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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.

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Influential Voices

Stop Asking if America is “Ready” for a Woman President

It's the question on everyone's tongues. It's what motivates every conversation about whether or not Liz Warren is "electable," every bit of hand-wringing that a woman just "can't win this year," and every joke about menstrual cycles and nuclear missiles. Is America ready for a woman president?


It's a question that would be laughable if it wasn't indicative of deeper problems and wielded like a weapon against our ambitions. Whether thinly-veiled misogyny or not (I'm not going to issue a blanket condemnation of everybody who's ever asked), it certainly has the same effect: to tell us "someday, but not yet." It's cold comfort when "someday" never seems to come.

What are the arguments? That a woman can't win? That the country would reject her authority? That the troops would refuse to take her orders? That congress would neuter the office? Just the other day, The New York Times ran yet another in a long series of op-eds from every major newspaper in America addressing this question. However, this one made a fascinating point, referencing yet another article on the topic in The Atlantic (examining the question during Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid), which cited a study by two Yale researchers who found that people were either the same or more likely to vote for a fictional male senator when told that he was ambitious; and yet, both men and women alike were less likely to vote for a woman when told that she was ambitious, even reacting with "feelings of moral outrage" including "contempt, anger, and disgust."

The question isn't whether a woman could be president, or whether a woman can be elected president – let's not forget that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than the wildly unqualified man currently sitting in the oval office – it's whether or not it's appropriate for a woman to run for president, in a pre-conscious, visceral, gut-check way. In short, it's about misogyny. Not your neighbors' misogyny, that oft-cited imaginary scapegoat, but yours. Ours. Mine. The misogyny we've got embedded deeply in our brains from living in a society that doesn't value women, the overcoming of which is key for our own growth, well-being, and emotional health.

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?

That misogyny, too, is reinforced by every question asking people to validate a woman even seeking the position. Upfront, eo ipso, before considering anything of their merit or experience or thought, whether a woman should be president, that, if given the choice between a qualified woman and an unqualified man, the man wins (which, let's not forget, is what happened four years ago). To ask the question at all is to recognize the legitimacy of the difference in opinion, that this is a question about which reasonable people might disagree. In reality, it's a question that reason doesn't factor into at all. It's an emotional question provoking an emotional response: to whom belong the levers of power? It's also one we seem eager to dodge.

"Sure, I'd vote for a woman, but I don't think my neighbor would. I'd vote for a woman, but will South Carolina? Or Nebraska? Or the Dakotas?" At worst, it's a way to sort through the cognitive dissonance the question provokes in us – it's an obviously remarkable idea, seeing as we've never had a woman president – and at best, it's sincere surrender to our lesser angels, allowing misogyny to win by default. It starts with the assumption that a woman can't be president, and therefore we shouldn't nominate one, because she can't win. It's a utilitarian argument for excluding half of the country's population from eligibility for its highest office not even by virtue of some essential deficiency, but in submission to the will of a presumed minority of voters before a single vote has ever been cast. I don't know what else to call that but misogyny by other means.

We can, and must, do better than that. We can't call a woman's viability into question solely because she's a woman. To do so isn't to "think strategically," but to give ground before the race even starts. It's to hobble a candidate. It's to make sure voters see her, first and foremost, as a gendered object instead of a potential leader. I have immense respect for the refusal of women like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and pioneers like Carol Mosley-Braun, going as far back as Victoria Woodhull, to accede to this narrative and stick to their arguments over the course of their respective campaigns, regardless of any policy differences with them. It's by women standing up and forcing the world to see us as people that we push through, not by letting them tell us where they think we belong.

One of the themes I come back to over and over again in my writing is women asserting independence from control and dignity in our lives. It's the dominant note in feminist writing going back decades, that plea for recognition not only of our political and civil rights, but our existence as moral agents as capable as any man in the same position, as deserving of respect, as deserving of being heard and taking our shot. What then do we make of the question "is America ready for a woman president?" Is America ready? Perhaps not. But perhaps "ready" isn't something that exists. Perhaps, in the truest fashion of human politics, it's impossible until it, suddenly, isn't, and thereafter seems inevitable.

I think, for example, of the powerful witness Barack Obama brought to the office of president, not simply by occupying it but by trying to be a voice speaking to America's cruel and racist history and its ongoing effects. By extension, then, I think there is very real, radical benefit to electing a chief executive who has herself been subject to patriarchal control in the way only women (and those who others identify as women) can experience.

I look at reproductive rights like abortion and birth control, and that is what I see: patriarchal control over bodies, something no single president has ever experienced. I think about wage equality; no US president has ever been penalized for their sex in their ability to provide for themselves and their families. I look at climate change, and I remember that wealth and power are inextricably bound to privilege, and that the rapacious hunger to extract value from the earth maps onto the exploitation women have been subject to for millennia.

That's the challenge of our day. We've watched, over the last decade, the radicalized right go from the fringes of ridicule to the halls of power. We've watched them spit at the truth and invent their own reality. All while some of our best leaders were told to wait their turn. Why, then, all this question of whether we're ready for something far simpler?

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?