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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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4min read
Self

My Career or My Lover? Why I No Longer Choose and Neither Should You

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." -Willa Cather

A logical fallacy called bifurcation (yes, it sounds like a disease) is used to make people believe that they can only choose between two extreme choices: love me or leave me, put up or shut up, etc. In relation to my career and my love life, I was once stricken by this crazy malady.


I spent over a decade in and out of love relationships that undermined my career and drained my creative energy along with my finances. The key problem was that I was convinced that I had two options: be a kickass, and powerful professional who scares off any prospective mate or surrender to that deep and profound love such that my ambitions blow away in the wind. For years, my psyche ping-ponged between these two choices like that was the only game in town. But why?

Turns out we women are often programmed into thinking that we can't have love (at least that good, juicy heated kind) and any sort of real career. This is not actually that surprising given the troubled history that America has with women in the workplace. Post WWII, women were supposed to quit their jobs and scurry back home and leave the careers for the returning men. And if you think we've come a long way from making women feel they don't belong in the workplace, consider Alisha Coleman. In 2016, she was fired because her period leaked onto a chair!

But try to keep a good woman down, and well, you can't (Alisha sued her former employer). Given enough information we will always find a way to overcome our situation. As we teach in my practice, Lotus Lantern Healing Arts, we are all our own gurus. The light in the lotus just offers a way to illuminate your path.

So what was I missing so many years ago when I kept struggling between two suboptimal choices? The answer is the understanding that if I wanted to have it all, I had to start living right now as if I could. For me to be with someone who supported me having a fantastic career, I had to believe that that was actually one of my choices and start living that way.

Of course that is easier said than done (like most life lessons). So once I made that realization, here are the three key changes I made (and no they didn't happen all at once):

First, I stopped apologizing. Why the hell do women always feel the need to apologize for everything! (Sorry for swearing! Jk.) In particular, why do we have to feel bad about time away from the homefront? Remember Don Draper stopping off at the bar before heading home? I took a Madman lesson from him and stopped apologizing for my free time and let go of my usual rush to get back. Instead I focused on enjoying the transition, which was often needed to release the stress of work. Whether I was slow-driving listening to my jams and singing at the top of my lungs or stopping off for a pedicure, a little ritual went a long way to making me feel like a real human when I walked through the door.

Second, I let go of perfection in order to be present. I stopped stressing over a work deadline and instead rescheduled it to tend to my love life or postponed a romantic dinner because a juicy work opportunity appeared. In this way, I did not force an unnatural choice or one I did not want but really paid attention to what felt right. Instead of feeling subpar in each realm, I end up getting the most out of my time in both places.

Third (and perhaps most significantly) I began to welcome and expect encouragement from the most significant person in my life. I made it clear to my partner that I wanted insight and not criticism. And since I knew I needed understanding and not saving, I said, "Please help me look at my career woes from a different angle instead of offering me advice." Ultimately, I only accepted partners that truly supported my dreams and didn't let me play small.

Today, some of the most exquisite pleasure I feel comes simply from my partner witnessing me. Having a cohort who really appreciates my struggles, helps me integrate work and life, and enjoys the wins together can be mind-blowing. Likewise, when the shit hits the fan (again, not sorry!), it's really important to have a partner that can hold space for you and help you remember those wins.

It's a constant battle. Our culture still perpetuates the myth by pitting love and career against each other (ever see Fatal Attraction?). Men don't always get this message, but then we don't need to wait for them to get it. All we have to do it start living right now in the way we truly deserve and bring others along with us. When my friends see me and my partner together separately killing it in the career department and fiercely loving each other they say, "Your relationship gives me hope."