With the Singapore F1 Grand Prix around the corner, we chat with the lady at the heart of its party scene
Partying is hard work, much harder than you think, mama! And Sonia Irvine – who started the world-renowned Amber Lounge party on the F1 circuit back in 2003 – is much more than a party planner. She’s also a mother of two daughters who criss-crosses the globe producing the hottest events on the F1 circuit throughout the year. Wanna catch a glimpse of your favourite F1 driver, or other celebrities in town? Head to Amber Lounge for some prime spotting. The events also raise millions of dollars annually for charities around the globe.
We recently chatted with Sonia from her home base in Monaco to find out how she meshes fabulous parties with motherhood, what she loves about Singapore (the only Amber Lounge party in Asia), and tips on how to throw a fab party, no matter the setting…
Singapore is the only Asian stop on your Grand Prix party circuit. What do you find special about it?
The Singapore Grand Prix is for sure one of the highlights of the season. It is the home of F1 night racing and with a wonderful backdrop of buildings, modern architecture, breath-taking skyline and an unparalleled combination of sights and sounds, the atmosphere of the race on the challenging Marina Bay Street Circuit is incredible. When our guests come to party, they are always excited and Singapore’s splendour is for sure one of the main reasons why.
As a working mother, how do you balance home life with your busy party schedule?
Family is a very important part of my life but I also need the stimulation of work. I love my two daughters, I love spending time with them, so when I come back home from a trip on the other side of the world, meetings or a day at the office and get the chance to spend time with them I feel complete. I have a great team working for me so I try to step back whenever I can. It’s just a matter of finding the good balance.
What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated world?
I have always worked in a male environment. I started as a physiotherapist for my brother Eddie Irvine when he was driving for Ferrari, before becoming the physio of the entire Ferrari team and then started Amber Lounge. Now I don’t even think about it anymore. I am not saying it is easy but when you know your business, your goals and the people you are talking too, it should not be a problem. You just need to be a little bit more confident. Nowadays, I truly believe being a man or a woman should not make a difference in the work environment.
For women who don’t like car racing, any viewing tips to make it more interesting or exciting?
The sexy drivers! Come to our fashion shows and you will realise how glamorous F1 can be! Also, there are more and more women involved in F1. Carmen Jorda, or previously Susie Wolff, are perfect examples that women can succeed as much as men.
How old are your children? Do they travel with you to events?
My older girl, Megan, is 14 years old and she sometimes travels with me and helps out. It’s great to have her with me on events and she is really hard-working. In September, she will start secondary school in London and it will be a change to be far away from her. Katie is 6 years old and as much as I would love to have her on my side all the time, she is still too young. Nevertheless, she really enjoys walking the runway with me at the Amber Lounge Monaco Fashion Show and she takes the job very seriously!
What do you think is the value of raising children to be global citizens?
Giving back is something really important to me. I work a lot but I also know I am lucky. Some people deserve to be helped and whenever I can play a role in making their life better, it makes me happy for them. In the past, Amber Lounge has raised over four million dollars in support of amazing charities, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and the Special Olympics. Very recently we have supported The UK based organisation called Amber Foundation and I am looking forward to helping more.
Can you share any tips and tricks every party planner should know about?
Well first, be sure to be organised. Use a to-do list and think about having a reliable person to help you. In addition, never forget that we don’t all have the same preferences, so you should adapt to the person you are organising the event for. Also, be different. For example, our concept proposes unlimited drinks all night long and this year, we will have a Magnum Pleasure Bar. Guests will be able to cool-off with customised ice-creams. Finally, time flies so work in advance or you will put yourself under too much pressure.
Any juicy stories from past Singapore Amber Lounge parties you can share?
I can’t reveal names for privacy reasons but I have for sure seen many celebrities and F1 drivers dancing on tables and spraying Champagne on the crowd. One thing I am sure about is that our stock of Moët & Chandon is always left empty by the end of the weekend.
Thank you, Sonia! For more information on Amber Lounge and to purchase tickets for one of the hottest parties in town, visit their website.