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

9min read
Business

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.

5 Min Read
Lifestyle

Help! My Husband Won’t Stop Yelling At Me

Help! My Husband Won't Stop Yelling At Me

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I'm a newlywed, and I love my husband very much. But whenever I'm on the phone, the way my husband speaks to me makes people think he is abusive even though he really isn't. He just has a hard time managing his voice and his energy levels when he is stressed. The next second he's back to being chill and flexible (once I'm off the phone, of course). I don't want people to misinterpret my relationship, and I do want him to change. What do I do?

- On The Edge

Dear On The Edge,

I'm sorry that you're feeling humiliated by your husband's actions. What you describe definitely sounds like a classic symptom of abuse and it is understandable that your friends are worried. The difference between abuse and a simple disagreement is that it happens every day with significant consistency. Your instinct to want your husband to change is likely rooted in the fact that you understand this behavior may not be sustainable to a healthy marriage in the long run.

You sound brave and strong, and you seem capable of distinguishing that these are his issues on display, not yours. As Dr. Seltzer, a Clinical Psychologist points out in this article, "In all likelihood, the rage says a good deal more about that person and the gravity of their unresolved issues than it does about you" Regardless, it is important to take care of yourself. Have you assessed how the yelling makes you feel personally without taking into account your friends' reactions? Does it make you anxious or affect your overall well being?

It concerns me that you are chalking up his behavior to stress. It's okay for couples to have conflict, and many psychologists agree that this can be done in a constructive way by communicating and expressing one's anger in order to work on them together. Contrary, it is not okay to be on the receiving end of your spouse yelling, and repeatedly so. Have you tried speaking to him about this issue? If so, how did he react and does he understand how his actions are affecting you? Has he made any effort to change his behavior? This could be an important first opportunity to work on a serious issue as a married couple, but if speaking to him directly isn't an option you should seek counseling. I recommended you see a professional therapist separately or a marriage counselor together. Meanwhile, if your mobile phone rings, take that call miles away from hubby!

- The Armchair Psychologist

HELP! Is Democracy The Right Path?

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I wanted to ask you about a dilemma I struggle with. I come from a country that is under an autocracy. I'm curious to learn about the path to democracy and why some countries struggle more than others. And, an even bigger question of this model, does it "fit all?" Obviously, there are three basic models that are/were widely spread around the globe, including some deviations with different blends and mixtures: monarchy, democracy, communism. Throughout history, it seems that the democratic model has been well-adapted and successful in Western countries, where cultural, social and political conditions are well suited for it. Whereas in Asia, we can observe some deviations of this same model achieving success with a blend of authoritarian rule and sometimes communism such as in China, Singapore, and South Korea (all to varying degrees). What is your perspective on this? Living in the western world, one always hears about the democratic model being the right way, but if you look at the most successful examples (growth-wise): Singapore, South Korea were blended democratic models that have achieved great results. So, should the western world deviate from its preferred model given that checks and balances are in place?

Sincerely,
Anti-nationalist

Dear Anti-nationalist,

I'm sorry to hear that you're dismayed by your country's autocracy. Living in the US under Trump's rule is feeling more and more like an autocracy for myself and many others these days.

Let's take a look at the growth rate of the countries you mentioned. The USA grew by 2.3%, South Korea grew by 3.1%, and Singapore grew by 3.6%, in terms of GDP. While it's true that the US may seem to lag behind a bit in growth, it's important to put into perspective how that growth is measured. The old saying "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics" comes to mind. But the perspective of how we measure things is crucial.

As an example, let's say you are coming out of college and you're worth $1,000 because that's all you have in your bank account. Your neighbor has $10 million. Next year, you have $2,000 and your neighbor has $12 million. Your growth rate was 100% and your neighbor's was only 20%, but does that mean you did much better than your neighbor that year? Of course not, because it's also the total amount of money you make each year that counts.

Courtesy of Y-chart

Basically, the US made around $240 billion in growth in 2018, whereas Singapore and South Korea made about $25 billion each. Smaller, emerging countries always grow faster initially but as they get larger they have to keep making increasingly large amounts of money to keep that same growth rate up, so it's no surprise that growth slows over time.

However, discussing economics alone can't answer your question, because, as many people often do, you're conflating Capitalism with Democracy. They are very, very different things. One is how you structure your economy. The other is how you structure your society. Judging Democracy by how the economy is doing is like judging an apple by an orange. The point of Democracy is not making sure you can buy that new television, it's to ensure human equality and personal rights.

You asked about Democracy and if the Armchair Psychologist believes that governments should be accountable to the people they govern. Should the population be able to remove its leadership? Are checks and balances good for a nation to keep megalomaniacs from taking complete control? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Absolutely not.

Your question may also be "is capitalism the best way for emerging societies to grow?" Most scholars would argue that America wasn't truly capitalistic in its infancy. Rather, it was about communal living, small local towns becoming self-sufficient, growing their own food, and taking care of each other. How economies grow in their earliest phases is a function of the local culture and the resources available to that country and also what infrastructure needs to be developed (schools, transportation, highways, refineries). There are many ways of improving the wealth of a country, but removing the population's control over leadership isn't a necessary ingredient to success. I hope this eases your mind; this is a difficult dilemma to work out. But, as Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

- The Armchair Psychologist

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment!