Have you ever walked in to one of our Conferences or Awards Ceremonies and seen the incredible styling incorporated?

Flawlessly fitting the theme from entrance to exit. Who comes up with that? Well, that would be Em. Emily has graced the MA with her talent for over 13 years, and we couldn't be more grateful for her and the creativity she offers. We sat down with Em and had a chat so you could get to know the genius behind MA's event styling. 

Q: Emily, can you start by telling us a bit about your background and some key highlights in your career?  

I grew up in Wellington, and then spent my 20’s in London.  Being in London in the late 90’s was epic.  I loved the gay culture and drag scene, spending a lot of time in Soho.  In the early 2000’s I started work in experiential marketing for a below-the-line agency running their roadshow programmes, and then later moving onto their design team.  I produced a number of videos for their clients, and got to travel to Poland, Germany and Jamaica on film shoots.  During my time there, our DP Lee and I decided to enter a short film competition.  Two girls just making things up, so we decided we’d give it a go.  And we won!  The prize was three weeks in New York learning 16mm filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.  We had a blast.  I moved back to NZ shortly after that and started work for a video production company. 

Q: When did you know you had a passion and skill for creative and design?  

I’ve always enjoyed being creative and making stuff.  I started acting in theatre when I was in intermediate & high school and then carried on doing TV work (which I still do occasionally). Since then, I’ve learnt how you can bring those same skills (timing, lighting, design etc) to enhance any event.  I’m all about bringing joy and elevation.

I’m a life-long learner and have done courses in te reo Māori, flax weaving, photography, floral artistry, stencil art, spray painting, pattern making and garment upcycling.

Being able to imagine something in my head and then bring it to life will never get old.

Q: What led you to start styling events for the Marketing Association?  

I started contracting to the MA when Sue McCarty was Chief Exec.  Sue had been a client when I was in a previous role as a video editor.  She saw my passion & work ethic and offered me a chance to try something new.  It was a pivotal time for me as I was pregnant with my first child.  In fact, I was actually 9 months pregnant at my first TVNZ-NZ Marketing Awards and had someone on standby to cover me just in case I went into labour!  Being part of the MA family has been a blessing for me as it’s meant I could continue contracting and work around my kids’ needs.  Being a single mum is a juggle, and I’m grateful to Kirsty and the other wonderful women on the MA Events Team for enabling me to work flexibly while also giving me creative freedom to explore new ideas.

Q: Where do you get your creative inspiration from?

I find inspiration everywhere.  It could be something I see on TV, or at a live event.  A colour, a fabric, or street art.  For the upcoming awards I’m channelling 50’s Hollywood glamour inspired by the fashion illustrations of Megan Hess.  It’s going to be a great night!

Q: What are your key tips for creating an impression on a shoestring budget?  

I think you’ve just got to be prepared to think outside the box and get your hands dirty. Everyone at the MA is used to me walking into the office carrying a bunch of random things, and asking what I’m up to now.  You’d be surprised at what you can pull together with wire mesh, a few cable ties and some spray paint!

Q: What are the biggest challenges in pulling your designs together?  

Venue pack-in times are often challenging.  We might only get access the night prior to the event, and we’ve got to build the set, style the networking areas, and test & rehearse AV.  So you need to keep that in mind from the beginning and make sure it’s achievable, otherwise you’ll only get a couple of hours sleep before you have to be back on deck for 6am pre-show rehearsals.

Q: How do you tie in your style with the event programme/focus?

We used to be more literal, but now I go more on a feeling.  For example, the upcoming Brand Summit will have a bold but minimalist feel.  DDB have given us a punchy colour palette to work with.  I usually start with colours and build from there.

Q: What has been your best event theme and styling to date? And why?

I love it when you can just go full fantasy with a theme.  We went glam-safari one year at the DM Awards, complete with life-size animals and a David Attenborough style voiceover for the intro video.  That was pretty epic and even got a write up in The Herald. Toot toot!

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety, creative freedom, and Marilena’s sharp wit.

Q: Favourite hobby or thing to do in your spare time?

Nap.  (I’m a single mum.  LOL.).  I also have a side-hustle I started during the Covid lockdowns, called ‘daytime SEQUINS’.  I upcycle denim jackets and sell them on Instagram.

Q: Favourite book and movie of all time?

Some Like It Hot and Clueless are my all-time favourites.  Funny, sassy women, with plenty of style.   But if I could live in a movie world it would definitely be Barbieland.

Q: Ideal holiday destination?  

Next on my bucket list is Morocco.  I’m dreaming of blush hues, dreamy riads, and balmy weather.

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

My kids.  They inspire me all the time and both have their own unique style.  I’m proud to show them you can earn a living from your creativity. 

So, now you know a bit more about Em, check out some photo's capturing her incredible styling at our events.