Let’s party by Michaela Cordes | 24th November, 2017 | Personalities
From New York, Singapore to London guests have enjoyed the glamorous invitations of Rena Kirdar Sindi. The daughter of an Iraqi investor knows how to throw a party and is unrivaled when it comes to the art of entertaining. Now the author with an Ivy League education is sharing her unusual know-how with the rest of the world. GG met the legendary hostess at her holiday home in St. Tropez.
Stepping into Café Senequier on the harbor promenade in St. Tropez, you can literally feel that the good vibes have arrived. With her wild, black mane of hair, eyes that sparkle when she speaks and her infectious laugh, Rena Kirdar Sindi is a party queen right out of 1001 Nights. “Nobody gives incredible parties like her!,” the acclaimed New York Times wrote enthusiastically. In London, where she lives today, the invitations of the Iraqi-born mother of two daughters are the highlight of each season. The cosmopolitan daughter of Nemir A. Kirdar, the successful businessman who founded the investment bank Investcorp (Editor’s note: in the 1980s, Investcorp was one of the first banks to invest Arab money in western luxury firms such as Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co.), attended Oxford, Columbia and Cambridge and in 2002 published a bestselling book, Be My Guest. A beautifully illustrated book of parties, it included a how-to guide to hosting them and is continually sold out. This coming spring, Assouline will be publishing a second Rena book. She also posts party tips and guidelines to a perfect event on her blog at beRguest.co.uk, which she is planning to turn into a onestop shop for everyone who needs support in planning their party.
“ I was bullied as a teenager. So today I enjoy
being a host and getting invited to parties myself.”
Rena Kirdar Sindi
How does an Ivy League graduate become a professional party host? “I was in my early twenties, doing an internship at the UN and living with my first husband in New York. I just started getting asked to host events for brands, probably because I knew so many interesting people thanks to the way I grew up. I loved doing it, and had lots of very creative ideas. Back in the ’90s, luxury brands like Dior also had very large event budgets. In 1992 I moved to Singapore. One day my mother called me saying how terrible it was that I had had such a good education but that all she ever heard people say about me was that I threw the best parties! She was concerned about my reputation, but I decided that instead of ridding myself of it, I would use my reputation to add value to the world – write a book or start a blog. Help people make smarter decisions when planning their parties.”
Your basic formula for a good party is that it doesn’t have to be expensive, but you still need to invest a lot – what do you mean exactly? “It’s not a question of money, it’s how you do things without breaking the bank. Its all about the details!”
So the more thought you put into into it, the better your chances of throwing a successful party? “In the eyes of your guests, every little detail is like a gift, and the more effort I put in, the more amazing the result will be.”
Why do you think you enjoy bringing people together so much? “It’s the essence of life when creating both private and business relationships. I just love to entertain and I’m good at it because I know every single guest. When I meet someone new whom I don’t know, I like to learn their story. When I make my seating plan, I mix and match so that it makes sense. If you wonder why you are sitting beside a particular person at one of my dinners, you’ll find out why in the course of the evening.”
In your blog you write that you like to entertain today because you were bullied as a teenager and now really enjoy being invited to parties yourself. “Yes, that’s true. I was born in Baghdad, but we lived in New York, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain before moving to London. We lived in so many cities all over the world that for a long time I never really felt at home anywhere.“
“How do you turn a good party into an amazing one?
With just the right mix of guests, energy and location.”
Rena Kirdar Sindi
You say it’s also the mix of guests that gives a party its special energy. What’s your secret and how often do you entertain? “I give one or two big parties every year for about 150 people. If you invite more than 200 you lose the intimacy. I want to be able to interact with every one of my guests. Each one has been invited for a reason – either because they are close friends, because they are fun to be around or because I would like to get to know them better. Or they are people who have invited me and I want to return the favor.”
What is the most important ingredient for a really good party? “The host! It’s the host who sets the tone.”
What’s preferable, a seated dinner or a flying buffet? “Seated! A good party needs to be choreographed. You cannot make a soup by just throwing in everything and hoping for the best. A good party has to be built up carefully and requires a smart seating plan. I see it as an art, and it’s how you create the magic.”
What about couples, do you seat them together or apart? “Never together! Biggest mistake ever! When I sit next to my husband I sit at home on our sofa in a track suit, eating pizza. All made up with my hair done and makeup, I want to get to know new people!”
What was your most elaborate and fun party so far? “I loved them all, but the jungle-themed party in New York with Roberto Cavalli in early 2000 was my favorite. I love sexy themes. This one suited my energy and my personality perfectly. Guests arrived in the craziest costumes. Even the shy ones came in leopard dresses for the first time. You have to have a theme that works for people who are shy. That’s why I always have props handy, like feathers and masks, along with wigs and face paint. What I’ve learned over the years is that many guests will become more daring once they see the effort other people have put into their costumes.”
What else should you have at hand? “A good photographer. Photos capture the best and the craziest moments that you otherwise quickly forget.”
Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner. Are you planning something special? “Every year in early December we host a Christmas open-house dinner at our home. It’s the only annual event I do that’s not seated, but I always come up with new themes. Last year it was a Black & White Christmas and I sprayed all kinds of things like boxes, guitars and balls with black and white paint and hung them on the tree.”
How about when you are the guest – do you enjoy being invited? (She laughs) “Oh yes – my husband often says: Rena, your outfit is more elaborate than our host’s! But I feel, when you’ve been invited somewhere, you have a responsibility as a guest to make it a fun evening.”
Do you think your talent for entertaining is grounded in your roots? “Being from the Middle East has definitely helped. People are very warm and welcoming and love to entertain. Also, they are very generous hosts even if they have nothing. And by the way, my mother has been very proud of me ever since my first book!”