Time Travel: 90s DTLA Design Challenge- WIPA SoCal

The Southern California chapter of Wedding International Professionals Association (WIPA) hosted a design challenge that evoked the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Video: Marshall Camera Wedding Films

Check out more about this event on Biz Bash: https://www.bizbash.com/social-events/media-gallery/21069989/wedding-and-event-design-ideas-from-every-decade

downtown los angeles table design
Photos by: Jenny Quicksall Photography

WIPA Design Challenge 2019

“As the lines continue to blur between event design for weddings and corporate gatherings, more and more inspiration can be found in the stylish world of wedding vendors. Case in point: the Southern California chapter of the Wedding International Professional Association’s (WIPA) annual Design Challenge, which was full of smart, eye-catching design ideas for all types of events.” – Biz Bash

90s tablescape design DTLA city market social house

The Venue

“The venue used to be the original produce market in Los Angeles in the early 1900s,” said the venue’s director of sales Kari Mendez, who also serves as the chapter’s director of communications.”

“About five years ago, a developer came in and really started to revitalize the space. Choosing a theme that would really go in line with the venue and capture its essence, we came up with Decades of Glam to showcase the designers’ interpretation of the different decades within a space that’s been around for 10 decades now.” – Biz Bash

Homage to Los Angeles

colorful 90s table in DTLA warehouse

As an LA native myself, growing up in this crazy city, I wanted to capture the 90s Angeleno spirit of my L.A. youth.

colorful 90s table city market social house

City Market Social House, with its industrial floors, glass rolling doors, and 100-year-old brick, was the ideal framework to time travel back to one of the most controversial decades in Los Angeles. I was inspired by the bones of the building itself. That was my starting off point.

The Details

gold dining chairs

I have a wanted to incorporate this specific graffiti-style linen from BBJ Linen into a design for years! This was the opportunity to let this linen shine. The warm, gold chairs served as a pop of color against the cool grey tone of the cement floor.

LA Natives

Los Angeles gets a bad wrap most of the time. It can be dirty, crowded, and overwhelming is what is most often said. Indeed, LA has it’s ‘quirks’ but what makes LA great are its natives. Los Angeles is a melting pot of people that make Los Angeles so unique, vibrant, and exciting.

colorful graffiti wall DTLA

One such amazing LA native is graffiti artist, ODDER. ODDER created this huge, 90s LA-inspired art piece just hours before this event began. Without a plan, sketch, or even much prep ODDER jumped in an brought to life the spirit of this city through spray paint. LA natives are the good ones!

colorful tablscape design downtown los angeles

Diversity is a huge part of why L.A. is so compelling and what makes L.A. so special. The menu and place cards showcase names and cuisines of Korean, African-American, Hispanic, Vietnamese, and Armenian cultures; all crucial in the makeup of our city and sadly, rarely showcased in mainstream wedding publications.  Roseville Designs brought to life the 90s inspired menus, street signage, and place cards.

Method to the Madness!

colorful table design

The through line in anything I design is always my trinity- color, texture, and shape. To me, those three elements are key. The esthetic of the 90s parallels.

menu and placecard

Guests are drawn in by the bright colors, their senses are engaged with the textures and their minds try to translate the shapes. Take all the and throw it into a blender and you have what the 90s looked like!

  • two women at colorful 90s table
    Sara Kincaid of BBJ Linen
  • david from la pinata party rentals
    David Santiago of La Pinata Party Rentals
  • Whit from Whit Hazen Florist
    Whit McClure of Whit Hazen Floral
  • sugar studio baker and cake
    Nika Yazdani of Sugar Studio

Outside In

90s design installation DTLA

Coming from a theater stage manager background, ‘setting the stage’ is an important concept to consider when designing anything. I could have just done a tablescape, but I wanted to build out the allotted 30×20 ft space to give the audience the illusion of being outside on a basketball court in DTLA circa the 90s.

women playing basketball

Am am a talented sports ball athlete. Can’t you tell?

You know you work with talented vendors when you call up owner, David Santiago of  La Piñata Party Rentals and ask him if they can make you an indoor basketball court and he responds, “YES, let’s do some creative, shit”!

shoes hanging off wire

All over LA, especially after the riots of the early 90s, you see tennis shoes hanging from electric wires. Legend has it that gang members use this to create an informal memorial at the spot where a friend lost his/her life using their shoes. Judging by my shoes, it would be a hardcore glitter gang.

A Slam Dunk

floral installation basketball hoop

Whit Hazen is a floral creative genius! Centerpieces don’t always have to be in the center of a table but rather in the center of a court. This 90s basketball floral installation reached new heights!

basketball hoop flowers
women with basketball
floral installation basketball hoop

The colorful rentals that adorned our 90s tablescape came from Premiere Party Rents and La Piñata Party Rentals. The gold flatware mirrored the gold in the chairs.

placesetting on colorful table

It wouldn’t be truly L.A. in the 90 without including graffiti artwork, basketball, chain link, concrete, brick, palm fronds, street signs, and a little bling.

colorful los angeles wedding planner

Lighting always makes the difference and Vox Productions nailed it! Thank you to the team at Design Visage for making my hair and makeup look fabulous after a long and sweaty day of install!

graffiti wall at city market social house
downtown los angeles city market social house
hanging chains

I am NOT a DIY planner, but every now an then you have to get creative with unique projects. Incorporating metal chains into the design was crucial. Real metal chains, however, would have been too heavy to be hung, so as always, I improvised. I spray painted, lighter, plastic chains to look metal in silver and gold.

And yes, your eyes do not deceive you, those are picnic food covers and a metal closet rack holding it all up!

palm leaf hanging floral installation

Signs of Our Lives hand painted this acrylic 90s LA sign that hung proudly from the ceiling. A perfect pairing to the palms in the hanging floral installation.

LA 90s sign

Cake is a must for me, always! Nika Yazdani, of Sugar Studio, brought to life what it means to ‘Live and Die in LA’ in this multi-layered Los Angeles inspired sugar creation.

sugar studio cake DTLA

Each tier showcases a part of the city. The bottom, looks like the pavement we walk on, the middle tier is the brick we live in, and the top is the skyline that shows us we are home.

DTLA wedding cake

Oh, and the LA gold chain, just because who doesn’t love a little bling!

Our 1990s-inspired space took home the Panelists’ Choice award! Thank you to WIPA SoCal for including us in this incredible design challenge.

wipa socal award on table

Creative Vendor Partners:


City Market Social House  @citymarketsocialhouse


WIPA SoCal @wipasocal


Anything But Gray Events  @anythingbutgrayevents 


Whit McClure Floral Design  @whit_hazen 


Premiere Party Rentals   @premiere_rents 

La Pinata Party Rentals  @lapinataparty


ODDER  @odderizm 


Vox Productions  @voxproductions


Jenny Quicksall   @jennyquicksall


 Marshall Camera Wedding Films @marshallcameraweddingfilms


BBJ Linen  @bbjlinen


Roseville Designs   @rosevilledesigns


Signs of Our Lives@signsofourlives


Sugar Studio  @sugarstudiola


TGIS Catering @tgiscatering 

Fundamental LA @fundamentalla


Dash Entertainment: @dashentertainment

  1. Holly, Your design is truly amazing! I love the graffiti linens and the colors ( your specialty) are perfect! Way to go, Holly!

    • Holly Gray says:

      Thank you so much, Betsy! This was truly one of my favorite designs because it represented the city I love so much, Los Angeles!

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