Society: GM designer does so much more than cars
When Christopher Webb moved to Detroit from England just shy of 18 years ago, he probably didn’t know his job would morph into premiere event planner.
Webb was actually recruited by General Motors to work in the color and trim department. Before leaving England, he studied textiles at Brighton University (where he graduated with honors), was a freelance womenswear designer and a makeup artist. He also did a short stint in the GM advanced design studio in Birmingham, England.
Here in Detroit, Webb is thrilled with his job as GM’s Senior Creative Designer in the Industrial Design Department, where his responsibilities include everything from selecting materials, colors and finishes for the GM branded auto shows to creative directing charity events supported or chaired by GM.
“I’ve always enjoyed hosting dinner parties and helping friends organize and decorate for birthday parties and gatherings,” Webb says. “I guess when I was first really bit by the event planning bug was my first CCS Wine Auction in 2014 chaired by Mary and Tony Barra.”
After planning several successful parties for GM, word of Webb’s unique creativity and enthusiasm began to seep out into the general social community. Before long, lots of mavens from the society set began seeking Webb out to plan their upcoming charity parties.
“I try not to miss any detail when planning an event,” explains Webb. “Knowing that our guests go to so many parties in a calendar month, I want to create a unique, must-go-to event with decorative elements and experiences that they haven’t had or seen before. From there, we only hope to create a record-breaking fundraising event. That’s when I know it was a success.”
Memorable Webb-directed events include the 2015 CCS Wine Auction when he converted City Airport into a magical 1950s travel and flight inspired wonderland, combined with a “Mad Men” theme; the 2016 Karmanos Cancer Institute Gala held at the Michigan Motion Picture Studios with authentic movie sets and props from the “Transformers” movies; and the Rainbow Cabaret fundraiser for the Ruth Ellis Center, held at SCL ultra lounge in Royal Oak, with a fashion show from Dolce Moda, drag queens and theareas most fashionable people.
Webb says this year has already started off at an incredible pace. He’s completed the “frosted winter jewel” GM pre-auto prom party at the RenCen, as well as an elegant “Game of Thrones meets Narnia”-inspired wedding. Coming up in June, he looks forward to being creative director for the sixth annual Detroit Grand Prixmiere Gala chaired by Michael and Margaret Simcoe.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Christopher on many of our parties, including the Belle Isle Conservancy event,” says philanthropist Mona Simoncini, wife of Lear Corp. CEO Matt Simoncini. “He is an absolute delight to work with and he’s efficient and creative, and quite frankly, the best in the city.”
When it comes to amateurs planning parties, Webb suggests that the first thing is making sure your guests feel special and that the experience is as unique and memorable as possible. “It doesn’t have to be about cost and big budgets,” he adds, “but they do help.”
Webb says aesthetically, there are two things decoratively that always make the biggest impact at an event: lighting and floral. “When combined with great food and drink, you can’t go wrong. I love to do charity events because it’s the way I can give back to the community. When I see the smiles on guests faces when they walk into an experience I have created and I hear of record sums of money raised on the evening, it was all worth it.”
Chuck Bennett hosts “Chuck’s Closet” from 4-5 p.m. every Saturday on 910AM Superstation. He also is the Fox 2 News Style Ambassador.