For the office party, it’s the end of an era. From dancefloor to decor, change is afoot, meaning the sticky mix of glittery streamers and cups left to sweep up the morning after is now, at a minimum, biodegradable. For a new wind is sweeping through the season: at office parties, sober chaperones, sustainable snow blowers and plant-based parties are the norm rather than the novelty.
“Things have that seemed tasteless a decade ago are tasteful now,” says Yasmin Mills, an events organiser who last month hosted a festive shopping and cocktails evening at her Ecofêtes Studio in Kensington with Jade Jagger. “Artificial Christmas trees are now seen as sustainable decor rather than a cheap last-minute fix, and clients actually insist to me that the menu must be vegetarian.” Indeed, Monday’s Fashion Awards — the British Fashion Council’s A-list knees-up at the Royal Albert Hall, and the unofficial start of the festive season — featured a forward-thinking low-waste menu, signalling that sustainability is very much in vogue.
And where fashion leads, other industries follow. From social safeguards to booze-free bars, these are the party politics that really matter this season.
Turkey is tacky; plant-based parties are sweeping menus across the capital. At the Fashion Awards’s sit-down dinner— after a performance by Little Simz — guests were treated to canapés such as white beetroot sushi with horseradish and for main course, glazed heritage carrots with roasted carrot cream and pesto — both vegan and gluten-free. Guests had to opt-in if they wanted lamb. The vegmas menu was consistent with the Fashion Awards’s greenest bash to date: Lady Mary Charteris and model Arizona Muse wore borrowed gowns from designer rental service My Wardrobe HQ; supermodels Joan Smalls and Karen Elson wore upcycled gemstones by Swarovski and Stella McCartney (green, but make it glam); and circular fashion was the topic of the night. Yasmin Mills says she has been serving her Kensington clientele plant-based meat substitutes: honey roasted dates wrapped in crispy parsnips as a take on pigs in a blankets and earl grey-smoked carrot blinis with kombu millet caviar as an alternative to smoked salmon blinis.
Decking the halls
Johnny Roxburgh, the illustrious royal party planner, says unsustainable decor is now “unconscionable”. He’s hired VFX specialist Richard Van Den Bergh to ensure a white Christmas at his VIP December ball (“if I told you the list I’d have to kill you”) with biodegradable snow blowers and animatronic polar bears. The news cycle also creates new party favourites. “Since Channel 4’s recent climate change debate the phone has been ringing off the hook with party planners enquiring about our sustainable sculptures,” says Amy Edsell from Icebox, the company that made stand-ins for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
One tech agency is flying its employees to Iceland for a bender — let’s hope they offset the carbon emissions
The ultimate anti-Brexit Christmas bash? Throw your party in a European city! According to PR insiders, one London tech agency is flying all 25 of its employees to Iceland for a three-day bender (a Blue Lagoon trip to cure the hangover, presumably), while one entertainment firm is heading to Benidorm. Let’s hope they offset the carbon emissions.
Dare we ask what’s involved? “I don’t know yet,” a nervous employee said. “Apparently all will be revealed next week.” Tech giants know how to take their party people back in time, too. Tonight’s Google staffers’ blowout is headlined by Eighties icons Salt-N-Pepa. Push it good.
No boys allowed
One way to avoid accidentally snogging Martin from sales: keep your party strictly men-free. Female members club AllBright is hosting a women-only Christmas Party at its glitzy Rathbone Street clubhouse next week, featuring carols sung by West End stars from Mamma Mia! and Dear Evan Hansen, and women’s club The Wing recently held a “donate and decorate” shindig in which members could make decorative glass baubles in exchange for a small donation to charity. Womenswear brand Kitri embraced these girl-power vibes for its festive bash last night: a Christmas disco featuring a blow-dry salon, photo booths and all-female DJ line-up, held at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. The mission? “Let’s fill this working men’s club with women!”
Just because you’re a freelancer, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Female networking incubator The Coven Girl Gang is doing things a little differently this year: later this month, founder Sapphire Bates is hosting a “virtual” Christmas office party for female founders who can’t get together for cash, transport or childcare reasons. “You don’t have to move a muscle,” she explains. The bash kicks off at 8pm on December 19 on video conferencing app Zoom and it’s bring your own booze — crack open that sloe gin you got in your stocking last year. The dress code is “fancy” and Bates is expecting as many as 350 members to join in.
Panasonic, Charlotte Tilbury, Jigsaw and Penhaligon’s are among the companies that have booked into cult blowdry bar Duck & Dry for a beauty bash this year, while others are swapping tinsel for the treadmill. Cult fitness studio Barry’s Bootcamp says it’s seen a spike in bookings from finance, law, design and consulting firms booking alternative Christmas dos in its infamous Red Room. Ride studios Psycle and Boomcycle say everyone from
law firms to hedge funds have booked out their 30-55 bike rooms to kick off their office Christmas parties and SoulCycle even has a Mac make-up bar in studio during the week for pre-pub touch-ups.
Not all party-goers will be throwing back Bellinis this year: accountancy giant BDO LLP has reportedly introduced “sober chaperones” for its Christmas bash. Two assigned staff will be told to stick to soft drinks so they can “be responsible in an emergency situation” and “ensure everybody can get home safely”. How these will be chosen is unconfirmed. “I know these precautionary measures might sound slightly excessive to some, but I think they are sensible for the wellbeing of our people,” chief operating officer Andy Butterworth wrote to the firm’s 3,700 UK staff. Others are joining the teetotal brigade: Bloomberg reports that accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has suggested daytime events this year to avoid boozy evening parties, and KPMG is encouraging staff to have “little or no alcohol” at festive parties for safety reasons. No-gronis all round.
At the other end of the spectrum, the decadent Christmas party option: a drug-guzzling, adrenaline-fuelled carnival of debauchery featuring coke snorting and dollar bill-bathing (well, on stage, anyway). Liverpool Street’s Immersive Wolf of Wall Street theatre adaptation is the hottest Christmas party ticket for City firms this year: think greed, excess and financial skulduggery set across four floors and 25 rooms — swimming pool included. The Jordan Belfort-inspired production is set round the corner from Deutsche Bank and UBS buildings and “there’s at least one office Christmas party in every night”, say producers. “It creates a fantastic atmosphere.”