The country—if not the globe—may be in the midst of a deep economic recession, but it hardly looked that way at the 297-room SLS Hotel Beverly Hills opening-night party Thursday night, a lavish fete for 1,000 well-heeled invitees who overwhelmingly took the black-tie dress code seriously (a rarity in Los Angeles). The crowd gathered in front of the the glossy new SBE property for speeches from the likes of SBE's Sam Nazarin, multi-award-winning chef José Andrés, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before the doors of the hotel swung open and the crowd filled its many spaces, both common and private.
Former SBE vice president of sales Maureen McGrath, who in August became SLS's new director of catering, oversaw the event, which she characterized as having “a Fellini-esque feel, that Philippe Starck playfulness, and much whimsy, with an underlying La Dolce Vita theme.“ Meandering performers like a Flamenco troupe (inspired by Andrés' catering) and an energetic band whose style McGrath described as “gypsy Ukrainian” wandered the crowd for a semi-surrealist feel, and costumed performers in giant transparent balls writhed in the sixth-floor pool. DJ Vice spun, and vintage-inspired, genre-crossing band Pink Martini performed in the ballroom at 9:30 p.m.
On the first floor—in the dining and retail environment known as the Bazaar—guests supped on Andrés' delicate cuisine, including freshly made cotton candy with a bite of foie gras in its center. A dessert buffet featured tiny handcrafted sweets like passionfruit marshmallows and dark chocolates inlaid with basil leaves.
The party suggested the validity of the recently reported theory that luxury brands are increasing their event presence in the tanking economy as mass-market brands are scaling back. “We didn't want to be gratuitous, the economy being what it is,” said McGrath. ”The elements that we chose were very precision driven. In other words, [we asked ourselves] is this the exact look we want? If yes, then that's what we'll do—we wanted to be sure that we had the correct wow for the money we were spending. But this was our grand opening and we only had one time to do it.”