Knowing the international man of glamour Martyn Lawrence-Bullard was headed to Venice in May for the Design Leadership Summit, the by invitation gathering of architects and designers, I tapped him as my eyes and ears, to cover every fun filled moment. He proved to be the perfect designer to capture the glam series of events, lectures, dinners and tours. Read on for the full Venice report....
Water taxi gondoliers at the ready
In transit with molto bags
Martyn and Steven Gambrel, the guys in grey
A shot inside the Fortuny Museum
When Keith Granet , the branding wizard who puts designers and manufacturers together, called me to ask what I thought about the next design summit being in Venice I think I literally squealed with delight. "Of course you must do it in Venice , it's perfect" I announced, almost breathless with anticipation. Venice is one of my favorite places on this earth and the idea of spending time there amongst some of my favorite designer friends and partners in crime (namely the divine and delicious Kathryn Ireland and wickedly funny Windsor Smith) was just too exciting. The Design Leadership Conference itself is an extraordinary experience alone, the brainchild of the Design Investors team made up of Waterworks, Rose Tarlow Melrose House and Twill's Peter Sallick, their CEO Meg Touborg and Keith Granet, is an unbelievably valuable think tank that helps you keep your finger on the pulse of all things design. Covering business advice, operational trends, marketing and design awareness, the gathering is a truly inspiring show where industry legends get to meet and greet.
This year the Keynote address was given by Nicky Haslam , the legendary English decorator , gossip columnist, author and general bon vivant. Nicky was so funny , delightfully eccentric and gave the most personal lecture on his distinguished and colorful career. Another legend , Axel Vervoordt , dazzled us with his impact- filled spare designs and philosophy of less is more. He is one of the worlds most interesting designers whose taste has re- shaped design as we know it. We feel his influence in larger brands from the new Restoration hardware to Pottery Barn.
One evening, dinner was hosted by the new owners of the legendary Italian fabric house Fortuny. We had the great pleasure of visiting the Fortuny Museum and got to experience more of Axel's work in his curated exhibition of Fortuny fabrics along with a truly incredible exhibit he put together of Samari warriors armor. It can only be described as breathtaking! I'm sure your going to see many Samari - inspired fabric and furniture collections from designers in attendance....
Not only did we get to learn and become inspired during the daytime lectures at the conference and afternoon guided tours of the best sights the city has to offer , we, of course, got to play at night. My dearest friend Kathryn arranged the first evening. The rarest treat to include a private dinner cooked for us by a genuine Venetian Countess in her Grand Canal Palazzo which had been in her family for 500 years. A delicious experience for all the senses!! And after such a cultural delight we somehow found ourselves in the Bauer Hotel night club where we were over served local wines by the chic countess. We danced till the wee hours so needless to say there were a few late attendees at the first event the following morning!
Another memorable evening was arranged by our lovely New York friend and designer, the talented Steven Gambrel, who convinced his great friend Boris to hijack his dad, the unsuspecting Axel Vervoordt, to host a dinner for 12 of us in their palazzo. I have to say the glamour of that evening will go down in my memory forever. The palazzo itself, a 17th century pile, was decorated in Axel's inimitably chic style, showing a connoisseur's eye in the editing of all the objects and art. Fine Venetian antiques mix with Lucio Fontana art works, 18th century rock crystal chandeliers lit by only candles, and signature tight slip - covered linen sofas sat quietly on intricate terazzo floors. Once again after dinner we danced, but this time in Vervoordt's ballroom.
Yes , I can honestly tell you that great fun was had by all. You could not help but be inspired by the beauty of Venice. It always takes my breath away. The forums and advice you take away from the design conference is so very valuable, as is the quality time we all got to spend amongst our peers, forging new friendships and sometimes future partnerships. This whole adventure for me was very special. I met special people, including Suzzane Kassler, the most delicious person, and the beyond charming Stephen Drucker, the new editor of Town and Country, got to see great friends and bond with industry insiders. The conference location next year will have a lot to live up to, as Venice was an iconic and memorable spot, However, wherever you decide on guys, I will be there.