M/Y SAVARONA: Further down the page is a front page press clipping from HURRIYET newspaper covering the event that fully established my career in event organisation. I was still modelling and acting in TV commercials, I’d just filmed and participated in the promotion of a James Bond film as a 007 girl, however I wanted something more productive, consistent and fulfilling that was compatible with my prior training in interior design. I’d already launched a couple of new restaurants in London and decorated various properties for developers, then I was asked to help organise the European aspect of the three day relaunch of the 135 metre mega-yacht the ‘M/Y SAVARONA’ in Istanbul (former Presidential yacht of Kemal Ataturk in the 1930’s and officially classified as a ship due to it’s size). The owner, Kahraman Sadikoglu, who was restoring the vessel from a serious state of dilapidation, was a friend of good friends and he knew my network was particularly interesting at that time as I was regularly socialising with quite impressive names. The infrastructure of the gala was organised by major marketing companies out of NYC, Paris, Rome and London, the event production by a Turkish company and the guest lists by various PRs and well-placed individuals. The occasion turned out to be the highlight of my event design career, to date…

Over 2,000 VIP guests, including the Prime Minister, the President, local dignitaries, high profile celebrities, plus the global news, business and society media, all attended the relaunch at the Dolmabache Palace (pictured above), around a third of them flown in from different locations around the world. Many stayed for the full weekend which included first class flights there and back, accommodation for the guests in the Cirigan Palace on the banks of The Bosphorous, the invitation to the gala dinner and after party, a fantastic firework display over the water, a lavish buffet lunch onboard during a day trip to the Princes Isles (pictured below). The words ‘extravagance’ and ‘luxury’ don’t quite capture the grandeur of the yacht, nor of the hospitality… 

I designed the ivory satin full-length column gown that I wore for the main launch event, then had it custom made and beautifully embroidered with a swan motif using discreet pearlised and iridescent bugle beads by the most highly regarded seamstress in Istanbul – plus matching beaded satin slipper shoes with kitten heels, chandelier earrings, a jewel-embellished satin clutch purse. I’d had my hair chopped at Michaeljohn in London to just above my shoulders in a sleek bob which was swept back off my face, and on the night itself the Turkish hair and makeup artist flicked it out slightly at the ends. When I saw the dress and accessories completed, I remember being brought to tears by the detail of the work involved and the creativity – way beyond what I’d initially dreamt; I still have the gown hanging in my wardrobe, worn only on that one magnificent occasion…

I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but I was obviously channeling Grace Kelly in her ‘To Catch A Thief’ role, with my hair and the cut of the dress. Just after the event I went back to LA and was coincidentally shortlisted to play her in a movie. I didn’t get the part, which was no surprise to me as I’d had no real training in acting beyond appearing in a few TV and cinema commercials. It was nice to have been asked, tho’...

MEMORIES OF ISTANBUL: What I remember most about Istanbul is the elegance of the women, the level of sophistication everywhere, the gorgeous homes, the fantastic cuisine available throughout the city and the beautifully lit and landscaped private dining clubs on the banks of The Bosphorus – which left other cities in the dust at that time, probably still do. I lived in the Swissotel (below) for three months in the lead up to the relaunch event, and got to know the city quite well. I loved watching the yachts, boats and ships passing right by at eye level just a few yards in front of me (from the perfect vantage point of my hotel room window on the 5th floor) and I remember seeing the most spectacularly dramatic thunder and lightening storms reflected over the water at night.

A great friend, Gulriz (in the image above, right of me), acted as my tour operator, personal protection officer and translator making life in the city so much easier. A traditional hammam experience is an absolute must when you visit this city; it leaves you feeling like you’ve dropped 10 kilos, lost 20 years and that you’re walking on air. Istanbul is fascinating and exciting, best visited in the summer months when you can sit outside and enjoy the exotic ambience in the sun as well as visit the attractions of the private dining clubs, open air restaurants, the spice markets and the mosques. People watching is a full time occupation, too. *Thankfully, as far as I know, they’ve stopped the trained dancing bear cubs that entertained tourists in the streets…

TURKISH CUISINE: I love Turkish food, particularly the dishes with fresh grilled fish, watermelon and aubergine. I enjoy pomegranate juice over ice with a slice of lime – a great cleanser – and I also like using the seeds to create a jewelled salad. You just have to look at the gorgeous women in Istanbul to appreciate the cuisine is not quite as heavy on calories as you may initially believe (as long as you steer clear of the honey-laden baklava). The Turkish women also have beautiful skin and extremely thick, luxurious hair which is a testament to their healthy diet. Most of the dishes use stone ground olive oil, lots of fresh herbs, and seafood is always high up on the menu. You can find recipes for meze appetisers and raki based cocktails in my upcoming lifestyle book.

See a few of my favourite event venues, suppliers and designers further down the page!


Nicky Summer


RESOURCES: For events, I have my favourite suppliers. The production of a stunning and memorable occasion involves a huge number of components and specialists – from formal, calligraphic invitations (preferably by Ruth Kaye Design or Downey in Mayfair, London), guest lists, media contacts, photography all the way through a long list of key elements including staging, lighting, music and car service. Always at the very top of my list of recommendations is Rob Van Helden of RVH Floral Design for stunningly beautiful, bespoke flower installations – tailored with breathtaking empathy, generosity and vision; Jonothon Malone for glamorous hair styling and Ginni Bogado for impeccable makeup and grooming. These teams make the organisation of an event truly pleasurable because, not only are they at the top of their field, they are also ultra-reliable, fun, supportive to be around and excited to help create something magnificent. There’s a reason the very best float to the top, cream always rises. 

RESOURCES: Grand pyrotechnic displays synchronised to music are the forte of Foyle Fireworks; Tony Page executes the most dramatic and astounding event design; venues such as The Dorchester and The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, Shutters On The Beach and Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, plus Plaza Athenee in Paris, Deer Park Country House in Devon, England, and the Aman on the Grand Canal in Venezia are gorgeous venues for extra special occasions; auctioneer, art expert and gallery founder Simon de Pury is the natural choice for international fundraising galas; ‘Great Hire’ provides rental furnishings for creative events around the world; ‘Over The Top Rentals’ produces beautiful, bespoke linen in colours to coordinate with the theme of your party; EM Butlers supplies international service for dinners, parties and events (see image further up page). Champagne Krug, VOLCAN Tequila, Aelder Elixir, Pothecary Gin and Bellissima Prosecco remain amongst my favourite drinks and cocktail bases. Alison Price and Mustard Catering in London, along with PS Tailored Events in NYC, are the best for exquisitely presented canap├ęs and full-blown gala dinner menus. 

For beautifully tailored gowns and two-pieces on a classically elegant theme (that remain a wardrobe investment for many years to come), see the past and current collections by Dolce & Gabbana (image top, left), VERSACE (above, right), MUSE King’s Road; Mascara Collection; Brandon Maxwell (video, top right), Ralph Lauren, Oscar De La Renta (image bottom, right) and Ralph & Russo for inspiration. 

CONTACT: All of the experts mentioned above have websites and accounts on Instagram where you can view examples of their work and get in touch direct.

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