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Drake's Go-To Event Designer Shares Her Tips On Building A Recognizable Brand

9min read
People

If you follow popular artists like Drake, The Weeknd, Victoria Beckham or DJ Khaled, on social media then you've seen just how luxurious and extravagant their parties can be

You may have also wondered who's behind the creation of these parties that everyone wants to go to. Meet Melissa Andre, the renowned creative consultant who brings these over-the-top events to life. As the founder of Melissa Andre Events and Melissa Andre Blooms, this entrepreneur has captured the attention of A-list celebrities and global brands alike.

Known for her whimsical and other-worldly installations and products, she has become one of the most sought-after event designers in the industry. Andre recently sat down with SWAAY to discuss her work ethic and share her tips on how to create a successful brand in such a competitive industry.

How did you get started with your own business in entertainment and events?

While I was producing events in the fashion and beauty industry, I realized that I had a lot of ideas and aesthetics that I wanted to explore and bring to life. Unfortunately, those ideas weren't a great fit for the brands I was working with. I knew that having my own company with my own clientele was something I'd need to work towards. So, after about 3 years in the field working for a big fashion and beauty brand, I decided to leave my position and launch Melissa Andre Design Co. which grew pretty quickly. I was soon working with A-list celebrities like Drake, Victoria Beckham, Louis Vuitton, DJ Khaled and Deadmau5 to global brands like Google, Instagram, Reebok and Veuve Clicquot.

We all know that making a name for yourself in this industry is extremely competitive, especially in LA, how did you get your brand to stand out from the competition?

High quality work is the best business card. I said 'yes' to hundreds of projects before I ever considered saying 'no'. My work always has a dichotomy: I'm very serious about the process, my business operations and service quality, but I'm also very and playful and buoyant when it comes to design. Those traits, in combination with a lot of hard work, have served me well.

We heard that the events industry is all about who you know. How did you grow your network to include celebrities and such other influential clientele?

I have found it to be quite the opposite (for me, at least). I consistently focused on over-delivering on the projects I took on, and in turn the celebrities/influencers started hearing about my work and reaching out. The nature of my job is extremely time-consuming. It takes hundreds of hours to design, plan and execute the events I put together so I actually wish I had more time to network than I currently do. When it comes to my work, I always think, "It's great now but if I spend another 10 more hours on it, I think I can make it a little better."

You are one of the top celebrity creative consultants in the US and Canada, how do you keep improving on your skills and continuing to deliver the best events? In other words, how do you continuously ensure you're growing as a leader in this space?

I grow with each project I take on, so it's a natural progression. We don't commit to projects based on volume, instead, we do less projects every year because the scale of the projects we take on increases. Also, our work is not very repetitive. We're always learning something new, and because I like to add a magical flair to my projects, the work naturally evolves as I find new materials, references and aesthetics that I'm drawn to.

Can you name some interesting celebrities you've worked with and what you've learned from those experiences?

We worked with Victoria Beckham and Shaq this year. That was pretty great. Every client has different goals for their installations or designs and being able to identify what those are pretty early on in the process is important. I can typically tell within the first conversation what the client is looking for even if they themselves don't yet know what that is. It's also my job to push them out of their comfort zone when it comes to design because I know how to make their vision even greater than it already was.

Or even better, do you have any fun anecdotes from some of your experiences to share with our audience?

I once planned a Grammy party for 400 people that quickly turned into a party for 1200; we ran out of alcohol and everything else within the first hour. No one wanted to leave so they basically drank water all night and partied until 6am.

Melissa Andre with one of her clients, Dj Khaled

I didn't intentionally market my services in any particular way. My clients have found me through personally attending one of my events or having asked their own network for a referral.

Can you describe a day in the life of Melissa Andre?

I start my day with Pilates in Beverly Hills. I walk there and then go get an oat milk latte every morning. My home and office are both in Beverly Hills so then I walk to work as well.

My workday starts with a team meeting around 9am to set intentions and short-term goals for the day. They lay out anything they need me to sign off on, and I let them know if I need any research or sourcing finalized that day or approval from a client so we can go into production, etc. I review social media content or features and quickly flag any general inquiries in our inbox that need special attention.

From there, I typically move between in-person meetings with ease knowing that my team is keeping everything on schedule. It could be client meetings, site visits, or in-person visits to touch base on any custom projects where I want to see the status of something we've designed that is in the process of being created.

I set a few hours aside everyday to look for inspiration for future projects. Sometimes I need to push this to the end of the day after I've left the office, but if I can do it during the day, that's great.

At night I make dinner plans with friends or attend events. I love to checkout new restaurants and venue openings, a new chef, or the interior of a gallery I've been meaning to see in person. If there's nothing I'm dying to see, I love staying in. I definitely go out just to go out. If I can order Sugarfish and catch up with a girlfriend at home, I love that the most. But when something new pops up that I'm curious about, I make a point to check out the design.

You recently launched your consumer brand, Melissa Andre Blooms, tell us a bit more about that and your vision for it.

We were often sending "thank you" gifts to our clients, but there was nothing on the market that I felt right about gifting. So instead, we created these gorgeous Bloom Box vessels about 5 years ago and our clients started asking to buy them for their friends. One of our corporate clients asked to purchase 100 to use as event invitations for their gala and so we started producing them so that others could gift them as well. Our Bloom Boxes are beautifully made, they're high quality and are gorgeously polished. I love the flowers that are designed within a vessel so you're not handing someone a gift that they need to deconstruct and put into a vase they have lying around at home. You can literally receive it and place it anywhere, and it looks beautiful.

We eventually expanded to a few other cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Toronto, and we plan on expanding to a few more. We've also launched a few other products like our pillow talk hearts and a line of beautiful bouquets.

We often customize our Bloom Box for corporate clients in different colors and use their branded ribbons. We recently did a red acrylic bloom box for a beauty company that was gifted on Valentine's day. It was gorgeous!

People may assume that because of the nature of your business, you're living a glamorous life day-to-day planning parties, celebrating occasions with celebrities and meeting interesting people. Is that true? And what are some of the biggest challenges you had to overcome?

That is, of course, a large part of my job, but I don't think anyone can underestimate how much time, effort, energy and hard work goes into delivering all of these events. Having a "good eye" is great but you need to be able to execute your vision efficiently. When I work with anyone, not just celebrities, I'm delivering a dream that I need to seamlessly bring to life—so it takes a lot of research and preparation. But some definite perks of the job are attending events, sampling menus and experiencing really beautiful art.

How do you deal with the stresses that come with event planning? We know it's no small task!

I'm the ultimate Type A personality—organization is the most important thing to me. I make lists, I prioritize and I write absolutely everything down. Every job comes with its own type of stress, but the way you manage the project really counts. I also find that my physical health plays a big role in how I'm managing stress so I work out six days a week, do yoga a couple times a week and practice ballet. I also follow an anti-inflammatory diet and get eight hours of sleep every night.

We've heard from many young women that their dream job is to plan and produce events, what is your advice to them?

Take your job seriously. I once read a quote by Martha Stewart that said, "I think baking cookies is equal to Queen Victoria running an empire." Take your business seriously and focus on operations, then you can start working towards making your designs wondrous and other-worldly.

What is your number one tip for planning a badass event that people will talk about for months?

A great party planner always makes sure their guests' overall experience and comfort are the number one priority. You want them to feel taken care of and have all of the essentials at their fingertips. I have clients that tell me their top priority is choosing a venue that is very remote and has never been used before, but venues like that often take a long time to get to and guests can't arrive to the event with ease. So right from the start, the guest is being inconvenienced. While I personally focus more extensively on design elements, spaces and installations that are visually impressive, the guest experience should be top priority, and we do spend a lot of our time and effort ensuring that they feel this way.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.