“Green” is the way to go if you are Matthew David Hopkins. The owner and creative director of 360 Design Events Ltd. in New York decided to go eco all the way with his new business aimed at greening events. So when he produced February's Leading Ladies Gala celebrating the re-opening of Alice Tully Hall in New York, he tapped his eco-minded contacts to create an event both sustainable and stunning.
A STAR IS BORN When developing events, Hopkins designs in layers, culminating in what he calls “a star of the show.” For this event, the 700 guests found the star by looking up at the ceiling itself. The artfully draped overhead consisted of “thousands of feet of sustainable cotton cut in random gentle waves and painstakingly pearl-stitched by Guillermo Couture,” Hopkins says. “Strips of the fabric were hung in parallel lines to form a soft cloud that hovered low over the room.” And because sustainable cotton doesn't suggest grandeur, the effect was in keeping with these economically challenging times, Hopkins notes.
Streamlined table treatments played a supporting role to the ceiling's dramatic punch. Centerpieces alternated between floral arrangements of roses, hydrangea, pink Calypso orchids and mini cymbidium and “crystal-inspired” ice sculptures that were “simple, not showy,” Hopkins says. Party Rental Ltd. helped set the rest of the scene by providing rentals in a green and black color scheme that anchored the vibe of the room.
GREEN LIMITS Of course, being eco means the sky is no longer the limit; in fact, the limit is a lot more local. Because of this, Hopkins makes a point to use flowers that are in season. Vendors advise Hopkins on local options that don't guzzle a ton of gas to deliver. “The variety [of flowers] is less so we have to be more creative,” Hopkins says, “but that doesn't slow us down.”
And though eco can often cost more, “It doesn't have to,” Hopkins notes. The sustainable cotton draping, for example, was gorgeous, green and economical. Floral, on the hand, often runs up the bill. To offset that, Hopkins alternated floral centerpieces with ice centerpieces, which provided “affordable glamour.”
Still, “Event lighting is an ongoing challenge,” Hopkins notes. He used low-voltage LED lighting around the perimeter but finds theatrical lighting still vital to create certain effects. So, conventional theatrical lighting provided the pin spots and texture wash in the room.
AFTERLIFE After the party is over, the decor can live on. It's a goal for Hopkins, who likes to see decor items stay out of landfills and instead go to creative people who can use them. After the Tully Hall event, the sustainable cotton, for example, went to the Materials for the Arts organization, which in turn gave the draping to the New York public school system for use in its theater productions. And the floral went to the Flower Power Foundation, a New York group that gives donated flowers to the sick and elderly.
In fact, Hopkins tries to pass on used event items as often as he can. “Sometimes there is a small donation to be made for pickup,” he says, “but it's worth it to give our event elements a second life.”
360 Design Events Ltd. 95 Morton St., New York, NY 10014, 212/905-3000, 360designevents.com