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True Story: How This Expat Became Singapore's Most Famous Party Planner


Once only 15 years old and armed with $300, Olga Iserlis heads one of Singapore's most successful party planning companies today.

Olga Iserlis has organized parties for fashion leaders like Diane Von Furstenburg and Tory Burch. She’s arranged thousands of white feathers for a gala for Tiffany & Co and flown 100 couture gowns to Singapore for a retrospective on fashion legend Valentino.

Here's how she got here.

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It all started with $300

Singapore’s most famous party planner’s taken the long road here.

At the age of 15, Olga and her widowed mother left Russia to move to the US. They had no family or friends to help, and savings of just $300.

Olga worked in a shop and waitressed to make ends meet, “I learnt how to cut hair, and earned a few dollars by cutting friends’ hair. We walked instead of taking trains or taxis. You learn to hustle. I’ve always been interested in art so I would get a job waitressing at art events so I could get into galleries and see the action – it was heady serving canapé at a gallery opening and I got to chat with art superstars.”

 

Moving to Singapore

Olga moved to Singapore in 1995 because her husband got a job here.

See also: True Story: My Husband Sacrificed His Career To Move To Singapore With Me

“We liked having bagels for breakfast. But back then you couldn’t buy bagels in Singapore. I knew nothing about baking… but I missed bagels so I decided to wing it."

And so Olga opened a store here called New York Bagels.

"I had to do the marketing myself – which meant standing on Orchard Road handing out free bagels, so people could try this new bread they’d never heard about. None of my staff wanted to stand in the street with a basket of bread, but I wasn’t embarrassed. So what if people said No to my face?”

The business grew until Olga was also supplying 5-star hotels and coffee chains.

By the time she sold her business, she had made connections in the hospitality and food and beverage trade, she knew she wanted to do something creative and she was determined to find a career that didn’t keep her cooped up in an office all day.

 

Getting into event planning

“Then, someone asked me to help organize a charity gala. It was a success, and other people and luxury brands asked me to help organize their galas and parties."

Gradually, it became her business, TWISE Events.

"Being an entrepreneur means turning your hand to new skills. Olga explains. “Almong the way I learnt basic carpentry, I befriended theatrical set designers, I learnt how to make bulk orders of flowers and time their blooming so they would be fresh and open on the correct day. Now I have a fantastic team, many of them have been with me for years.”

 

Tips and tricks for planning a great party

Wise words from the woman herself:

  • Imagine yourself as a guest. What do you enjoy at a party?
  • Think about a few special and memorable elements. Concentrate quality rather than quantity – like one amazing centerpiece or a colour theme.
  • Send Save-The-Date emails and invitations several months ahead, so people have time to book appointments. And call and email closer to the event to remind people.
  • A strict dress code requirement can be overwhelming. Sometimes, just a hint can be enough, for example, "sparkle”.
  • Music is important to set the scene, so don’t leave it to the last minute. Curate a playlist for the event.
  • Ideally, hand out administrative tasks so you can focus on the more creative aspects of the party.
  • Never run out of drinks. 
  • Welcome guests with a smile. Don’t stress; enjoy being a host – because the positive energy you project will be felt by your guests. 

 

Olga’s new coffee table book “Save the Date” ($88), is available at the following places in Singapore and worldwide: 

• Louis Vuitton Store at Marina Bay Sands
• Marina Bay Sands Gift Shop
• ArtScience Museum Gift Shop at Marina Bay Sands
• Vanilla Home
• Beauty Candy Lifestyle
• Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery
• Partners & Mucciaccia Gallery (London, Rome)
• The Sanchaya (Bintan, Indonesia)

 

By The Finder, December 2016

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