The Cannes Kid
Having emerged victorious from the recent Esquire Best Dressed Gentleman’s evening, American party-planner Derek Koch was the lucky recipient of an all-inclusive 24-hour trip to the South of France for the famed Cannes Film Festival, courtesy of long-running chums of Esquire Middle East, Chivas Regal.
Giving a most grateful nod to the benefactors of what was one of the ‘most amazing days’ of his life, Derek tells us a little about the trip and his thoughts on the international party scene beyond Cannes…
So Derek, while sickening jealousy may make us regret asking this… tell us a little bit about your trip.
It was an absolute blast. It was very well executed, everyone did their part, everyone got along, everyone was dressed. We all felt like celebrities, obviously the Esquire team did one hell of a job organizing it and keeping it traditional and very tasteful.
It started with a first class flight to London Heathrow, and from there to Nice in the South of France. As it turned out there was a cab strike in the area when we landed, so we actually got a helicopter from the airport and flew to Cannes! After that, it was straight to the Hotel Martinez to check in. It was really exciting because there was so much happening – a really powerful day. There were a lot of photographers outside because, as you know, the Hotel Martinez is one of the most famous on La Croisette, so I was really excited to be part of that. The hotel’s usually only for celebrities and such, so you have to have a real inside connection to go somewhere like that. Which fortunately I did on this occasion with Chivas and Esquire.
So after that you donned your glad rags and hit the red carpet?
Exactly. The whole feeling was overwhelming. Not that I hadn’t been to a red carpet event before, but this was tailored to the most refined taste. Before we made it out, Chivas had given us gift bags and there was a whole grooming process to get us ‘red carpet ready’. There was a shaving and a haircut and they even offered to steam our tuxes. Then we got escorted to limousines, Mercedes and SUVs to the event upfront. And at that point the Chivas Regal team was on the red carpet – we all got our moment to walk down the line and get our photos taken and have our 15 seconds of fame.
We understand the dress code at the film festival is quite strict…
Yes, it’s strictly black tie. I even tried to bring my own colourful bow tie, but you know – rules are rules. They are very strict with the dress code so we all were tuxed-out. I had my Dior suit on, black bow tie, custom Hugo Boss shirt, DSquared boots, it was a very red carpet feel. We all took our time and really lived it.
Did you sample the Cannes nightlife after the screening?
When the film over, we left and reunited in the hotel. There was a dinner planned complimentary of Chivas Regal. The chef was incredible, I took photos of every course, Instagramming, hasthtagging – everything! We had a five course tasting and they paired each tasting with a specialty Chivas cocktail. It often seemed like the cocktails were more creative than the food, almost as if it was planned so the food wouldn’t look more tasteful than the drinks! For each round, the drink came in a unique glass, uniquely poured, and really creatively made to bring out the senses. Then the Chivas team talked us through the drinks and why which cocktail suited which meal.
Are you a Chivas drinker normally?
Now I am! Before not so much, but now I get the idea behind it and I respect it. I feel that it’s definitely an occasional kind of spirit. It was perfectly suitable for the evening in Cannes, and we all felt that we needed that kind of spirit to match the night. So they are definitely out there and branding it, and the experience was on point.
You’re a big party planner in the States and work around the world, including Dubai; how does the Cannes nightlife compare to that of your hometown in New York, or London or Paris?
I am a big believer in being at a particular place and at a particular time. What’s important is being a part of something. I feel that Cannes festival is something no one should miss, especially if you’re in the industry. You can’t really compare it to other nightlife when people plan this years in advance. It’s magical when it all comes together. It was a once in a lifetime thing and was definitely one of the most amazing days of my life.
Fair enough, but where would your international nightspot spot be?
There’s a few, but just off the top of my head, New York would be my stomping ground, Miami has an amazing night life, and Vegas is a different level because it’s so damned commercial. I think in America, it’s these spots. Paris has its thing going on and Dubai is a front runner now in bringing Western brands.
Indeed it is, so where do you enjoy going out in Dubai?
We were mostly exclusive with Cavalli club during the time my brother and I were working there, liaising with them as consultants. We did a a bit with Cirque du Soir as well. But I love White, the experience of being outdoors there is great. We had a great time at Monte Carlo Beach Club over in Abu Dhabi, and we also spent a lot of time in The Act as I know the guys there. Blu Marlin on Saturdays is great for the Ibiza factor – because of the DJs and so on. There’s just so many places and I really feel Dubai is the place that everybody should go to if they want to be part of a global network. All these outside brands are coming out and making the market a lot stronger.
What kind of projects would you like to work on in Dubai if you came back?
Creative projects really. I think that with what my brother and I had going before was great, we were doing a weekly advertisement in Grazia where we showcased our signature brand, Day and Night – it’s a nightlife brand that we activate through other brands that help us produce our event. What we really like to do is pop ups; we turn the venue into something completely different. For example every week you would come to the bar on a Tuesday, and for three months it would be like you were walking out of Dubai and in to New York. Instead of getting on a plane, you would just have to get in to a cab. We take restaurants with certain concepts and we turn them in to profitable brands that people like to frequent.
It sounds like you’re a big fan of Dubai…
I live in New York and hear all these things about the development of Dubai, people saying “Oh Dubai has to stop building, it’s going to be a melting pot” and so on. But if you don’t take the opportunity, it’s never going to come back. Because it’s once in a lifetime thing with Dubai. I think the creative part of the place is amazing. So using those skills to bring what we are passionate about to other cities is something that my brother and I fight for.
Derek Koch and Esquire were at Cannes courtesy of Chivas Regal, https://www.chivas.com/