Designed to Dazzle
Thanks to creative genius and experience, everything’s coming up orchids for style pro Melissa Blake
It’s no wonder Melissa Blake makes her living styling gala events. By age 4, she was dancing hula in shows throughout the state. Her talents would take her around the world and back to Waikiki, where she danced with Tihati Productions. “I had to do everything from dancing atop a 20-foot volcano with smoke pouring out, to helping build stage props and putting together centerpieces,” recalls Blake. “That experience honed a lot of my skills and helped me understand, from an entertainment perspective, what it takes to put together an unforgettable event.”
While Blake no longer takes center stage, her vision, work ethic and humble sensibility have helped build both a following and a successful business as an event planner and stylist. Today Blake works behind the scenes bringing a wow factor to clients’ productions. RSVPstyle sat down with the Aiea native to talk about her new venture: making every space magical with silk florals.
RSVPstyle: You’ve done everything from event styling to fresh floral design for big-name clients like Nordstrom and the Waialae Country Club. Why did you decide to branch into silk floral arrangements for private and corporate clients?
Blake: I have friends who have beautiful homes but no flowers to provide that finishing touch, and they’ve said to me, “Melissa, we’ve seen your work. Can you come in and create an arrangement for this particular room in my house?”
But individual clients can’t necessarily afford fresh flowers every week like the Waialae Country Club, so I started thinking, why couldn’t I just come in and refresh an existing arrangement with silk flowers, which are so much more affordable than fresh flowers?
RSVPstyle: How did you know there would be such a strong demand for this type of service?
Blake: The idea literally came to me at one of Cathy Lee’s workshops. People were learning how to beautify their homes with new flooring, pillows and paints, but nobody was talking about the floral piece. I thought, this is the missing link. Everybody loves flowers in their home and silk flowers are so much more affordable. If you are going to spend the money for an arrangement, why not buy an arrangement that is lasting and custom designed so you get exactly what you want?
Besides doing this for private homes, there’s a ton of opportunity when you think of all the Realtors that have to stage homes, or offices that want to beautify their entry area but can’t afford fresh flowers every week.
And part of the beauty of a silk floral arrangement is being able to change out flowers once a month so a space always looks updated. People pay for the service rather than having to purchase a new product every week.
RSVPstyle: Besides custom designing silk florals, do you also sell pre-made arrangements?
Blake: You can buy one of my pre-made arrangements from Pacific Home on Ward Avenue.
RSVPStyle: Can people tell the difference between silk and real flowers?
Blake: Silk flowers have really come a long way. At RSVPstyle’s April 10th design workshop, I made a bunch of arrangements and nobody believed they were silk. If you look very closely or touch them, you’d realize they aren’t real, but the quality of silk flowers is really phenomenal nowadays.
RSVPstyle: You also own and operate Your Perfect Party, an event planning and styling company. Tell us about that.
Blake: I organize and design a lot of large events. I help clients pick out linens, props and centerpieces. If someone was getting married, for example, I would help them lay out their reception room and select their linens, chairs, lighting and tents, as well as create centerpieces, a dramatic entryway or whatever they want.
RSVPstyle: What is one of the most important lessons you have learned?
Blake: Hands down, it’s the importance of the relationship I have built with each of my clients. In order for me to create a product I know they will love, I really have to take the time to get to know my clients and find out exactly what they love and what they don’t.
RSVPstyle: From a design perspective, what’s most important in pulling off a successful event?
Blake: I always tell my clients that if you have a limited budget, get the biggest bang for your buck by creating a beautiful room. Most people think you need beautiful centerpieces, but you don’t. You need a beautiful room. People are going to notice the linens, the lighting, and the big wow piece.
I recently styled an inaugural gala event for Iolani School for their 150th anniversary. We decided to decorate with a Roman theme and created an opera house inside the venue. We draped the ceiling and walls with red satin, and brought in dramatic lighting and special linens. The only centerpieces were candles because that’s what complemented the room. Anyone can have a beautiful centerpiece, but having a beautiful room is the wow factor that is going to blow your guests away.
RSVPstyle: What should people look for in an event stylist?
Blake: First and foremost, you have to get along with them, especially when it comes to your wedding. If you don’t like your stylist or coordinator, at the end of the day you’re just not going to be happy.
Secondly, they should be able to help you create something within your budget. It’s easy to spend $10,000 or $20,000 and make a room beautiful, but it’s much more challenging to work within a budget. That usually requires a lot of experience and creativity.
RSVPstyle: What’s the best part of your job?
Blake: Creating something that people love, whether that be an event or a floral piece. When someone looks at something I’ve created and just loves it, it shows on their face and that really is what brings me satisfaction.