If you live in San Francisco, have an indispensable budget, and are looking to throw a super memorable party, there is one man and one man only who is capable of getting the job done: event planner super star extraordinaire, Mr. Stanlee Gatti. Stan has spent more than 20 years envisioning the decor of countless high society events with a sense of style that is utterly unique and breath-taking - including the Black & White Ball and several major floral art exhibitions such as the recent ONE at the Conservatory of Flowers. Last week I had the extreme pleasure (seriously I was so nervous he is like one of my idols and there is a character in my novel loosely based off of him) of sitting down with Mr. Gatti in his beautifully light, airy studio in SOMA. When I walked through the front door I was worried I had the address wrong as upstairs is Stanlee's office and downstairs is where the production of designing the look for an event takes place.
Downstairs is totally urban with an industrial feel and upstairs is warm and chic - the walls practically oozed luscious creativity. When I asked Gatti about the upcoming trends in party decor, his answer was that of pure confidence and utter genius: I do not know what the trends are because I set the trends. I never look at what everyone else is doing. He only borrows from himself by delving deeper into his history to discover a new way of doing things. A tried and true trendsetter, Gatti sees the world through rose colored glasses literally as he was born with the gift to visually glimpse the world in colors.
His infectiously positive outlook, incredible will to translate his ideas from vision into reality, and fun loving attitude make him not only one of the best event planners in the nation, but an ideal human too. For more on Stanlee's way of life and my interview, read more
PartySugar: What colors are popular this year?
Stanlee Gatti: I have a natural instinct for color and see the world in color. The colors I use are based on my own feelings. Right now I love eggplant, reds, purples, blues. The combination of eggplant and red, purple and red. I like to take two colors and mix them differently.
PS: Do the colors generally change with the season?
SG: Slightly, I get some of my inspiration from what is happening in the fashion world, especially from the Japanese designers. I only wear Japanese clothing with the occasional pair of Levi's because they are truly unique and different. Yohji [Yamamoto] and Issey [Miyake] push clothing and design to a place of innovation.
PS: What trends are emerging in arrangements and centerpieces?
SG: Always think in colors first because the color is energy. I do not know what the trends are because I set the trends. I never look at what everyone else is doing, but I've been doing arrangements that are back to the basics: overflowing, jammed flowers. It's a return to the 80's when everything was a little more traditional and using one type of color and flower was innovative. There is a simplicity and form to it all.
PS: What flowers are in?
SG: There is a caste system in which roses, orchids, and lily of the valley are always in, but I love doing funeral flowers at a party. Gladiolus, mums, and carnations can be absolutely beautiful when done correctly. I say never close the doors - if done correctly in the right way anything can be done. I don't believe in framing things in. It's up to the individual to create something that expresses where you are. I don't ever want to be predictable. It depends on how far your mind travels to a different place. Other than that, I've been doing a lot of flowers and fruit, roses and pears in gold tones.
PS: Is there a huge difference between the east coast bride and the west coast
brides? Between the east coast party and the west coast party?
SG: The only difference is in climate. The location and climate of a party obviously affects what the kind of party it is and what it looks like as well.
PS: What was your most memorable party?
SG: The Black and White Ball of '87 because it was the first time anyone had ever blacked out an entire tent before. I loved the way it looked it made it look like space or had the feeling of being in a planetarium because the only light came from underneath the tables. Still there are so many memorable parties. Suzie Tompkin's wedding on the pier was amazing because we virtually took 12 days to build a wooden reception room with murals.
PS: What's your advice to the everyday hostess?
SG: Do small dinner parties and try your best. Do what you think is pretty and what you like. Don't go into it with the mindset of trying to impress, instead put a real interest into the food you make and the flowers you choose.
PS: What's your advice to the bride who wants the perfect wedding?
SG: Perfect: define perfect? A perfect party is a party where everyone has fun. The number one most important thing is that there is fun. Perfect equals fun.
PS: Where can a bride cut costs without it showing to guests?
SG: Mix things and remember not all centerpieces have to be floral. Look at what's important to you and go from there. Make a list of the most important part of your wedding and start cutting from the bottom up.
PS: What was the biggest wedding disaster you have ever had to confront and how did you do so?
SG: 15 years ago in Modesto at one of the Gallo daughter's weddings. We were using a huge pompadour rose and drove the roses up in a refrigerator truck. On the morning of the wedding we realized the flowers had froze and had to buy every pink rose from every florist in the area. In the end everything worked out as it was supposed to. As long as you work it out before the party, everything will end up as it's supposed to end up. For me once the event starts it's all about having fun and no disasters occur.
PS: What is your favorite flower?
SG: I don't have one. Flowers are like colors, I love them all. I enjoy green earth tones because every other color goes with green. But seriously how can you turn your back on anything that comes from nature when there is merit to it all? The other day I saw a dandelion and thought it was the most beautiful thing.
PS: What is your guilty pleasure food?
SG: Without a doubt, chocolate.
PS: What is your favorite restaurant in San Francisco?
SG: I'm a vegetarian and love the Moroccan food at Aziza.
PS: A successful party is…
SG: Fun! A party is only wrecked by the negative attitude of the people in attendance. It's really all about having fun. You could stay at home with a six-pack and be with the greatest group of people and have as much fun as at a huge glamorous party.
For a peek of Mr. Gatti in action, come back tomorrow to check out the images of a dinner he was designing the night of this interview. Click on an image below for a closer look at the inside of his studio.