Last month, citizenM hotels opened their latest location in Boston, and for the launch they partnered with N/A Collective to throw a one-night-only event to introduce the city to their “affordable luxury” concept. The immersive experience drew inspiration from “Alice in Wonderland” but fused the idea with futuristic elements taking guests on an adventure through the hotel. N/A Collective took some time to answer a few questions about what went into bringing the event to life, the inspiration behind it, and what went on as guests “Followed the Gnome”.
Tell us about your role in bringing this experience to life.
N/A Collective, a creative agency meets production house, partnered with lifestyle hotel brand, citizenM, to host the ultimate opening launch party for its new location in Boston’s North Station, on Thursday, October 3rd, 2019.
What did the brief ask, and what challenges did it present?
The one-night-only event let the people of Boston know there is a new hotel in town: citizenM Boston North Station — bringing the “affordable luxury” concept to the city of Boston, offering guests all of the benefits of staying at a high-end hotel without the high-end price tag. The brand targets frequent travelers with a taste for all things art, music, technology, and fashion. This overall atmosphere can be seen through the artfully-styled living room space, and the in-room “mood” technology.
For those who couldn’t attend, how would you describe the event?
The citizenM Boston Launch took guests through an ever-shifting journey where they “Followed the Red Gnome” — a nod to the brand’s mascot. In an “Alice in Wonderland” fashion, the iconic and somewhat mischievous character is seen at almost all citizenM locations, and guests are invited to explore his extraordinary ventures down the rabbit hole.
No minute was the same as dramatic gestures and performances altered the ambience throughout the night; from light, airy, and playful to dark, eerie, and otherworldly. Guests were engulfed into this interactive experience through a series of immersive moments of surprise and delight. Guests remained in flux as they were transported into a wondrous and magical world, committed to following the red gnome further, and further... and further.
The living room served as the heart of the party. Guests were invited to mingle, drink, eat, and dance to their heart's content. Brand ambassadors were transformed into native inhabitants of the quirky and diverse world of the red gnome. Their garb consisted of colorful wigs, avant garde makeup, playful use of reflective material, and fun accessories.
Guests were guided upstairs to continue their journey, stumbling upon the first of three rooms turned upside down by the Naughty Gnome. Here, a splendid sea of frozen bites and various sweets were suspended from above to entice guests to come a little closer. Once inside, they were invited to indulge in bite-size sweets or add a garnish to their cocktail all custom made by a Boston Mixologist and influencer NailtheCocktail.
In the second, hands spontaneously appeared and disappeared from within a wall - sometimes the hands appeared for an innocent handshake, other times they came forth bearing gifts in the form of flowers. Within the room we had clues of the gnomes presence and a wondrous display of florals filled the room with aroma and delight. These florals were designed by a Boston native, BostonPollen.
And in the third, guests were seeing double. Each element in the room had a twin, the pillows, the books, even the tissue box. The walls were adorned with colorful, funhouse mirrors for guests to take a photo with their own double. The host of this room - a set of identical twins from the Boston area. They snapped photos of guests with polaroid cameras.
As the night reached its peak, guests finally found what they’d been searching for all along - the Red Gnome. The meeting room was the grand finale - home to Ninanailedit, who adorned guests with nail art on their middle finger - nodding the the gnome itself - and the Red Gnome, where guests had finally caught what they’d been seeking all night long. The gnomes were stationed front and center waiting patiently as guests arrived - only to congratulate them by flipping them the bird. Here, they were able to pick out a souvenir gnome to take home and adorn it with a custom Boston sticker.
What inspired you to use “Alice in Wonderland” as a theme for the night?
‘Follow the red gnome!’ took inspiration from Alice’s initial venture down the Rabbit Hole. This passage from one place to another lended well to a transformational event. From the beginning, guests were drawn into a peculiar world with surprise and delight moments — magic, oddity of scale, and something new around every corner. We wanted the guests to feel as curious as Alice within the space and because it was a journey through a citizenM Hotel, the experience needed to feel quirky and new. So taking Alices’ journey as an inspiration helped us to create a new and wondrous event that sparked curiosity, wonder, and anticipation for what's to come next.
How did the client initially react to the idea when you presented it?
Alice in Wonderland of course leans into things of the past - grandfather clocks, tea cups, etc. This was initially too nostalgic for the brand. citizenM is a more futuristic Hotel brand, so though we could take inspiration from Alice’s world we wanted to lean towards this more futuristic theme. We did this by incorporating advanced lighting design and new art forms within the room tours.
How was the response from attendees? Were there any unexpected reactions?
This event was totally transportive and unique — with that came some pretty great reactions. Frankly, the team began to see rather clearly that Bostonians hadn’t experienced a Hotel opening quite like ours. So the reactions were overall very positive and pushed peoples curiosities further than they expected.
What was the greatest challenge that you and your team faced bringing this experience to life?
We wanted each and every element of the space to feel cohesive. But with a theme that is so eclectic - incorporating both the quirky and the futuristic - this arose as a creative challenge. Once we incorporated the gnome as a major figure in the guest journey, i.e. Follow the Red Gnome, the answer became clear. Each and every magical moment or surprise and delight was the effect the gnome had on the space. Because the gnome is the mascot of citizenM, this allowed us to feature the space in a way that also conveyed how citizenM brings this kind of magic to their hotel experience.
Do you have a favorite moment from the event?
The entire event was both a tour of the hotel and a journey to Follow the Red Gnome. So as guests rounded out the tour, they were directed to a meeting room in the main space. This room was filled to. the. brim. with red gnome figurines - 300 of them to be exact. This was a moment of sheer joy for guests. The journey they had been through the experience rooms came to a conclusion at this meeting room on the lobby level where guests were able to grab a gnome and take it with them as they left.