In Style + Design

Behind The Scenes: How An Event Stylist Tackles Melbourne Cup

For Merivale’s resident creative stylist Sophie Thé, the biggest race is getting Merivale's 67 bars, restaurants and function spaces looking as good as Flemington itself.

We are now in the thick of the Spring Racing Carnival, with the pinnacle event of the season just a matter of days away. For those planning to attend Melbourne Cup events around the country, the lead up to the day is a flurry of buying event tickets, dress searching and fascinator finding – preparations for the perfect day of frivolity.

But what about those who are behind the scenes of the cup day events?

As the biggest event day on the calendar year for most everyone in the hospitality industry, attention to detail in the planning of a Melbourne Cup event is paramount. With so much time and money invested in the day, gaining and maintaining the interest of guests is imperative.

It is the new era of Melbourne Cup event styling. While the nature of the day has remained the same since its inception in 1861, the shift in public opinion towards the act of horse racing has prompted a shift in styling concepts to reflect what the public expect. More of a focus is being put on spring time frivolity, nature and the horse itself, and stylists are slowly making changes away from all the traditional race day identifiers.

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The Coogee Pavilion styled by Sophie Thé for Melbourne Cup 2016. Photo: Supplied

The most critical part in styling any event – let alone the perfect Melbourne Cup day event – is a strong, well thought out concept. From a solid concept, the execution is just the piecing together of a puzzle.

For Merivale’s resident creative stylist Sophie Thé, the process of styling Melbourne Cup day events across the company’s 67 bars, restaurants and function spaces, started just three short months prior to the day. Working closely with a set designer and builder to brainstorm and assess viability, Thé’s concept comes to life, puzzle piece by puzzle piece.

melbourne cup merivale sydney styling

Florals at the Ivy for 2016. Photo: Supplied

While still referencing nature and florals, Thé’s take on spring style is more country side than country club garden.

“Every year we see lots of florals. I think most people are trying to get away from the race day look. I have tried to keep away from the traditional flower installation, and I am doing flowers differently. I am just doing tulips with the bulb still attached to them. I wanted something a lot more natural and a lot more theatrical rather than a race sort of look,” says Thé.

It is a styling move that Thé has noted across the board for Melbourne Cup events – a move to more earthy, naturally inspired interiors.

Trading garden arches and ribbons for more natural materials such as timber, moss and corrugated iron, this year’s Melbourne Cup events at The Newport, Establishment Gin Garden and Palings will have a distinctly different feel to that of a traditional cup day event.

Sophie Thé sourcing inspiration in Tasmania. Photo: Supplied

“This year, we went to Tasmania to source some inspiration for Melbourne Cup installations. It was definitely a really inspiring trip, we got lots of ideas there,” says Thé.

“There is lots of organisation and production to make that day such a special day for our guests. This year, the concept only had a very short lead time, because everyone had been so busy in the lead up. It was a very busy few months.”

“I get inspired by many things all the time. Which is lucky in my world. But my work never leaves me, so where ever I am, I’m always looking for inspiration.”

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Sophie Thé sourcing plants. Photo: Supplied

Moving away from the traditional spring floral installations synonymous with the racing season, Thé has instead drawn inspiration from her trip to the lush Tasmanian country side. Camping and foraging in the wilderness of northern Tasmania, Thé was inspired to put together a concept that brought the look and feel of the green, untouched countryside back to Sydney for Melbourne Cup day.

“Tasmania has a big place in my heart because I find the colours are absolutely wonderful. Every corner you take, the scenery changes a lot,” says Thé.

“There is lots of water – rivers everywhere you go in Tasmania. Everything is overgrowing and very green; and there is lots of ferns and moss. That was the inspiration. We have a couple of venues with fountains and waterfalls, so I am using them as a base and then recreating a bigger scale waterfall, for example.”

Published 06 November, 2017