NEW YORK – Planning events like weddings can be a daunting task for a bride-to-be, whether the occasion is a grand one or not, so finding the right person to help design your special day is key. Anastasia Baker, event planner, floral designer, and founder of RSVP By Anastasia, spoke to The National Herald about her work.
She told TNH that “it was only a matter of time” before she ended up in events. Her childhood home in Tenafly, NJ, was always filled with PTO or Philoptochos ladies. “A nest of worker bees where alongside my mother, Stella (Kontzamanys) Baker, would sit and plan the latest charity event over cups and cups of Greek coffee and piles of koulouria,” Baker said, adding that “boundless resourcefulness and creativity were as readily available as opinions and baked goods.”
On weekends her father, John, would take her and her sister, Bella, to Canal Street to learn how to negotiate. “You like that Sailor Moon watch, right? He’s saying 20 dollars? Get it for 10,” he told them.
Anastasia’s learned resourcefulness and persistence would help when she went on to study film. She found herself building and styling sets for independent films, commercials, and even a show for NBC. Baker designed her first feature film at age 25. Soon enough, her creative eye and work ethic brought her to work with Raul Avila, legendary event designer of the Vogue Met Gala.
Baker worked her way up from 400+ production assistants to working directly alongside Avila as his assistant in a matter of two years. She learned how to design floral arrangements, floral walls and structures, and how to manage production teams for live events. Baker told TNH that she “managed teams as large as 40 and helped in the production of floral structures as large as 30 feet tall.”
Whilst under Avila’s employ she produced events for Oscar De La Renta, Ian Schrager (of Studio 54, Edition Hotels), and the International Center of Photography; she also designed arrangements for Anna Wintour, Dolce and Gabbana, Valentino, Balenciaga, Chanel, the Lauder family, and many more.
Baker went on to freelance with some of the biggest names in the event and floral world and now, having been in business a little over a year as RSVP By Anastasia, she has already acquired a list of clients that includes Emirates Airlines, Visa, the Cypriot Consulate of New York, Estiatorio Milos, Dream Hotel Group, and a host of sophisticated private clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hoboken, Jersey City, and then some.
One of her proudest moments was being asked to decorate the newly installed icons of Mary Magdalene and Saint Philothea at her church, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Theologian in Tenafly. She is an active member of the Philoptochos and volunteers at her church in any capacity needed, be it decorating their annual festival in June or putting what seems like thousands of pieces of baklava in cupcake liners.
Baker attributes elements of her success to her Greek heritage. She noted that she “jokes about a Spartan toughness and a Pontian business prowess with clients and vendors.”
Baker told TNH that she is “constantly reminded of stories of how my maternal grandparents came from a mountain village in Sparta and built wonderful lives, how my Pontian grandfather, the son of an Archon, started from scratch then flourished in America, begging the question, ‘why can’t I?’”
Her meraki, or the Greek principle of putting your whole self into what you do, was and is a driving force in Baker’s work.
As of late, she has begun sharing her passion for what she does in a different way. Aside from designing events for private and corporate clients, she now offers private classes and workshops in Manhattan, New Jersey, and the Outer Boroughs.
More information about RSVP By Anastasia is available online: https://www.rsvpbyanastasia.com