December’s – ‘The Party Issue’ – Download Now

The Gift Guide – Download Now 

Fiona Leahy is a master at curating the perfect setting for dining in style. Having created incredible tablescapes for almost everyone in the luxury industry, Leahy has also conjured otherworldly designs for Middle-Eastern and rock royalty.

What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?

I get up and bring the dogs into the garden then I make a celery juice. I have a celery juice every morning on weekdays, it’s my insurance policy for a good day.

You started in an unusual way, tell us about the beginning of your career?

Well, I started as a fashion stylist, then went into jewellery and became Assistant Creative Director for Garrard the jeweller. I became involved with throwing the parties for the brand, hired Dita von Teese for her first European performance, went on to do produce Dita’s wedding and fifteen years later the rest, as they say, is history!

How did you know it was the right time to launch your own company and what were the stepping-stones to that point?

It was serendipity. I never really set it up deliberately, there was no business plan. I started working in reaction to demand and I pretty much still am. I will say that being an entrepreneur is something that is instinctive and that you either want your own business or you want the security of a job. I have always loved working for myself so that would be a decisive stepping stone.

You’ve created so many incredible tablescapes – do you have any which stand out for you?

I love the Christmas tablescape that I designed for Emilia Wickstead. It was the perfect mix of feminine chintz and festivity. It was matchimal but also classic and I would totally happily sit at that table again a few years later. The wedding I designed for Krissy O’Neill in Positano is also a favourite. It was the first time I did matching print on print for a wedding and it was from the linens to the hand-painted plates all in blue and white. The tablescapes I love the most are the ones that were the hardest to pull off where everything had to be made from scratch. They become labours of love.

What’s the key to curating the perfect dinner setting?

I think planning and symmetry are key alongside with lighting, to me the perfect dinner setting is dimly lit with candlelight and you are transported momentarily to another place in time.

Do you feel more drawn to the creative or the business side of the brand and how have you grown the team to support this?

I really love both. Art and commerce need to co-exist. I learned early on that no matter how amazing the idea it always needs to make sense as a line item in a budget (That took me longer to figure out than I let on! I am probably more adept at the creative side and I am always drawn to fellow creatives, so I have had in the past predominantly creative team. Moving forward post-pandemic, I realise I need more business support so that is what my focus is from now on. Business support is everything!

Do you have any mentors or guides and how does this help navigate the right path throughout life and your career?

Nikki Tibbles from Wild at Heart is an incredible friend and mentor, who is in the same industry. The late David Collins was my very first mentor. It is such an important thing to have guidance and advice from someone you admire and respect.

How has this year impacted the industry both positively and negatively?

I haven’t had any real life events and I sadly needed to make a number of my team redundant as we had no real event work. Positively it has made me reassess how I work and allowed me to experiment differently with more intimate settings leading to other work in curation, tabletop influencing (yes that’s a thing) and design. I have also been busy on a new venture, during the last lockdown I was made Creative Director of Aquazzura Home so that is a huge positive.

How has social media affected the luxury industry and which platform has been most useful?

Instagram is hugely inspirational for the industry and has been a huge factor in my work. I think for most of us it is the immediate reference for so many things. We look, bookmark, shop. I think honestly Instagram has changed everything.

What should you gift the host when attending a dinner?

A beautiful candle, or I sometimes love to bring a monogram sourdough loaf with the host’s initials from Harrods.

Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?

@iamlaurajackson @skyemcalpine @fayedreamsalot @retrouvious
As well as a mix of interiors, food and window design accounts to keep me inspired.

Do you have any pre-bedtime rituals?

I usually have a magnesium salt candlelit bath, I light Palo Santo which I bought in bulk in Peru and I go to sleep listening to the Calm app. Matthew McConaughey’s bedtime story always sends me into a deep sleep, that or the sound of rain.

If you were not on your current career path, which other role would you have chosen career-wise?

I always wanted to be a buyer so I would say I would be a homeware buyer or an interior designer.

This is The Party issue, where / how will you be celebrating this season?

I hope to be going to Claridge’s for a sleepover with my girlfriends for my birthday in December. This symbolises, to me, the start of the festive session. For Christmas and NY I hope to be in Mexico, I love spending the festive season barefoot on the sand.

What’s your secret to surviving party season and still looking flawless?

Drinking celery juice and having sessions at The Light Salon and Facegym. I am also a huge infrared sauna fan and go to Glowbar at least twice a week. I feel like all these things fight inflammation which is the enemy of flawless. I do as much of the feel-good as I can.

What is your go-to party outfit?

I love a long vintage dress, accessorised with Alessandra Rich sparkly earrings. Aquazzura platform shoes (Sundance are my go-to for parties) and a fun clutch from Edie parker or Olympia le tan. I love capes and have a selection of vintage ones from one vintage … they help make a great entrance and exit!

What is on your wishlist this festive season?

I have redesigned my kitchen and on my wishlist is a wall of bespoke delft tiles. Honestly, every penny is going into my kitchen -no new clothes, a beautiful La Cornue pale blue range is even better!

December’s – ‘The Party Issue’ – Download Now

The Gift Guide – Download Now 

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Images: Supplied