experience. Ok, so you don’t have to offer a display of Louis XIII Le Mathusalem cognac, but you could showcase a range of martinis with customised, bespoke garnishes for an added playful touch.
Say Goodbye to Turkey Dust and Hello to Tasting Menus
I get to work with some of the world’s best chefs via my award winning service The Events Meal, by The Events Mill, where we bring in Michelin-starred chefs to produce exceptional menus in any location around the world. One tradition that is out (and I couldn’t be more thrilled) is the overcooked turkey, replaced by sensational alternatives and joyous small plates and sharing concepts inspired from world cuisine. Why not try a sharing menu concepted on twelve elements inspired by the Twelve Days of Christmas, perhaps serving Honey and Pear Partridge and Five Gold Rings, Calamari with Green Peppercorns and Christmas Chinese Five-Spice.
Gingerbread Houses and Sugar Cane Candy Lane
Among our super wealthy clients there has been a surge in sugar construction and architecture. That’s to say, the trend in treats has triple folded and real-estate isn’t just in brick and mortar, it’s also in gingerbread and sugar. The trend lies in building gigantic and elaborate gingerbread mansions replicating famous landmarks from around the world from Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) to the White House and villages made entirely of sugar in eccentric displays of sugarcane and glistening towers of sugar art. Think the WA on steroids, minus the Victoria Sponge, replaced by cinnamon scented constructions which dominate rooms and gingerbread, cookies and sugar craft you might find in Willy Wonka’s dreams. And this trend is the new competition at elite Christmas parties; each host will throw a party showcasing their construction, all gurning for the star price. Why not have your own gingerbread making competition amongst your family and friends and announce the winner on Christmas day?
The big trend for 2022 is retro fitting, or what I call ‘NostalgiX,’ the fusion of nostalgia and experience. Christmas is all about reminiscing and re-living on times gone by, and this isn’t just remembering but also about re-experiencing, and with the introduction of classic games consoles in recent years we have seen a surge in demand for gaming rooms as standard at parties. So, what’s the new trend. Metaverse and physical placement at the heart of experience. A big trend is taking a gaming concept and its true essence and brining its narrative to life, physically, where the nostalgia of the game is pure but the experience is lived in real life. The actors, story, smells, sights, sounds and textures of the game are a lived experience. NostalgiX is the new form of gaming Xperience, especially at Christmas time when play is most encouraged. Try this at home using oculus, headsets and be playful with scents to enhance the play environment.
The New Hunt (for Santa Claus)
Hunting parties are no longer à la mode. Indeed, they are so passé composé that to hunt would be positively uncivilised. There is, however, a new hunt which happens in the glistening land of Scandinavia, with hounds replaced by huskies and horses replaced by sledge and that is the hunt for Father Christmas, where families journey to Lapland through snow-capped ferns and across icy lakes to magical kingdoms where Elves wait with bloodred rosy cheeks.
Go Crackers at Christmas, in a Bespoke Way
If you’re anything like me you’ll spoil those you love at Christmas; if there’s any time of the year to do so then it’s this time, right? And it’s at the Christmas party that I love to exchange my perfectly wrapped gifts and to see that joy. My chosen vessel, and one big trend I am seeing from many clients, is using the Christmas cracker to add a little zing and fun surprise, rather than just wrapping paper or box. By creating bespoke Christmas crackers, you can again produce an experience and add contents to suit your budget. I have recently sourced some seriously luxury gifts for a one client’s bespoke cracker which included a Cartier diamond and pink gold bracelet and a Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 watch worth £1.7m. Of course,
bespoke crackers are a celebration of yourself and your budget and are a brilliant token of joy for those you love, so go with what you can afford.
Get Out of Here!
Tradition doesn’t mean doing the same year after year. It means celebrating with those you love and, perhaps, making new traditions. I get to work with families and have the pleasure of curating experiences in the most interesting destinations around the globe, with escapes at Christmas becoming more and more popular, especially among younger couples. Why not go abroad and do it in style? There’s one thing about Christmas party trends that remain the same and that thing is to always showcase the very best of what is available to you, to share and to give, regardless of your means. Yes, I work with clients who can afford to island hop at Christmas time, hosting a different party on a new island in the Caribbean on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, before flying to New York City and throwing an epic New Year’s party in the Ty Warner Penthouse Suite at the Four Seasons, with the very best of everything, but again there are many options available to us all who want to get away and live the ultimate trend of ‘getting out of here’ at Christmas
Images: KBA Associates and BBC.
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