After twenty years of pushing himself and his clients to their creative and emotional limits with his fully-immersive multi-sensory life experiences these days Christopher Mills gets to hand-pick his projects, and the people he takes along for the ride.
His favourite movie is Top Gun but ‘Maverick Mills’ is no adrenaline junkie; he sees his presence on this planet as a mission to design universes that transport human reality into the deepest reaches of his (and their) minds.
It’s not the occasion itself that is interesting to Mills; they‘re just the excuses he needs to transport his often well-heeled clients to the very frontiers of their minds.
Be they international luxury brands, Dior, Rolls Royce, royalty, musicians, or paradigm changing charities, ‘elite party architect’ Mills sees his mission to boldly redefine what weddings, birthdays, and corporate events can and should be. He is a literal disrupter of the accepted (and if he wants to split infinitives, he will!)
He has recreated fairy tales complete with ancient castles and mythical beings, orchestrated nuptials that bought ‘all the flowers’ in Holland, and recently Mills pushed himself to a new frontier as the The star of the BBC’s Big Proud Party Agency.
The experience of being in front of the camera was one that pushed the pusher to reveal to the viewer not only what the manifestations of his mind look like once they emerge, but also something of the inner workings of his creative process, the how and why, his creations transform from the ephemeral to the physical plane.
There seems no limit to what Christopher Mills can conjure up, but even he has his white whale, which he believes is now within his grasp – to boldly go where no party planner has gone before…
Can you tell us how you found yourself in the very unique area that you currently occupy?
I’ve always been daring. You could even call me Maverick Mills, and yes one my favourite films is actually Top Gun, even though I’m not an adrenaline seeker, per se.
The type of rush I get is from pushing people to their absolute limit both creatively and emotionally, by smashing the ceiling of what they think is possible and still going that step further.
I occupy a space that is, to most people, unimaginable, to the ether of excellence and an extraordinary level of creativity. It is quite common upon hearing my ideas to say ‘yeah, ok, as if!’
But these are no ordinary experiences; the unique and handpicked clients I work with go on voyages of discovery. I am the one that challenges the status quo and defies those who say, ‘that’s not possible,’ and I prove them wrong.
This is an exclusive club, fully immersive, multi-sensory and a life investment – you invest in my mind and my access in exchange for a curated experience that most can only dream of.
Can you tell us about some of the most interesting people you have worked with (if not their names, perhaps the types of clients you’ve been involved with, and some anecdotes would be wonderful?)
My clientele is incredibly varied, though each client shares a common similarity and a drive which I look for. There needs to be a spark and a longing for curiosity, a belief in excellence and a hunger for discovery.
I’ve been privileged to work with super brands across the world who have ambition to change the landscape of their industry, names including Rolls-Royce, Formula-1, Bank of America, Christian Dior and Walt Disney, to ultra-high net worth billionaires, oligarchs, sultans, members of the royal families of Europe, dignitaries and a whole host of stars from stage and screen who regularly attend my events, including the likes of the Rolling Stones, Vanessa Kirby, Carey Mulligan, Gillian Anderson, Ellie Goulding, Jude Law, Ralph Fiennes and many more.
What is the most unique, breathtaking, unimaginable thing you have done for a Client?
I worked with a private client from America who, for her 30th birthday party, wanted to reference Disney’s Frozen, so I constructed an ice palace on Lake Bled in Slovenia with the full cast of Frozen the Musical to serenade her, complete with giant ice sculptures and a
banquette dinner and dance on the ice.
All of which took place on the frozen surface of Lake Bled itself with its stunning Castle Bled as a backdrop. We recreated the Northern Lights using advanced projection technology and laser in the sky, with supporting drone art and mapping to bring to life the magic of Elsa’s powers. It was an enchanting, authentic step into the world of Frozen.
How was the approach taken on TV Show Big Proud Party Agency different to your usual projects?
The Big Proud Party Agency is a show full of heart. I loved taking part because it gave me a
great opportunity to call upon the power of my network and influence as an elite party
I took a similar approach to how I’d normally tackle any brief, always starting with
creative excellence and originality, and then set about bringing together the various pieces
of the puzzle.
There was a clear vision for my parties, and I always bring flair and luxury to my work, regardless of budget, which is reflected on the show; indeed for one of the episodes I called upon the support of one of my luxury furniture and service ware partners to help me create the look and feel, opting for a golden and regal vibe.
What is most important for me is taking my clients on a journey of discoveries and revealing the story bit by bit, so whilst the show was a completely different context to what I do day to day, the method was the same.
It was wonderful sharing a part of my world and the creative process to my work, and to give viewers a taste of what I do.
How did the BPPA show impact on your career?
The BPPA has only strengthened my convictions and commitment to producing excellence and truly life-altering experiences. It also showed the power of what I do and the effect it has on people, especially when creating immersive design.
It was a great platform for me to show a little of what goes into a Christopher Mills party, but that’s only scratching the surface really. I’ve had great feedback but also many comments from people who are keen to see more and want the juicy, exclusive access, which is coming.
I’ve always been the one who has been behind the camera often disappearing and not profiling myself, having to sign NDAs and not talking because of client privacy; now is the time for me to shine and do the talking, and doing the show was a massive confidence boost.
Can you think of a request that was so outrageous that it was seemingly impossible.. . .and how did you pull it off?
I produced a fashion show in Athens for a major label, in the Temple of Poseidon, and the client asked for one of the relic pillars to be moved as it was ‘in the way’ of the catwalk. At first, I thought the request was in jest, but let’s just say that they were deadly serious.
Are there any jobs that you have just had to turn away, for some reason?
I’ve been producing experiences now for nearly twenty years and I am at the point in my career where I get to choose. There is a strict criterion that a client must fulfil to be able to work with me and this isn’t just budget related.
The number one thing is the open-mindedness to believe. This is so critical in my work and is the stimulus I require as a creative. I’m under no illusion that in order to create excellence investment is required, but in my opinion, experience trumps money every time.
I am not a traditional party planner in any way shape or form, and I constantly turn down jobs that would happily be planned by a planner who follows a traditional way of working.
I do challenge my clients and I work as an artist and my clients’ love to get on board with that and will embrace new ways of thinking.
Furthermore, I never recycle ideas – I stand fundamentally against that as a core principle of
my work ethos. Pinterest should be banned!
I’m sure when you’re pushing the envelope things go wrong – can you give us some examples?
Of course. Everybody is human at the end of the day, but my client never sees this. There is no room for error in my work. When you’re creating excellence, you cannot shatter the Illusion.
I learnt this lesson early on in my career when I produced an immersive theatrical experience and invested heavily in set design, entertainment and visual elements of the main internal rooms, but then the money pot ran dry, and I had to bring in portable toilets.
You can imagine the guests’ disappointment when they stepped out of my magical world into damp, grey and revolting trailer toilets! I will never shatter the illusion again.
Is there a vision of something you would like to do, or take a shot at, that might have been impossible 10 years ago. . . . .
This is an easy one, and perhaps already in my pipeline. I plan on being the first party planner to host a dinner in space.
Christopher Mills can be reached at the Events Mill: