Meet the designer of the social event of the year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Gala, Raúl Àvila, who shares his designs from the this year’s ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology’ dinner.
Jamali Garden: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get your start in floral and event design?
Raúl Àvila: I began my career in event design working for my mentor, Robert Isabel. I started out as his assistant and worked my way up over 14 years to become his Creative Director.
JG: How would you describe your floral and decor style?
RÀ: I tend to keep things simple and elegant and let the freshness of florals and greenery be the focus.
JG: We were beyond excited when we saw our julep cups and candles on the tables you designed at this year’s Met Gala. How many years have you been the designer and how long does it take to set up the entire event?
RÀ: 2016 was my tenth year designing the event. As soon as I know what the exhibit’s focus will be, we start planning, which takes most of the year. We are in production for over a month before the event and then we get into the museum a week before. The majority of set up can’t happen at the museum until the night before since the museum remains open to the public, so it all happens quite quickly.
JG: Wow! This is gorgeous, lovely, impressive… just amazing. How many roses did this take?
RÀ: This is the entrance guests walk through to get to dinner in the Temple of Dendur. We used 300,000 stems of four shades of roses to get an ombré effect from left to right.
JG: Break down the the tablescape. How did you tie it into the gala’s theme?
RÀ: I wanted the focus to be the charger, which I custom designed, drawing inspiration from the exhibit’s exploration of technology. It was important to then elevate the rest of the tabletop so I did cut glass wine and water glasses and pearl handled flatware. I always do tons of candlelight and hemstitch linen dinner napkins.
JG: What are all the flowers you used for the centerpieces?
RÀ: I used a mix of different flowers in all different colors including ranunculus, peonies, anemones, and parrot tulips, in julep cups.
A Hampton’s Wedding
JG: The orchids on the church pews are a gorgeous look. How can a couple recreate this look with other flowers?
RÀ: I chose orchids for their simplicity and classic appeal. For any couples that want to recreate this look I would say to call me!
JG: Where was this wedding and was the entire event in a tent?
RÀ: This wedding took place at the family’s home in Southampton. I filled the pool with rose petals and surrounded it with large lanterns. Cocktails took place around the pool and then guests moved to a separate tent for dinner. It was a very rainy couple of days setting up and even the day of the wedding, but luckily it cleared up slightly just before cocktails so we were able to leave the sides of the tent off.
JG: Is this a lounge area?
RÀ: We had lounge furniture in the dinner tent so guests could mingle between courses. The walls of the tent were covered in boxwood and white linen curtains.
JG: Describe the table decor. Was there a wedding color and theme to the design?
RÀ: I used blue hydrangeas to add color and life to a very white color palette. The silver urns and custom candlesticks felt very traditional and elegant and as always, I had tons of candles on the tables. We brought in 24 trees to add some height and hung lanterns from the tent ceiling to blend with the beach town setting in a refined way.
JG: Any wedding planning tips for brides and grooms, or for great events?
RÀ: It is important to stay true to your own style and taste and not fear what others may think. Change up seating arrangements so everyone is not seated next to their significant other. It’s always special when guests leave a wedding having made new connections.
JG: What are 3 of your favorite Jamali Garden items?
RÀ: I love the timelessness of a julep cup. I use them at my events quite often. I also like to mix in bud vases with regular size arrangements to add a little dimension to the table. And of course, I always get my floral knives and clippers from Jamali. I am constantly finding them in all of my pockets and bags.