Adam Aleksander is the type of person we admire. Young, creative, full of boundless energy and pouring his ideas into making the world a more fun and party-friendly place. A New York-based creative, Adam is an art director, carpenter, producer, promoter and costume designer and has made his trade designing spaces for outlandish parties.
Adam was recently chosen as one of 19 young designers to work on a Heineken crowd-sourced nightclub in Milan for Design Week in April. Designers from Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Milan and New York with the help 100 clubbers from more than 20 cities who shared their social interaction insights, contributed to the pioneering concept club through a special virtual creative online hub.
You create some of the most outlandish parties, Adam. How do you come up with such unique themes for your sets and bashes?
Overall, the question to ask is, “what would it take to make this fun as hell?”
It’s a real trick to develop a theme that’s fresh. First, you need to sit down and gather as much information possible. What’s the occasion for the event? Who is the client and what’s their brand all about? What type of venue do you have and what character does it have that you can build upon? Then you need to think of a theme or art direction, it has to be familiar to the masses and accessible. Choose a theme that people love going to or celebrating.
The next step is the most important, you need to figure out a really fresh way to spin that to get people excited about the concept. What’s the most fun way to spin that theme or infuse it with another. This is the key to getting everyone jazzed, it’s more about how you spin it than the root concept. Theme everything, and choose every detail. Don’t do anything by the book, unless it fits. (You’re going to have to learn to be really particular and inspire people to give you their best here)
Finally, experience design- There’s so many ways to do this, but here are a few tricks of mine…
1. Invitation- design a spectacular invitation to get guests excited. Show them that this is going to be an unbelievable evening. Provide them with as many details on the evening as possible as well as a list of all the people involved with links. I also like to curate behind the scenes interviews with the artists talking about the event. Don’t forget to link to your own work to show them the level of quality you deliver
2. What would it take to get people out of their shells. There has to be a ‘what the fuck’ element to the night, so the guests know that this isn’t just another party.
3. Never let them enter into the front door without a surprise. Take them on a roundabout journey to enter the venue with people interacting with them. Create an environment so fantastical and immersive that it’ll blow their mind. Put the guests through a right of passage.
4. It’s about inclusivity, not exclusivity. Take away their sense of entitlement and make them feel like their part of something special. Make them work for the invitation or feel like they found something special.
5. Personable interactions- Your staff is so important and the key to making people have a good time. Personalize With every staff member’s role, personalize it and get everyone excited about the event, so they pass it onto the guests.
Do any materials in particular inspire you?
I really love light and using light in different ways. You can change a room by lighting, giving it life. I am really in love with light sculptures, and want to dive in that next. My dad owned a lamp store when I was growing up and he was always bringing new lights and lamps in my room. Lighting is the easiest way to transform a space or set design. Adding lighting elements is the thing that pushes your event into the realm of the fantastical. For the Hendrick’s Enchanted Forest, I used stick strobes to make it look like fire flies were breathing, lazers provided a blast of morning sunlight, and I used dozens of hanging colored bulbs to activate the faux ceiling of Spanish moss and dyed fabrics.
Lighting creates magic, and our business is to make magic.
Tell us about the Heineken club in Milan you recently worked on. What was your role in creating the club and what was it like working within a crowd-sourced realm?
Even though I was one of the 19 young designers, I took a leadership as we progressed into the final stages of production, moving into the overview of whole club and thinking about how to enhance interactivity within the existing elements. It was really challenging to work within the perimeters of things already set, but i eventually got the hang of it.
Our main objective was this, “How can we make this club fun?” I broke it down to this: how can we get guests to meet and talk? How can we get the guests dancing? What sort of activities can we give them if they need help opening up?
What was your favourite aspect of the finished club?
I really loved the entrance way. It was an open hallway with no doors. You could see it from the street as you walked by and it looked like an ice palace with the staff dancing inside. Lights were changing color every three seconds and it was really captivating preview of things to come. I don’t know if it was planned for people in the street to be able to see, but it was totally genius to build anticipation.
You’ve been creating party sets in New York for a number of years now. How has the party scene evolved there?
There’s just been a humongous shift recently. When I got here, it was the dawn of the bottle service era. No one paid for nightlife. We were fabulous, we got in for free everywhere and got free drinks. After a while, It got old, and the best promoters took a break. Likewise, I needed a break from the superficial clubs. My friends and I wanted something more cultured and relaxed. The economy collapsed at about the same time. The counter culture that sprang up was underground culture parties that were more laid back and had real artistic content. In Brooklyn, people were creating their own underground cabarets, supper clubs, wine clubs, and salons. All were underground and totally illegal. My friends and I chose to go out less to cultural gatherings rather than the myriad of free events happening every night.
Recently I’ve been shocked to see that there’s a return to people willing to pay the door fee for really amazing nightlife, even the poorest of my friends. This is a tremendous shift to when I originally started going out. New Yorkers have become picky and are willing to pay for better quality more than ever. Look at the rise of the multi day music festivals and burning man, people are willing to save up hundreds for a cultural experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I love this change!
What was it like creating sets for Madonna’s 2008 World Tour? Did you get to travel at all?
For all the projects from that era, I had a really simple role in being part of the team. However, by doing a large variety of these type of projects quickly, I learned the most. I moved consistently from studio to studio, looking for a solid industry to stay and work within. I never found it at the height of the recession. I guess I was also looking for my own passion, which I found in creating live experiences and memories. By doing so many different creative gigs over the years, it helped me to acquire a library of knowledge. This was my basis of becoming an art director, I know a little bit about a lot of things and closely discuss with my fabricators the best way to build things and what materials to use.
If you’ve got friends coming into town, where do you take them to party in New York?
I would take them to an underground party or culture event. That’s where you can see the real culture in NYC. Check out the nonsense list. It’s hit or miss until you can get in the know.
In your opinion, what are the most beautiful and interesting clubs you’ve ever been to and why?
I always loved Susanne Barstch’s parties at Happy Valley and any of the Motherfucker parties. It was like a big immersive world that was totally gigantic… a ridiculous fantasy. Everyone was dressed to the 9’s and went all out. I was also really inspired by helping DinnerClubNYC, whom did vintage themed dinner parties. Some of the events they created were:
–Arabian Nights– They built an Arabian tent in a loft, laid down carpets and low tables, aerialists performed after a huge meal, exoticly infusion cocktails, and hookahs.
–1920’s soiree– a black tie event with elaborately set tables, a smoking gazebo, vintage menu with antique serving ware. A brass band that rolled through at the height of the evening, as we had just enough home made absinthe to forget that we were actually still in brooklyn
–White picnic– set on the lawn of a historical Staton Island house, we had a decadent picnics on checkered blankets, prosecco and wine to pair. After dinner we played badminton with unforgettable view of the harbor.
Did you discover any great places to chill in Milan while you were working there?
No, why would you chill if you went traveling? PARTY!!! My favorite was a party called “Popstarz” at the Smoking Kills Club. It was a dark and dingy basement filled with artists and weirdoes. Everyone was dancing and in their own fun world. The music was all vintage electro, silly stuff I haven’t heard in years. Check the video-