F1 party planner Sonia Irvine a homebody

Founder of F1 VIP party Sonia Irvine may hobnob with celebrities but she would rather be at home with her two kids

As founder of roving international Formula One after-party Amber Lounge, schmoozing with A-list celebrities, DJs, fashion designers and royalty is all part of Sonia Irvine's job.

But the 50-year-old Irish party planner, who is the sister of former Ferrari and Jaguar F1 driver Eddie Irvine, hardly considers herself a party animal.

In fact, the single mother says she would much rather spend time at home with her two daughters, Megan, 12, and Katie, four. "Outside of work, it's my children, that's it. When I'm not working, I'm doing things with them."

Irvine, who wore a figure-hugging Herve Leger bodycon dress paired with strappy Saint Laurent stilettos during the interview with Life! last Friday, says she enjoys outdoor sports such as skiing and relaxing in the sun. She adds with a laugh: "I don't really drink and I don't really party, so I'm probably the worst person to run a nightclub."

Irvine should give herself more credit as she happens to run one of the most successful VIP parties in the global F1 circuit, where fashion, fine dining, charity auctions and star performances by international DJs and singers come together.

Amber Lounge, which was founded in 2003 in Monaco, is now held in Grand Prix locations such as Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Austin, Texas and Singapore. It has been held every year during the Singapore Grand Prix since 2008.

The guest list for past parties has included F1 drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Prince Albert II of Monaco, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, retired English footballer David Beckham and U2 frontman Bono.

Her parties do not come cheap. Here, VIP tables can cost between $8,000 and $26,600, while individual passes cost between $900 and $1,200.

Before she joined the world of F1, she was running her own physiotherapy practice for about 12 years.

She says: "I came into Formula One when my brother Eddie brought me in as his therapist. I continued for as long as I could, but it (working for F1) was very hard, so I had to give up my private practice."

While working as a therapist, she also organised black-tie events, sorting out dining logistics, hiring DJs and getting F1 drivers to do charity appearances.

She says managing a physio department and organising parties call for similar skills. "A lot of being a physiotherapist is about attention to details. So when a patient has a problem, you're listening to what he's saying, you're analysing the problems he has," she says. "With events, it's the same. Attention to details, listening to what people want and then putting it all together."

She says one of the reasons the Amber Lounge has stayed relevant for the past 12 years is the fact that it features "different drivers (doing fashion shows), fashion designers and (entertainment) acts".

At this year's party, held last weekend near Temasek Reflections, a two-storey water feature in Temasek Avenue, Irvine hired a team from the United States to do video-mapping - turning objects into a display surface for video projection - for a "funky element". Grammy Award-winning English singer- songwriter Estelle also performed.

While there is growing competition from new players hoping to muscle in on the lucrative F1 party market, offering new party venues with international DJs and the promise of celebrity appearances, she is unfazed.

She says: "Who came up with the VIP nightlife experience? It was Amber Lounge and we did that many years ago and so people have just copied. I don't pretend to say who's coming to our parties, I just say, find out."

melk@sph.com.sg