ChicSe by Keren Precel
About 3 weeks ago, the Israelis and jewish Americans in New York gathered for an Israeli Independence Day party. In the blend of pride, falafel and familiar tunes was Keren Precel’s festive party table. It was stylish and modern, the theme of our homeland came across loud and clear, yet in a subtle way. Dressed in the familiar blue and white colors you didn’t find the obvious symbols like the menorah or the flag. Instead, she presented the story of Yom Ha’atzmaut with a prickly cactus, vintage typewriter with declaration of independence, photographs of zionist pioneers and a gazing picture of David ben Gurion. Like the design, the food looked impeccable; bright blue marshmallow and merengues kisses, outrageous sugar cookies with the portrait of Hertzel, the Visionary of the Israel (almost too quirky to sunk your teeth in), cinnamon swirls, vanilla cupcakes and blue rock candy. Keren was trying her best to fight off the sugar crazed kids. My toddler was very persistent, he got a blue lollipop and come by again at the end of the evening for another one.
Since 2006, Keren Precel has been running a successful design studio, ChicSe. Among her clients are the french cosmetic company Clarins, interactive online world for kids Mogobe, Sabon USA, Deloitte Israel and many more. After moving to the US with her husband a few years ago she also began styling events. Keren makes a distinction between her design studio and the event styling business, branding it as more personal and intimate. In her new endeavor, clients get the slick design aesthetic of ChicSe and the warm personal touch of Keren Precel.
How did you begin styling events?
“In the beginning, I styled for friends and family.” She recalls the wedding gift she’d created for a couple of friends. Rather than something traditional, she decided to give them an assortment of gifts for their first night after a spirited wedding party. She customized a treasure chest she had picked up at a flea market, filling it with gifts every couple could use after a rowdy bash. Two bathrobes and comfy t-shirts, slippers for aching feet, a pack of smokes, a card for a car service and more. All finished with the couples’ initials making it unique for them.
“After that, I have organized a themed birthday party for a good friend naming it “The Five Senses” turning some of her personal stories into elements on the table, that meant to inspire and awaken her senses.”
At that point, after years of working mostly in front of a computer, Keren discovered once again how much she misses working with people. “It was so powerful to tap into my friend’s fantasy and being able to translate her desires into a physical world.”
In her business, she approaches every event with the same sensibility. Whether it’s a big party or an intimate picnic for two, every aspect will get her personal attention with the client’s wishes in mind.
“The client is always a partner,” says Keren. “We brainstorm together. No matter what the theme is; Mystic Forest, Ships & Sea or The County; the interpretations are endless.
“That’s the thing about a fantasy, a client describes his dream and while he sees one thing, I can see something entirely different. In creating the experience, I lend my vision and try to take the design a nudge further.”
I must admit that this world of party styling was new to me. My most elaborate party element was a rocket shaped cake I made for my son’s 3rd birthday, which I was very proud of even though it looked like a draft of a rocket. In preparation for the interview, I got acquainted with the world of lavish baby showers, birthday parties and holiday tables. It’s quite easy to get lost or to go overboard. Turns out there is a huge market for party styling, especially in NYC, where there is a constant competition on who throws a better one.
“I make it easy for the person that throws a party. They don’t have to work with different vendors. Everything is included in the package. What’s unique in my work is that I deliver all the elements: the flowers, the furniture, the food and the printed material”. Thanks to her experience as a graphic designer, she makes sure the theme is consistent throughout the images, goodie bags, banners and color schemes. And she’s also responsible for the assembly.
Frankly, when I stood in front of the Yom Ha’atzmaut table, I envisioned a small crew working on it. I didn’t realized that Keren personally put everything together. “As the business grows, I will naturally get help, but it’s always going to be me, making sure everything comes together perfectly.”
Tell me about your creative process, how do you get inspired and stay current?
“I love good movies, good music, good food. Fashion is also my weakness. And like everyone, I use Pinterest, a lot. Living in a city like New York, inspiration is everywhere I look, in the colorful characters, street art and architecture. Central Park is one of my favorite places. It calms me and fills me with ideas. I came up with this amazing color palette the other day, from observing flowers in the park. Of course there are tough moments, everyone has them, but design is not art, it’s much more logic based and I rely a lot on skills that I was taught and learned. In my design studio for example, I learn the client’s product and I let the inspiration come from there.”
Does the fact that you are an Israeli helps you when it comes to Event Styling?
“It is a big plus. To be an event planner you need to multitask and possess the ability to stay calm under pressure. As an Israeli I find it easy to improvise and adjust, a much needed skill in this business. I always bring positive thinking and if circumstances change or something happens on-site, I can guarantee a quick solution.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I’m planning to collaborate with a catering company and an event hall. I’m also working on design templates for the fall holiday season and, of course, I’m always interested in styling small parties. I want to make the world even more beautiful!”
Written by Rita Schifter