This week’s That Girl is Lauren Roberts, owner of Sweet Soirées – a brand-new party-planning company that makes our girly hearts very happy with their adorable tea parties, sophisticated birthday bashes and wondrous weddings… We caught up with her to see if she’s really as SWEET as she seems (um, yes, we spent an extremely hot day with her at Picnic in the Park and she didn’t lose her cool once) and to pick her brains on all our burning questions about planning our own dazzling affairs!
Are you and your family originally from Hong Kong?
Yes, I was born in Hong Kong to a Chinese mother and an English father. Coming from a mixed family I’ve spent a lot of time in both Hong Kong and England, my Primary school days in Hong Kong and boarding school and University in England. There are so many things I love about both places but I always think of Hong Kong as my home.
Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?
I live in Kennedy Town. I recently moved there earlier this year and quickly settled in. There are so many things I love about Kennedy Town. One thing is it’s only 10 minutes from Central and 10 minutes from Pok Fu Lam (where my parents live) so it’s very convenient for me to see family and friends. When decorating my home all I wanted was for it to be cosy and welcoming, so I made sure I had lots of cushions and photographs. I decided to go for cool colours such as white, turquoise, light greens and a hint of purple here and there, something refreshing in the Hong Kong heat.
How did you get interested in party planning? Any tips on the best venues for birthday parties in Hong Kong? (Sassy gets asked this A LOT!)
When I was a child I absolutely loved planning my birthday parties. My mother would take out a clean notepad and help me plan my parties from the theme to what food to eat and what games to play. My mum and I were pretty good at coming up with ideas; I was the first person in my class to have a slumber party and a disco party! These days people find it hard to get together except on special occasions — that’s why I think it is important to put some extra effort in so everyone has a great time and really enjoys each event to the fullest. Finding a party venue in Hong Kong is hard and it depends on what kind of party you want. I personally prefer to have a party at home or pick a venue with a fairly blank canvas like The Space because I love going all out and completely decorating the venue with a theme. However, I do have recommendations for other great party venues – Armani Prive for something new, Sugar for a great view, Lei Dou, Lily & Bloom or Salon de Ning for an instant theme and FINDS and Hush for fun drinks and a relaxed atmosphere.
What are your favourite addresses for party-planning supplies?
I don’t tend to buy generic party items from a party shop because I prefer to add unique props and decorations that really fit the theme of the party. I also like to custom make some of the decorations so that it is more special and personal. Therefore, I go to Sham Shui Po a lot for materials like fabric, ribbons and themed props. There are a few fabric shops I like, but really only one ribbon shop I go to which is ‘Flying Dragon’ Shop D, G/F, No. 213-217 Yu Chau Street, Sham Shui Po. The lady there is so nice and she has a great range of all kinds of ribbon. I also go to Shenzhen and Guangzhou to source specific themed props and table decorations. They have such a huge variety of home ware and decoration shops that you can find pretty much anything you are looking for there.
Any nightmare party-planning stories you can share with us?!
To be honest I haven’t had any real party planning nightmares. Although, there has definitely been a few close calls here and there. I do have a few helpful hints I have learned over the years that people tend to forget when hosting a party which can help avoid some party nightmares: when ordering food or a cake, make sure you know how many days in advance you need to place the order, as it is usually longer then you think; make sure you know how you are transporting people or items from one place to another; always leave more time than you think you need to decorate a venue, the earlier you start the better; making a playlist on your ipod ahead of time can save you stress on the day; sign post your party; make sure your camera is charged and you can never have too much ice!
What are the best and worst things about running your own business?
The best thing about running my own business is that I have the freedom to do what I like and to do it in the way that I like (I am quite particular in the way that I like things to be done). Even though I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as a perfectionist, I definitely like my events to be picture perfect. Another amazing thing about running your own business is the support system that you start to build up. My family, boyfriend and friends have been amazing and the mutual support among fellow entrepreneurs is inspiring. The bad side of running your own business is that it is a big risk and there is the fear that it might not work out, but at the end of the day I know ‘no risk, no reward’.
How do you describe your personal style?
I don’t really cater to one style. I like all sorts of looks from girl next door to edgy rocker. I like to have a hint of everything in my wardrobe, but I definitely have moments when I feel I have nothing to wear. On a day-to-day basis I might spend a ridiculous amount of time finding the perfect outfit or just throw on the comfiest thing I own… Which may not match anything!
Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I’m not really a huge shopper. I often don’t have the time so I tend to shop mostly on holiday when I go to England or Canada. This is great as it usually means no one else will have the same thing. When I do get the chance to shop in Hong Kong I go to the usual spots like Club Monaco, Zara and Massimo Dutti, nothing too secretive. I also shop at Steven Madden because they are pretty much the only shoe store that has my size!
What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for pampering and “maintenance”?
I’m actually not that strict with my beauty regime, but I do have a couple basics that I always use. I like Nu Skin Moisturiser because it is light and has 15 SPF, which is useful in this Hong Kong heat. Then I always carry my Mac Bronzer and L’Oreal mascara. I rarely have the time to do my nails or get my hair done, but if I do get anything done I like going to the Feel Good Factor or my hairdresser Pauline at The Firm in Prince’s Building. It is nice to treat yourself every once in awhile.
What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?
My favourite thing to do on the weekend is see my family and friends. I’m actually not much of a party animal despite what people might think because of my career. I normally like to get out of town whether it’s on a boat or to the beach or hiking with my dog Poppy. I also love movies so quite often my sister and I will go to the cinema and catch the latest blockbuster. The weekend usually ends with a family dinner at home and an episode or two of the Big Bang Theory.
What is your favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
Being a Hong Kong girl I’m a real foodie and love all kinds of cuisine. I definitely have a few favourites and I’m always acquiring more. My all time favourite restaurants are the Peak Lookout, Enoteca, Oonami in Kennedy Town and Dragon-i for Dim Sum. One of my new favourites is La Marmite – they have a great scallop pasta dish and a choux pastry praline desert, which is really delicious. Another new favourite is Yardbird – I love the sweet corn tempura, meatballs and rice noodle and seaweed dish. This is why I love Hong Kong, restaurants are always evolving and there is always something new around the corner. There is no room in Hong Kong for bad food.
To find out more about Sweet Soirees, visit Lauren’s website!
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All photos in the That Girl article above shot by the extremely talented Tim Chang – to get in touch with him, email tim.Chang327@gmail.com
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