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August 20, 2009

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Matt and Flo keep good times rolling

A lot of expats like to party but few can lay claim to being the brains behind 30 of the city's biggest bashes in the last five years.

Swiss party animals Matthias Sutter and Florian Luthi have taken creating a social circle in Shanghai to a whole new level, building their Matt&Flo events into a brand all of its own.

When an e-flyer for one of their events hits the more than 2,500 people on their mailing list, it changes the social calendar for many regulars of Shanghai's party scene.

While their first party in the summer of 2004 - a "no socks, no tie" event to celebrate Switzerland's National Day - attracted 150 people to Cottons, they now get more than 1,300 people.

Their parties stand out for their themes, which have included everyone dressing in the same color, a disco-themed party and even the recently intriguingly titled "dirty thirty" party.

The good friends met in Shanghai and both bring distinct skills to make sure their parties are memorable and go off without a hitch.

Sutter used to work as Hyatt on the Bund's food and beverage director. He has worked in the hotel industry around the world and despite being posted to Capella Hotels in Singapore, it has not stopped him planning and returning for the Shanghai parties.

Sutter handles all the food and beverage details of their parties while Luthi, a former journalist who now works in branding and marketing, handles all the design and communications for their shindigs.

"In the first two years we held a party almost every month but they were a lot smaller; of course it's a hobby and we like to invest our time," Luthi says.

"We are looking at where to hold our next party, which may be on the first or second Saturday in September."

Luthi says that unlike many of the more professional event organizers in the city they run their events to cover costs, not to make money.

They negotiate with venue owners to try to keep drink prices low and also don't have a cover charge, says Luthi.

"People ask us 'so what do you offer,' and we don't really offer anything," he says.

"We don't have any special dancers or a performance at midnight. It is really basic. We collaborate with the bar, we want our parties to feel as if the boys next door are throwing a party and everyone's invited. We try and keep that atmosphere up as much as possible."

Both Luthi and Sutter arrived in Shanghai in 2003 and since that time have developed their party hobby alongside their jobs.

In Luthi's case he says his hobby helped him land a new job in Shanghai.

Luthi is an event organizer for Avantgarde, an international events marketing agency that handles events and promotion for a range of multinational companies.

"My boss saw what I did with Matt&Flo and thought why wouldn't that kind of thing work in a corporate environment," he says.

While success had its career rewards, it has also brought with it greater scope for the types of events the pair put on. When previously they might have struggled to persuade a venue to have an event, venues now seek them out.

The more than 2,000-strong database of email addresses and the strong social network they have developed can be the vital tonic a venue needs.

Strong word of mouth is also a boost to new venues wanting to make their mark in Shanghai's cutthroat club and bar scene.

Matt&Flo events have given partygoers their first glimpses of venues such as Attica, Barbarossa and, most recently, Sin.

With planning for their next party in full swing, Luthi says that despite the departure of his mate to Singapore they still plan to keep the good times rolling.

Sutter still attends every party and despite busy work commitments has stepped off the plane and straight to one party just as it was about to get into full swing.

"We won't be able to do what we did before but we can still hold a party every three or four months."


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