By Susan O'Neill Posted December 8, 2008, 12:13 PM EST
TORONTO Capital C invited more than 300 employees and clients to travel back to the heyday of the Orient Express Thursday for a corporate holiday party inspired by the famous train. Mary Pallattella, creative director of Capital C Live Events, worked with Devan to transform the company's King Street East offices and create the feel of traveling on the storied railway service.
“More than ever the world needs some fun, and I think a lot of people are attracted to marketing because it is a fun business. This is also a big part of our brand statement to the marketplace,” Capital C founder Tony Chapman said of the reason the firm decided to move ahead with the party when many companies are canceling holiday events due to the economy. “Live events are also part of what we do, so for all of those reasons we said we're going to keep doing this,” said Chapman, who noted that every dollar the company spends on a party is matched and donated to charity. “We want to make sure we're giving back in different ways.”
The party is the sixth themed holiday soiree Pallattella has planned for the marketing and promotional agency. Past themes have included the space age and Dr. Seuss. “There is a tinge of Christmas and holiday spirit within every theme,” she said.
Pallattella first thought of replicating the Orient Express during last year's space-themed party, when she noticed the office's architectural features. “I knew the angle of the windows would be perfect for transportation,” she said. “And I love anything that is '30s and '40s inspired.” So Pallattella placed a series of high-gloss posters, printed by Grip Graphics, along the hallway to create the gold and midnight blue exterior of the train.
Large paper cylinders featuring maps of Europe wrapped around the overhead lighting in the reception area, where a model wearing a vintage gown and a feather in her hair handed out strands of pearls to arriving guests, many of whom dressed in clothing inspired by the era. DJ Eric Ling spun holiday songs and music from the '30s and '40s, adding dance tunes to the mix as the party progressed.
Through the windows along the hallway, guests could peek into a sleeping car furnished with an Art Deco bed, a vanity, and vintage suitcases. “I bought old paper doll books that became a lot of the inspiration [for this room],” said Pallattella, who draped one wall in red velvet fabric and used video footage of the French countryside—and audio of a train rolling down the tracks—to create the feel of a moving locomotive.
In addition to the sleeping car, Pallattella created two rooms inspired by Istanbul and Venice—two of the original stops on the Orient Express. She draped fabric from the ceiling of the Istanbul-themed room—which housed the main bar and dance floor—and filled the space with pillows and Turkish lanterns. In the Venetian room—which featured a long buffet table topped with crystal candleholders and red roses—Pallattella used stone statues, fountains, and greenery to create the feel of an Italian courtyard.
The theme continued with the menu, created by Domenic Chiaromonte, executive chef of Match Restaurant, who researched the era as well as Paris, Istanbul, and Venice before creating the menu. “I went to the library and the culinary school at Humber College and did some research there,” he said. He created appetizers like tuna tartar served on French toast, alphabet soup, and mini Waldorf salads for the event.
Chiaromonte, known for his scientific flare, also used liquid nitrogen to create palate cleansers called steamwhistles, which he handed out to guests in the reception area. The Martini Club created a series of cocktails for the evening, including the Turkish Delight—a chilled shot of Turkish coffee spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and chili peppers, shaken with vanilla vodka and served ice cold.