From Dentistry To Artistry—Nikki Chatto Shares Her Journey To Becoming A Sought-After Event Stylist
“They were telling me to stop!” Nikki Chato says when asked to recall how she ended up in the events styling industry. “I was losing money, so they were all telling me to stop. There were more losses than gains.” This is very far from where Nikki is now. These days, the event stylist enjoys a solid reputation for being reliable and trustworthy. She is also loved by clients because she makes sure to go out of her way to make an event extra special.
“While my clients know what to expect, I always make sure that they’re still wowed by what I do. I love seeing their reactions. It’s really priceless. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy what I do.” Now, Nikki has been in the business for over twenty years, making her one of the pioneers in the local event styling industry.
Before Nikki ventured into the world of event styling, she was a dentist. “I had my own practice, but when I got married, my husband and his family asked me to help out in their flower business. They needed a woman’s touch.” Not long after Nikki started helping with the more practical side of the business, she found herself enjoying what she did. “It became an artistic outlet for me. It was my playground.”
While her early days working as a florist may sound serendipitous and blissful, the event stylist points out that it wasn’t as glamorous as people think. “It’s actually very demanding and so much work goes into an event. At first, I had a hard time adjusting to the schedule. When you do events, you start late at night until the wee hours of the morning. You have to be there all throughout to supervise everything. You can’t sleep. I really missed sleeping the first few months. Also, because of everything you have to do, you forget to eat sometimes!”
When she ventured into doing events, stylists were limited to doing floral arrangements. As the role and scope of work of the event stylist evolved, Nikki became well-known for her floral arrangements. As an artist, she prides herself in being able to develop a dainty and delicate atmosphere with pastel-colored flowers and for being able to go the opposite track by coming up with vibrant and bold creations depending on what the client wants. “Aside from the flowers, of course, an event stylist must now do something that’s more similar to a full production or construction. It’s not just tablescapes anymore. We do scaffoldings and all those things and we now hire so many people. It’s like you’re a contractor for a house!”
Many things have changed in the event styling industry but one thing remains for Nikki: she’s always sought-after, no matter what. In fact, she has very limited online presence and has a slight aversion to social media. Apart from her Instagram account, Nikki’s online footprint comes mostly from reviews of happy clients or bridal magazines. “I don’t care much if I get advertised. It really is about the work. I’m also very lucky to get a lot of clients. It really is word of mouth. It’s great to be getting more work this way. People keep on referring me to their family and friends. I’m happy that they trust me.”
Now that event styling is considered as an art form and has even become a legitimate career, Nikki stresses that one must develop an eye for detail. This will help one translate vision into reality. “It begins with having an eye for it. You have to have an eye. It’s not that you sketch your ideas outright and your design is final. In execution, you realize that it can all be so different. When you reach the venue, things may turn out different from how you imagine it to be. You have to do something to make it pleasing, to make it stand out. To make it cohesive. You don’t just put things. Everything has to blend and work together. From the color combination to how everything flows.” These bits of advice will surely be helpful to those who want to venture into event styling. These may also come in handy for those who wish to recreate lavish tablescapes in their very own homes.
Photos from @nikkichatto
It may take years to develop one’s sense of style and aesthetics, but the event stylist offers some encouragement to those who want to try creating beautiful tablescapes at home for special occassions. Having a beautiful and successful tablescape isn’t dependent on a hefty price tag; it boils down to creativity. “If you can imagine, then you can create. But just try to consider the people, the guests. Don’t obstruct their view. Make sure that the people across them can still be seen! Make sure that no décor will touch the plate. There should be ample spaces for them for their food and cutlery.”
Another thing Nikki emphasizes whenever she does events is comfort. Beauty may be a prerequisite in any successful event, but it shouldn’t compromise comfort and functionality. “No matter how nice your design is, if your guests are uncomfortable, they won’t appreciate the aesthetics. It should be functional. Make a nice design that’s non-obstructive.”
Finally, the lauded event stylist encourages others to pursue continuous learning. This can be a very simple activity that’s part of everyone’s daily life or lifestyle. “Just keep on imagining and be very observant of things. Nowadays it’s so modern and the options are endless. You have to keep on learning through observation. Just seek opportunities to learn and train your eye.”
Read more about Nikki Chatto in Metro Society magazine's latest issue, out on stands now for only P250.
Photographs by Paul Del Rosario and JC Inocian for Metro Society