Life in the Slow Lane: Barrett Wissman + The Palm Springs Life Festival

By Chere Di Boscio

If there’s one thing Barrett Wissman knows how to do well, it’s live. The musician, Chairman of IMG Artists and father of ‘slow entertainment’ movement has long been an advocate of chucking the tech, donning some finery and going out to enjoy not a quick evening of entertainment, but a whole day of it. Or more.

Wissman is the man behind several major festivals, including the Napa Valley Festival del Sole and the Plà¡cido Domingo Festival.  But with the Palm Springs Life Festival, he outdoes himself. As with all his events, the Palm Springs Festival covers many disciplines. But this is the first time that Wissman has incorporated slow fashion – and rather than a typical fashion week event aimed at industry insiders, this one is tailor-made for the general public.


Above: Barrett Wissman, left, with Robert Redford and Sofia Loren

Indeed, in variation from Wissman’s other high-brow cultural events, his festival will be the first to combine ‘pop’ culture with the arts; perhaps due to its geography, this one will be infused with a typically laid-back Californian vibe: “The proximity to Los Angeles, the world capital of the entertainment industry, had a strong influence on my decision to hold the festival there and to approach it in a different way from other festivals I’ve done,” he says. But Palm Springs is even more chilled out than L.A. and that’s another reason the festival will be held here: “it’s a relatively small community which can focus the attention on the events at hand in the right way. In a large city, that focus is often lost,” he explained.


Above: Wine will come from the Il Borro Estate in Tuscany & other vineyards

The event boasts a stellar lineup of some of today’s top culinary superstars and musicians, including opera icons  Plà¡cido Domingo and Renee Fleming, violinists  Midori and Sarah Chang, cellist  Nina Kotova, pianist Jean Yves Thibaudet, guitarist  Angel Romero, chefs Cat Cora, Gail Gand, and the Hearty Boys.

But what interests us most is the fashion crowd, featuring Zandra Rhodes and couture designers  Michael Costello and Marc Bouwer.


Image: Marc Bouwer

She may not be known for her slow fashion couture, but Rhodes was also a great choice for keeping with the ‘slow’ element of the festival – she’s a strong advocate of making fashion more sustainable, and recently partnered with People Tree to create a summer collection, working closely with artisans in social enterprises in India using organic cotton to create top quality accessible ethical fashion.  The Rana Plaza disaster of last year further strengthened Rhodes’s belief that more designers had to work with ethical fashion brands, so this year her SS16 collection was handmade in Malaysia by fair-waged craftspeople.


Image: Zandra Rhodes + People Tree Collection

The Festival will open with a gala concert at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa, featuring Plà¡cido Domingo, Renee Fleming and the LA Opera Orchestra and will continue with an array of music, food and wine and fashion events over the following four weeks.   Concerts and events will take place at multiple venues in the greater  Palm Springs  area including the new Rancho Mirage Amphitheater,  The Helene Galen Auditorium at The Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower  and the Gardens on El Paseo. The Festival will be capped off on  April 23 and 24  with a signature event “In Vino Veritas” at The Ritz-Carlton,  Rancho Mirage. The event will feature the greatest Italian wines, such as those from the fabulous Il Borro estate in Tuscany, winemakers and chefs of today and will be presented in partnership with and curated by  Gambero Rosso, the leading Italian guide to the best wines and restaurants of  Italy.


Image: Agua Caliente Casino Resort

It’s worth heading to the Palm Springs Life Festival even if you don’t live in California. After all, what’s life all about if not enjoying fine food and wine, great music and culture? “It’s actually the most natural combination of things that one could bring together. It’s all about what we do every day,” says Wissman. “We get dressed, we eat, we enjoy music and the arts.”

And hopefully now, we’ll do it all a little more slowly, with a lot more appreciation.

The Palm Springs Life Festival truly is a celebration of life – particularly life in the slow lane. This year, the Festival runs from  March 20 through April 24, 2016  throughout the Coachella Valley, California.

Chere Di Boscio
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