The New York Restoration Project (NYRP) is known for grounded and earthly ambitions: planting trees, renovating gardens, and the overall betterment of New York City's green spaces. And yet, for this year's themed annual Hulaween benefit (hosted by founder Bette Midler) they looked to the stars.
"This year, we had a dramatic departure from what we've done in the past," explains event designer Douglas Little. "Working with Bette and the New York Restoration Project, we wanted something new, innovative, and surprising for our guests."
That something became the more spacey concept for this year's theme: "Hulaween In the Cosmos" from costume development to tablesettings, audio-based ambience, lighting, and the three-course menu.
Before the guests of this year's "Hulaween In the Cosmos" gala were scheduled to land—astronauts, aliens, and intergalactic oddities of all kinds, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine had to be transformed for otherworldly dimensions.
After looking for the right inspiration (including campy sci-fi movies), the final result was a refined yet whimsical lunarscape. "We worked with a wonderful custom fabric printing company and used actual NASA images of the nebula," Little explains. "We had these images digitally printed onto fabrics to layer the tables with deep sapphire blues, blue overlays, and top them with the printed nebulas." At the center of each table, a large glowing luminary was surrounded by clustered piles of illuminated pink Himalayan sea salt rocks.
As for his secret weapon? Black lights. "It's so inexpensive and readily available nowadays and so many materials are reactive, like florescent colors and balloons," he says. "We're also working with a lot of black light at this event! It can help give a surreal effect with little effort."
Catering for the evening was offered courtesy of Union Square Events, who had in Little's words, "taken the cosmos theme and knocked it out of the park." Everything edible was inspired by lunar textures, full moons, and shooting stars. Cocktails came with decorative rims that looked like sparkling lunar rocks while the hors d'oeuvres were made to look like the lunar eclipses. And for dessert? A selection of sweets made to look like asteroids, stars, and swirled planets.
Even the Cathedral's gothic architecture proved to be beneficial. "From an audio-visual standpoint, we included a lot of digital mapping, projections, and light rays," Little explains. "We worked with various projections of the nebula, stars, and lots of lights in deep blues and violets, and fog as well."
This is the second year that the fesivities have been hosted at the Cathedral. The star-studded guest list included Frankie Grande (in head-to-toe galactic body paint), NFL's Jonathan Stewart (as an astronaut), Jane Krakowski (as the sixties sci-fi heroine Barbarella), and a punny group of "cosmo-planet-ins" (like the famous cocktail meets outer space). There were also a few familiars to this event, namely Michael Kors (in a star-speckled suit and bug-eyed alien shades) to crown best costumes of the night.
"This year, we built in a runway to the stage so every guest will have the chance to prance the runway in their cosmic costumes," Little says. "Costumed guests have become such an important decor element to the event so it'll really give lots of life."
Feeling inspired? Watch Martha mix up a"bloody poison punch" with special guest Bette Midler: