Fiona Leahy is not just any event planner. The young creative director of her eponymous events and design studio has styled parties for anyone from powerhouse fashion brands like LVMH and Dior to Qatari royalty. Born in rural Ireland, she moved to New York at the ripe age of 19 before setting up shop in London. She dipped her toes in the event world working as an assistant creative director at Garrard—throwing events like Jade Jagger's 30th birthday pajama party and in-store performances by Dita Von Teese.
Her big break came when Von Teese asked her to plan her wedding to Marilyn Manson in Ireland eleven years ago—she knew it was time to branch out on her own. Semaine recently visited the party planner to the stars at her studio in London, and got a glimpse into her everyday life and discuss all things event planning. We tapped the party powerhouse to share her best career and entertaining tips with us.
MYDOMAINE: What part of your job would people find most surprising?
FIONA LEAHY: The amount of manual labor that goes into an event—it’s really quite physically challenging. It’s a great job, but it’s not as glamorous as people might think.
MD: What are your thoughts on invitations: paper or digital?
FL: I absolute adore paper invitations. One of my favourite things to receive is a beautiful invitation, so my heart is with paper. Saying that, I’ve really embraced digital recently, and have consulted with Paperless Post on their business. I’ve also been doing some amazing GIFs as save the dates and invites, so the two can co-exist.
MD: Where do you look for inspiration or trends for an event?
FL: I love to travel and I pick up lots of ideas while I'm away. What I do is so multi-sensory that there are many different places and ways to pick up inspiration. I recently attended a Gem and Mineral show, which I incorporated into my work. A good restaurant can also be as valuable as an incredible Instagram account
MD: Who do you love to follow on Instagram?
MD: What are your party playlist classics?
Get the playlist for all aspects of the evening. Arrivals, getting in the swing, upping the tempo and depending on how you entertain domestic disco! No matter what you do, music and lighting are the most important thing.
MD: What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
FL: I would stay I get imore of a creative block than ever being uninspired. I go for a walk with my dog Riley, or drink wine. One of those will always work!
MD: What are your morning and evening rituals?
FL: I like to meditate while lying on my heated amethyst bed. I take a morning boxing class followed by a coffee on my way to the studio.
When I get home, I light my candles, burn sage and have a bath. Then, depending on the night will either have yogi tea or a glass of wine while listening to music.
MD: What is your favorite memory from an event you’ve designed?
FL: After a very long hot tough derig in Montenegro, I went swimming with my whole team in a pool full of floating mirror balls I had designed. While working on a particularly challenging event abroad, I appreciate the host thanking me in his speech. I really value gratitude.
MD: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
FL: Work hard, put in the hours, and be brave. Always follow your curiosity, even if you aren’t formally trained. Things you're curious about tend to also be what you’re good at.
MD: When arranging florals, what should we keep in mind?
FL: There is a real art to florals. Personally, I love using brass tubes and smaller bud vases with single or triple stems and letting the beauty of the flower be the focus.
MD: In addition to bouquets, what else should we layer in for the perfect tablescape?
FL: I like grouping items and adding layers of interest, like different sizes of candles and flowers. Having a stylist background is a lot like editing: have all the elements you love—it could be starting with a fabulous tablecloth—and then work with the items and edit down.
MD: Who would be on your dream dinner party guest list?
FL: Chelsea Handler and Morrissey.
MD: What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?
FL: I have some lovely big events happening in September, and I’m working to launch my own online emporium that will sell all the essentials for entertaining.