Former Set Designer Adds Drama to Events

A set designer and creative director from Australia, known for his over-the-top parties, brings his event design skills Stateside.

Jonathon Beck

Photo: James Mottee

All the World’s a Stage: After studying set and costume design at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts—and becoming the youngest graduate of the course, in 1999—Jonathon Beck began designing sets for the Sydney Theatre Company before expanding his work abroad as a production designer for movies and television in Vienna. Upon his return to Sydney, in 2004, Beck began designing events, and his client list grew to include charity galas and parties for Wella, Moët & Chandon, and 20th Century Fox as well as film director Baz Luhrmann. “It was a natural progression from conceptual theater to what I’m doing now,” he says. “My [work] comes out of a visual arts background and is very installation inspired. It’s more than a backdrop. The idea is to enter into a world that is different from anything else.”

Earning a reputation for his dramatically transformative spaces (his Moroccan-themed party for television company Foxtel was held in a lavish tent canopied in red organza with strings of lights, oversize lanterns, and 1,000 mirrored stars), Beck fixed his sights on the U.S. and launched his namesake company here in February 2007. “[My clients] come to me with one common brief: to create something really unique that will blow the socks off everyone who comes,” he says.

On the Catwalk: Within five days of moving to New York, Beck began working on fashion shows and events. He collaborated on the Y-3, Tommy Hilfiger, and Hugo Boss fashion shows in addition to a Hugo Boss after-party that he says was his “chance to go a bit wild.” Juxtaposing macabre items like animal skeletons under bell jars from the SoHo store Evolution with stately wingback chairs, he created a moody yet elegant environment where guests felt right at home—the party extended well beyond the scheduled 2 a.m. end time. “It was a highlight to create a space that no one wanted to leave,” he says.

Team Spirit: By frequently collaborating with international fashion production company OBO, Belgian creative director Etienne Russo, and Lot 71 creative director Mike Brown, Beck is able to bring his aesthetic and attention to details to various projects. For Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas’s Y-3 fashion shows for spring/summer 2008 and fall/winter 2008, he worked closely with Russo to construct a wall made of large blocks of ice that served as a catwalk backdrop inside Pier 40.

Russo says, “He is quick at understanding what’s in my mind. He also has a very good knowledge about fashion and style, which gives him an aptitude to react very well no matter what the given direction is.” Brown, who worked with Beck on both the Y-3 and Hilfiger projects, says, “Jonathon has such a great collaborative attitude about working with a designer or client. He brings great ideas to the table and understands the diplomacy of the process. And he’s very flexible.”

Looking Ahead: In addition to working on the Y-3 spring/summer 2009 fashion show, Beck is interested working outside of the fashion world on a variety of corporate events. “I like the event world, the shorter turnaround, and the larger creative opportunities,” he says. “I’m hoping to branch out and work in more skewed areas of what I do.”

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