The Creative Agency Behind Some of the World's Most Viral Events
Interview with Cara Kleinhaut of Agenc
By Jamie Lewin
Cara Kleinhaut is doing it all. She's a mother of two, just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and learned to surf in Costa Rica...all while heading up Agenc, the global experiential marketing agency she founded in 2003, where their team of creatives and producers create unique experiences for some of the world's biggest clients. (Think Dior, Goop, and the Super Bowl) And at fifty, she's just getting started.
Photo Credit: Vogue at J. Crew's 40th Anniversary Event; Joan Smalls, Olympia Gayot, Anne V.
Based in New York City & Los Angeles, Cara and I first met while I was the Head of Design for Piperlime and she and her team were the creative genius behind all of our events. I have admired their work since then and was excited to reconnect with her in September when AGENC was creating a fashion week event for J. Crew's 40th anniversary. The venue selection was the rooftop of Pier 17 where industry leaders and company veterans like Jenna Lyons and Todd Snyder turned up to celebrate and watch The Strokes perform, all above the location where J. Crew had their first store.
Cara, along with her business partner Sean Weber-Small, is tasked by brands with creating unique experiences and they never disappoint. Their innovative approach to experiential design has made Agenc a sought-after, award-winning experiential marketing company. Think of them as a global production company plus event planners that take every idea to the next level. Whether a launch for a fashion brand or a film premiere for a studio, Agenc creates a full range of events and unique experiences for their clients.
Photos: Agenc's NYFW edition of the Miss Dior Millefiori sensory experience and pop-up exhibit which was sold out daily and viral on social media
With a team of 40 people and resources all over the world, Agenc is poised to take on some really big projects. When asked where they find ideas and inspiration for their events, Cara's take is so refreshing. "We always open it up to the entire team, from the interns to our technical production team. Whoever's interested and has ideas. We have a really young workforce and they're the ones who are out every night. They follow all the trends, they follow what brands are doing, and they have their finger on the pulse. And so I love to hear what they have to say....the more diverse opinions and ideas, I think the better we are as far as outputting really creative stuff. There are a lot of companies that can execute. There are a lot of companies that do nice work. But the company that comes up with the best creative ideas that are catchy and going to stick, they're the ones that get hired. So we have to make sure we're presenting the freshest, most fun ideas to these brands."
Photos: The Lord of the Rings Premiere in Leceister Square, London
Clockwise from Top Left: Cara Kleinhaut at the premiere, Talent walks the red carpet, The entrance, Inside the experience
And they do. Last year Agenc was tapped for the campaign to promote The Lord of the Rings which was an unforgettable event. They held premieres starting in LA, Mexico City, Mumbai and culminated in London's Leceister Square where they took two weeks to build a magical elfin forrest for their biggest production ever. Cara lights up when she talks about the wildly successful event. "It was really really beautiful, a spectacle. When you see the talent step onto the red carpet and instead of a press wall, it's a whole journey. There was a magical path with huge trees, about 100 feet high and big arches you walked through. Every little leaf was the right leaf and the right kind of tree that was authentic to the Tolkien original series. It was a really painstaking, careful process. We're really proud of that, it was spectacular." When working in foreign countries, Cara is also proud of partnering with people with local knowledge where they help with event logistics, scouting the perfect location, and partnering on the entire process. Using their global network of resources, there are no specific needs and experiences their team can't meet.
With years of experience in the industry, Cara has some long term clients she's had the fortune to work with. She has put on major corporate events such as the In Goop Health summits where they'd create experiences in cities like New York, LA, San Francisco, Austin, London, Toronto and Vancouver. She's produced gala dinners and award shows like Hollywood Reporter's Women In Entertainment Gala and parties including Patron's holiday event to celebrate the close of Doja Cat's first headlining tour. From full event production to designing product launches and special events Cara thinks outside the box to create an unforgettable experience.
Photos: Left: Hollywood Reporter's Women In Entertainment Gala, Top Right: Dua Lipa on the red carpet, Bottom Right: Adele attends the gala
Q & A
Jamie: Okay, let's do some rapid fire questions! As an event planner, how can people go about creating memorable experiences for their family & friends? Whether a birthday party or another special occasion...how can they create a lasting impression?
Cara: Guests will only remember how they felt. They won't remember if, you know, they had to walk up a big hill to get to your house, if you had valet or not, if there was enough seating or it was at the right place. They'll remember that they had fun at your home, that you were happy, and that it was a warm, inviting evening. Social events and private parties are just a different beast. It's not about running perfectly and on time and precision where corporate events kind of are. When it's yours personally, no one cares if the cake is half melted. They care if you're stressed out and you're not happy. Everyone is just there to celebrate whatever it is that you're celebrating. Even for corporate clients and events, no matter what, you have to stay calm and cool because freaking out does not help! Ever, ever, ever. And we learned that the hard way. Because things do happen. Do you let it affect you or do you just have fun?
Jamie: What are you obsessed with right now?
Cara: Personally, I'm obsessed with health, wellness, longevity, all the vitality that's in that space right now.. It all started with In Goop Health and kind of went from there. I'm listening to the Huberman podcast, Rich Roll and Peter Attia for longevity and just how healthy and vibrant people are and all the different ways people are living. It's just so different than it was pre-pandemic and I love it. I love that someone like myself has teen kids and is just learning how to surf. I didn't have any voices in my head telling me I'm too old or I couldn't do it. Because why the hell not? I'm just kind of obsessed with what we all get to do now. As women, 50 doesn't have to look a certain way. I'm probably in better shape now than I've ever been in life. I'm less stressed than I was when my kids were little and I was still growing the business. So I'm in the best place. It gets so much better and easier if you just hang in there.
Jamie: Is there anything you are lusting after?
Cara: I have always been a sucker for experiences. I'd rather spend the money on a plane ticket to go somewhere I haven't been and do something I haven't done before. I want to go to Patagonia and ski. Scuba dive in the Galapagos. Those are the kinds of things that I really yearn to do, and that is a luxury of both time and money and I'm very aware of that. So hopefully I'll be able to keep doing those kinds of things.
Jamie: What are you wearing daily?
Cara: Oh, I'll show you! (Cara is dressed in a high/ low look that is very chic and totally Vetted). I'm wearing these Levi jeans that I got at goodwill. That are still my best fitting jeans. I've got my Prada loafers. They are a staple. And this is a Juicy for Target vest. I love it. I've had this for, like, 10 years.
Jamie: Favorite Restaurants?
Cara: Good topic. One of my favorites is an old standby in LA (meaning past 10 years). Bestia in the Arts District Downtown. It's just delicious. The chef is amazing and it's still a hard reservation to get. And even if you just sit at the bar, it's just always a favorite.
Jamie: What is the next event you have coming up?
Cara: We have a very exciting Q1. The Super Bowl is coming up, and we've got three events that we're doing at the Super Bowl. One is really massive, and you'll see it soon. It's in Vegas and it's one of the biggest things we've ever done in one day. So I can't wait, very excited about that. And then we'll be back in Austin at SXSW again. You know, hitting those big cultural moments that happen around the world. Those are things that I think are really important.
Photos: Agenc's event for Dior Sauvage in Joshua Tree
Jamie: Leave us with one story about something crazy that happened at an event you were producing.....
Cara: Okay, this is a good story. It was pre-pandemic at Coachella, 2018 or 2019. And we were with Dior doing a dinner for Dior Sauvage out in Joshua Tree by the Pioneer Motel. It was supposed to be a dinner under a canopy of the stars in the desert. We shuttled everyone from Palm Springs out to Joshua Tree to this gorgeous rustic kind of dinner. It was a really cool, beautiful evening. And it was all set and ready to go. We had heard earlier in the day that Coachella is infamous for windstorms....one will just fall and it's like Kansas in The Wizard of Oz....and one happened to be predicted for that night. We mentioned it to the client, but the whole idea was to be under the stars in the desert at night and everything was all set down to the smallest details like these beautiful wraps we had on every chair.
Guests are on their way and it's gorgeous out, no hint of wind. Meanwhile, my team and I knew that something was going to happen. So the team went and sourced a barn down the road and cleaned it out, strung some little lights and just had the space somewhat ready. And just as guests are arriving, the wind starts picking up. Out of nowhere it starts blowing like crazy. Guests are arriving so we just let drinks start flowing at the Pioneer hotel. And then literally as the wind is howling, we picked up the entire party while it's going on and moved it into the barn. We just picked up the party, rolled the tables onto the truck, still set, and moved it into a barn while guests were inside drinking. They were none the wiser. They just hopped into those same luxury vehicles that had taken them there and shuttled them to the barn down the road. We were just a little later than we had planned. And, you know, the evening went on, and no one knew what went on behind the scenes. No one even cared, they were happy. Our hearts were beating out of our chest, but we pulled it off. I mean, you just never know!
Follow Agenc on Instagram @weareagenc
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