NEW YORK – One of the great mysteries of life, which philosophers, mystics and scientists through the ages have proclaimed, is that simplicity is at the root of being and the good life. That might be why one of Manhattan’s top event planners, Angela Giannopoulos, makes the Dalai Lama happy. She says simplicity is at the core of all her designs.
It is her artistic intuition – and consummate attention to detail – that is at the heart of her much sought- after ability to “bring my client’s brands to life.” And the absence of clutter, material or conceptual, makes Giannopoulos a master of conveying her clients’ message.
One of the most memorable of her many spectacular events was one she created for the charismatic Buddhist leader. It was hosted at the studio of Donna Karan, one of her clients.
“I felt like we transformed the space – it was like being on a mountain in Tibet. It was magical. Everyone’s senses were heightened. Marigolds were strewn and hung throughout the space and an incredible gold statue with many arms soared 20 feet high, centering the space and the experience,” she told TNH.
The statue, which was donated for the evening by Richard Gere, was not of a Buddha but the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
“That was one of my wow moments,” in a self-made career whose rewards transcend its monetary compensations. “The Dalai Lama did a prayer for us. He blessed a scarf and presented it for me.”
Giannopoulos also brings smiles to the leaders of her own faith. She is one of the prime movers of the Blue Dream summertime charity gala of the Church of the Kimisis in the Hamptons, where she has a home and whose pastor is Father Alexander Karloutsos.
Blue Dream, which with the subtle and imaginative tweaks Giannopoulos, is famous for, turns Southampton into Santorini, has become one of the “must attend” Greek-American events in New York.
She does not neglect the secular – her office and apartment are in worldly Manhattan – and she has done numerous events for Bill Clinton. she pauses and says: “He has a presence!”
According to its website, her company, Studio3, is a full service event design and production firm, founded in 2003…We serve clients in the beauty, fashion, and lifestyle industries.”
Her love and respect for buildings (“I would have pursued architecture but I just don’t like those darn numbers”) is at the core of ability to transport guests to new worlds.
Although she loves the transformations that she effects, she does not like “completely altering a space… I don’t compromise the integrity of a space… I love working with the bones of a place and extracting the beauty, and bringing it alive in a different way,” all in the service of a great cause or a world-class client.
She designed the inaugural gala last year of The Hellenic Initiative, one of the leading endeavors of the diaspora to help Greece. She cannot reveal the next venue but told TNH: “Look out. It’s going to be phenomenal!”
BROOKLYN GIRL, MANHATTAN WOMAN
Her passion and simplicity have roots in her Hellenic Heritage and the borough of her birth.
“I’m a Brooklyn girl,” she said despite the facts that she now lives in Manhattan and her formative years were on Long Island.
She has an older sister, Christina, and a younger brother. George. Her father is from Agrinion and her mother, Irene, with roots in Kalavrita, was the inspiration for her independence by promoting education.
“Dad was a hard worker, he had retail flower shops in Brooklyn, including Irene’s florist.
Her dad had a creative dimension too. “He was good at it, but back then it was also about survival. I really respect him. He made a lot of sacrifices.”
She remembers visiting the shop when she was little. “They put us in the corner. I would take all the flowers that were going into the trash and make my own designs and centerpieces,” she said.
Watching her dad in the florist putting things together helped her understand colors, textures and composition.
And she possessed the imagination and vision to go further, “outside the box” – which is the name of her next venture.
She attended C. W. Post, where she made “the amazing relationships, friends who are still very dear to me.”
It was also were she first experience freedom and diversity and where important seeds were sown.
“I had the prettiest dorm room on campus, and even then I was designing dorm rooms for friends and all my sorority sisters.”
She also valued the art classes she took there. “I’ve always loved the arts anything creative,” and her parents helped pave the way. “They recognized that I had artistic talent so they got me private instruction for piano and painting.”
But after graduation she was not sure what she wanted to do. On campus she was voted the “first one who will get married after college,” something that is still in the future.
Asked where is the world she wants to hold a special event, she said “I’d like it to be my wedding. She is a simple person at heart. Her vision is to have a wedding that is “ftoho – poor but beautiful.”
“I almost became a stylist for a magazine,” but the pay was painfully low and there was no one to offer career guidance.
She feels she never really had a mentor, but said working with certain clients has had a powerful impact on her, especially Donna Karan, one of her first celebrity clients.
“From when we first met, she understood me, I understood her.” Giannopoulos wanted to emulate her in every way, including her philanthropic work.
“In my line of work I have met interesting and powerful people and I am proud to say they are clients and friends,” she said.
A SPECIAL PLACE CALLED BARNEY’S
All that began in a wonderful place (now the site of the Rubin Museum of art, which has many Buddhas) called Barney’s New York.
She was in visual merchandizing and their creative services team. She loved working on the windows with great teams and she rose through the ranks.
“I worked with Simon Doonan who was a creative genius,” he was part of the team that helped launch the stores in and out of New York. “I loved it. Loved it! It was incredible working with these amazing creative minds.”
And she was thrilled to work in places like Seattle and Beverly Hills; less so in Cleveland.
After seven years at Barney’s she was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, but the path she took led back to the family business. She thought mixing old and new generation would lead to a creative and commercial explosion. Close enough. It was a war. She returned to Barneys and peace and harmony returned.
Giannopoulos’ big break came in 2003 through a college friend. “She had me pitch a job with Andre Agassi. It was a product launch.” After its great success her career took off as she began to meet one designer after another.
She began with a partner, but that only lasted 1½ years . “It was disappointing. I didn’t want to be by myself – I wanted to collaborate. We parted ways and then I went on my own and voila!”
She converts concepts into experiences, and loves to explore and pioneer. “We booked Christies auction house when no one was booking auction houses. We turned a room into a giant chessboard – where guests actually played with pieces inspired by works of art and with the theme was ‘life as a great game.’”
She is committed to quality, and works engage all the senses. Told that the liturgics of the Orthodox Church expressed that principle, she said “Maybe I was paying attention after all.”
When the conversation turned to her employees, all young women, and she acknowledged “you are only as good as your team.”
Giannopoulos project managers are working on exciting venues and clients, including projects for Kenneth Cole, and she devotes time to developing new business.
Asked how she keeps in touch with the newest trends she said “I draw inspiration from everything,” including the art world. “Galleries inspire me, and restaurants.”
She says she is not a foodie, but when there is time, she likes to cook.
She loves the simplicity of Greek food, but says “I don’t like when they fuss and experiment too much with it. I want spanakopita that tastes like spanakopita.”
Yes, she is a purist. “There is something about simplicity…That is where real beauty comes from. There is something about one single flower, or one single bite that is incredible. It’s not about abundance. More is not better.”
“I don’t have a favorite song, flower, friend – anything,” she said. But Giannopoulos is beyond eclectic, she is simply open to all good and beautiful things.
One person after another walks through the portals of the world’s created by her imagination and tell their friends of their new favorite event.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon told her that the wedding Giannopoulos produced for co-owner Saul Katz’s daughter was more beautiful that his own daughter’s. Presumably the latter was not nearby.