Rachel Hollis has a resume and panache of someone twice her age but her style is decidedly fresh and contemporary. We met during the holidays when we were both guests on The Nate Berkus Show and I was drawn to her warm personality and elegant yet easy style. Rachel got her start organizing premieres and press junkets for Hollywood films and eventually went off on her own to create her own company, Chic Events. She has seemingly done it all, organizing celebrity weddings, eagle scout celebrations, and parties for a variety of A listers, from Al Gore to Cuba Gooding Jr.
She spends her little free time as a contributor to Traditional Home Magazine and various TV shows, not to mention that she’s a mother and wife. Her success was recognized by Inc. Magazine who named her a “Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30″ and I was able to sneak her away from all of that for a quick interview and a few party-planning tips. As if that all weren’t enough, she has a must-read entertaining blog, My Chic Life, and will shortly be launching a digital magazine. Also, be sure to check out her TasteMaker Takeaway recipe for a Lavender Bellini — perfect for an upcoming baby shower, wedding, or any other event where you’ll want to add Rachel’s chic touch.
Q: Tell us about Chic Events. How did you end up on this path as a party and event planner?
A: I grew up in a house that was big on celebration. Every holiday or birthday or random Wednesday was a reason to break out the “nice china.” When I moved to LA my first job was at Miramax and I learned to do real events there. I loved the frenzied pace and the attention to detail required to pull of those fabulous premieres and press junkets, and since throwing parties was something I grew up doing, it was a natural progression as a career.
Q: How would you describe your own style? And how does that aesthetic play in to your work?
A: My style is very eclectic. I love vintage, traditional, color, and scope. I love the juxtaposition of a vintage flea market find next to a luxury piece on top of something I got at Target — my event design is very similar.
Q: How did you hone your party and event planning skills?
A: Being a good hostess is a learned trait like anything else. Over the years you prefect your planning process, your favorite recipes, that killer cocktail everyone loves and it becomes ingrained in you.
Q: How do you cultivate your creativity? What are your sources of inspiration for you personally and for your events?
A: I can find inspiration anywhere: I love magazines, Pinterest, even the hardware store! I’m always fighting to showcase something in a new way. I want to surprise people — I think that’s what makes for an exciting event.
Q: What are the main guidelines you follow when planning an event?
A: Bottom line is that the elements that made a party great 50 years ago are the same thing that make them great today: good food, good drinks, and good music. If those are in place, no matter what else is going on, you can pull off something fabulous!
Q: What has been your favorite or strangest event you’ve planned to date?
A: My first ever really large event was a party to celebrate a boy who became an Eagle Scout. It’s, apparently, really hard to achieve and wasn’t even something I was familiar with before I did it. The amount his parents spent on the party rivals the annual budget of some smaller Island nations…it was crazy over the top!
Q: And what is on your bucket list?
A: My 30th birthday is coming up in January… I’ve been planning it in my head since my 25th… it’ll be epic.
Q: Which décor items are your currently coveting?
A: I’m finally getting around to decorating my living room and have settled on a fairly eclectic design (shocker!) Right now I’m gathering a collection of vintage wrought iron blackbirds for my mantle… it sounds crazy, but in my head it looks amazing!
Q: For those aiming to hone their home entertaining chops, where would you suggest they start?
A: Start small. Invite over a handful of friends and serve them food and drinks you feel totally comfortable with (even if that’s just takeout on your own plates). Once you achieve that party, try a little bigger the next time: maybe more guests, maybe a muddled cocktail. Keep building up your repertoire and your confidence level.
Q: What advice would you have for people planning a big event like say a wedding, baby shower, or any of the other events that pop up this time of year?
A: Calm Down — this one event won’t dictate your total life happiness for the rest of time. Choose elements you like and stop obsessing over Pinterest or Google image, you’ll just overwhelm yourself. Remember, there’s no one-way to throw a party, there’s only your way.
Q: DIY décor has become so trendy in the past few years. What do you encourage people to DIY and what do you tell them to DIY-don’t?
A: I say, stick with what you know. For a dinner party I’ll cook everything myself. For a larger event I’ll bring in a caterer but bake all the desserts (I like having something homemade at each event). But whatever you do, make sure it’s something you feel totally confident in. You don’t want to stress yourself out and become a hot-mess by the time your guests start arriving.
Q: What would you say is an up-and-coming trend in event planning? Is there a certain style, décor, color scheme or theme that you’re seeing a lot of right now?
A: I love that right now, anything goes! People are themeing parties after just about anything that tickles their fancy and they’re doing it in really creative, beautiful ways.
TasteMakers is a monthly interview series with people I’ve met who have inspired me and a chance for them to share some of their wisdom.