By the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, a wildly unlikely group—Greek royals, young lovers, rude mechanicals, the fairy queen and king, and an ass—comes together for a spell of mischief and merriment in the woods outside Athens. And so it was on April 25 when two Olympic rowers, three professional soccer players, prima ballerinas, jewelers and fashionistas, restaurateurs and businessmen assembled for one evening in the garden. If Shakespeare had Puck to make it all happen, we had David E. Monn. The virtuoso event creator—dressed in Valentino white seersucker—transformed the raw interior of New York's Industria studio into an environment that can only be described as magical. Boxwood hedges lined the walls. Live ducks quacked their way around Manolos and Louboutins. An Airstream trailer housed a Christian Dior–clad model. And foie gras burgers from Laurent Tourondel sustained guests until dawn. "The poet," wrote Shakespeare, "glances from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven…and gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name." Our thoughts exactly. And now, the Garden Party by David E. Monn.
It all began as just a garden barbecue and a movie," says Monn of the fantasy set he created for this shoot. But how do you take that classic summer party and make it worthy of black tie and couture? As always, Monn's guiding principle was "refine, refine, refine." The traditional burgers came stuffed with foie gras; the popcorn was flavored with truffle butter; the BLT was of soft-shell crab; the cooler became a sterling-silver ice bucket from Tiffany's; the beer was Dom Pérignon 1999 Vintage and Imperia Russian vodka. Then Monn brought in details designed to address all the senses—a strategy he refers to as the rules of engagement—starting with scent. "Most people think that what they see is the most important," he says. "They are wrong." And so 15,000 pounds of fresh boxwood were flown in from Virginia, while six fresh jasmine candles from Vie Luxe lined the reflecting pool. Water trickling down the fountains produced the right auditory effect. Finally, the eyes took in the stuffed white peacock, the vintage Airstream Bambi, the 3,000 New Zealand white roses, and the Panasonic flat-screen TV (at $70,000, the largest plasma in the world), which was playing To Catch a Thief. Cary Grant never looked more at home. 212-242-2009; davidmonn.com
What Is Summer Black Tie?
When the white roses are flown in from New Zealand, the Champagne is a 1999 Vintage, and the guests are a stellar crowd of fashion editors, clothing designers, and award-winning athletes—not to mention five Aflac ducks— a classic tuxedo is just a tad too ordinary. At this party, summer black tie came in the form of Michael Bastian's Nantucket Pink tuxedo pants with black grosgrain detail (below), Valentino's white seersucker dinner jacket with satin lapels (on Monn, left, $1,900)—ISAIA does one in the traditional blue and white—and Dior Homme's pearl-colored, shawl-collar blazer (opposite, on Clint Mathis) worn with skinny black pants. Satin bow ties were traded in for a cleaner grosgrain style from Ralph Lauren ($100) and metal cuff links were replaced with touches of whimsy: Aaron Basha's green enamel frog princes, Asprey's candy-apple-red bull's-eyes, and Shanghai Tang's Andy Warhol–inspired Chairman Mao studs.
What makes a great party? Whenever Monn gets asked this question (read: all the time), he gives the same answer—food, environment, luxury, entertainment, and comfort. Comfort? Absolutely, says Monn, who spent weeks tracking down the perfect vintage Airstream Bambi for guests to lounge in before he discovered the 75th-anniversary limited edition shown here (937-596-6111; air stream.com). And what of having a trailer in the middle of a black-tie event? "Every party needs a bit of folly," Monn says. A shining example of American design, the Airstream was given the complete Monn treatment, outfitted with flokati rugs, tufted cushions, hand-frayed linens, glass jars filled with green Jordan almonds and malted milk balls, and a tea service from Tiffany's. Not your average afternoon in the park.
"I never use anything as just a party prop," Monn says. "As much as possible, details need to be authentic. That's what makes the magic." The topiary was crafted by assembling old branches and adding leaves. The white peacock, geese, and flying pheasant were sourced from the city's best taxidermy dealers. And though sunlight could not stream through the windowless studio, the masters at Frost Lighting (212-751-0223; frostlighting.com) made it look and feel like the real thing. When it came time to plan the menu with BLT chef Laurent Tourondel (bltrestaurants.com), Monn thought the drinks should be filled with fresh herbs and spices. And so the fennel margarita was born: 2 oz. tequila, 2 oz. fennel juice, 1 oz. fennel syrup, and 1 oz. lime juice. Serve in a highball glass with salted rim and lime wheel.