Recently, I was lucky enough to sit down with one of my idols: the extraordinary event planner Colin Cowie. We met for coffee on a sunny California afternoon and discussed his new book Chic, the dos and don'ts of being a fabulous hostess, and the formula for a successful and memorable party. Colin oozes chicness in everything he does, whether it's working as creative director of a yet-to-be-opened hotel in Hong Kong, planning a wedding for Middle Eastern royalty, or simply making dinner for a few friends in his stylish home.
To see what Colin had to say when we sat down together and to watch a video of our conversation,
Colin is of Zambian descent and began his career in party planning as a caterer when he moved to the States over 20 years ago. He's created events for celebrities and magazines, and makes regular appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He's authored over five lifestyle and entertaining books and his company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle is a leading force in the world of premier events. He spends his time traveling the globe and has homes in New York and Florida. He collects tableware — candles, napkin holders, placemats, etc. — and is incredibly organized. Here is what he had to say:
PartySugar: What trends are emerging in party planning?
Colin Cowie: The uncatered and unproduced look. A seamless elegance. Anything that's expected is boring. You should tell a story, have an element of surprise. Even if it's just a residential party, change things around. Add a sculpture, rearrange furniture, etc.
PS: What was your most memorable party?
CC: The last one is always the most memorable. The one I am most excited about is always the next one. Certainly planning Oprah's Legends Ball was a 72-hour legendary moment. She is amazing, she really gets it. She and I speak the same language because she is the ultimate producer.
PS: What's your advice to the everyday hostess?
CC: The most important thing — when planning any event — is simplicity. Keep it easy and the spirit casual. Design menus that allow you to be with your guests. Make everything in advance and always remember, maintain a level of elegance and chicness.
PS: In your book, you discuss the do's/don'ts of being a proper host/guest. What was the worst host gift you ever received?
CC: The worst host gift is when the fourth person of the party arrives with a huge bouquet of flowers. I have to take time away from the party to find a vase and arrange them. At my parties I already have color coordinated floral arrangements and often times the gifted flowers don't match my color scheme. If you want to give flowers, send them the next day, after the party. The best gifts are always music and cookbooks. I love compilation CDs that my friends make specifically for me.
PS: What did you have for lunch today?
CC: I had the most fabulous lunch. It was a piece of fish cooked in a miso-ginger broth with Japanese mushrooms, baby white asparagus all wrapped in cedarwood. For dessert, I had a hollowed out Clementine filled with Clementine-orange sorbet. My friend made me this lunch and it was absolutely wonderful.
Photos Courtesy of Colin Miller