It’s Fashion Week in New York, which means the next eight days are all about frocks and fêtes, two things that Lela Rose knows exceedingly well. One of the country’s leading fashion designers—her clients include such stylish gals as Kate Middleton, Anne Hathaway, and Mariska Hargitay—Lela is also one of the nation’s most creative party hosts. Let’s put it this way: hemmed-in thinking is not how this fashionable member of The Salonniere 100 and author of Pret-a-Party: Great Ideas for Good Times and Creative Entertaining approaches party planning. Mix yourself a cuppa Catwalk and Pearls and listen in as Lela reveals a few tidbits that aren’t in her book, including the one party she wishes she could have attended and her three biggest party pet peeves.
What’s your entertaining style?
Whimsical, unexpected, and always a good time.
Do you have a favorite party dress?
I can’t pick a favorite. When I host a party I usually pick something that goes with the theme of the evening. Sometimes I pull something out of my closet and sometimes I design something new for the night.
What’s your dream dinner party?
I already hosted it! Being a foodie, there is no chef I am more in awe of than Ferran Adria of El Bulli in Spain. I went two years ago before it closed and was completely blown away by his astounding creativity. We had a 60-person dinner in honor of Ferran Adria. We had five chefs – Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Dan Barber, and Dominique Ansel – each prepare one course. I worked with a set designer on the table décor. It was my dream come true.
Who’s the most fascinating person you’ve ever met at a party?
John F. Kennedy Jr. I think I did more staring than talking.
What party do you wish you could go back in time to attend?
Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball
What’s your favorite cocktail?
A jalapeño margarita. My husband makes a mean one!
What’s your favorite flower?
Flowers are gorgeous but, when I am decorating for a party, I prefer to use more natural elements like fruits, vegetables, and things from the green market that will last longer.
Photo: One Kings Lane
What song always gets you up and dancing at a party?
Anything by Hall & Oates.
Are there any topics you won’t touch while entertaining?
I am a little too open and have found myself mired in muck before. There are definitely topics I should swear off, but I am just too opinionated and find myself opening my mouth even when I know better.
If you had just $100 to spend on party décor, what would you buy?
I find you can dress your table in all kinds of ways that cost even less than $100. I have used branches sprayed with gold glitter, clear wine bottles filled with candles, old thread spools and bird nests that I have collected over the years. I prefer to spend more time thinking creatively about table décor and it usually always costs less than a more traditional floral table.
The holidays will be here before we know it. Tell us about your holiday entertaining plans.
We have a holiday dinner every year with some of our closest friends. I love to do an actual seated dinner where people really connect as I find cocktail parties with quick conversation are the norm for that time of year. I love to do seasonal and decadent food, like partridge with quince, roasted persimmon, acorn squash and figs, etc. I served a rum flip cocktail that definitely fit the time of the year.
What are your favorite party resources?
The green market in Union Square always inspires me to either have a party or find exactly how I want to dress my table. I adore all the heirloom fruits and vegetables and never tire of any of it. My other go-to resource is Jamali in New York’s flower district. They have every kind of spray, candle, and twine that you could need or want for decorating.
Photo: Food & Wine
What are your three party pet peeves?
An open bar (I think a specialty cocktail is a must and shows that thought and attention is being paid to every detail), take-out food, and plastic containers.
What are your three party must-haves?
A specialty cocktail, good food, and an at ease hostess. No one has fun when the hostess isn’t happy.
We’ll drink to that. Thanks for stopping by, Lela.