One of the benefits of working in the fashion industry is discovering all of the creative and cool people you get to collaborate with and befriend. Hope Misterek, fashion, prop and set stylist, is one of ’em. I first worked with Hope about 10 years ago when she styled a shoot for one of the magazines I edited, and since then we’ve worked together on dozens more. Since then, Hope founded her talent agency, Ajentse, has traveled the globe styling shoots for clients such as Tommy Hilfiger, Nordstrom and Report Shoes, covered fashion shows for Supermodels Unlimited and now divides her time between Seattle, New York and the world beyond. She is the Style Editor for Seattle Magazine, and her work also appears in national magazines such as Vogue, In Style, Lucky, Gourmet, Shape and More. On February 26, Hope and her work will be celebrated at The Dozen, an exhibition and party highlighting 12 years of her work in the fashion industry. She chatted with On This Day In Fashion about what it takes to be a stylist, her most fabulous career highlights and the best—and worst—thing about working in fashion.
On This Day In Fashion: How did you get started as a stylist?
Hope Misterek: It was a combination of things. Officially, I went back to school at the Make-up Designory in Burbank, California, after I left my job in finance. They had a wardrobe class back then. From there I started assisting other stylists, testing, doing paid model tests and working on film and theater projects. Unofficially, I did a lot of merchandising, styling and personal styling before I even went to college, I just didn’t realize what it was I was doing. I also sewed and designed clothes and even opened and operated a retail store for a bit—which was a huge disaster—but, again, it was all valuable experience that led to today.
What other experiences contributed to building your career?
While I was assisting, testing and working for cheap (and free) to build my experience, hone my skills, develop a strong reputation and a killer portfolio, I met a lot of people, networked, made calls and got myself bookings. Once I had a lot of clients, I worked with a couple of agencies that also helped to get me work and handle my clients and bookings. Back then—and every day since—I study art, fashion and keep up with trends. I look at things creatively and try to understand them and keep my outlook and inspiration fresh to stay current, on the edge and modern. I still occasionally work for cheap and free, as it is the best way to completely be able to keep on top of your skills, develop relationships and have a creative outlet for your inner voice.
What are the highlights and lowlights of your job?
I think most people in this industry would say that collaborating with other artists is both a highlight and a lowlight. To be able to work side by side with counterparts that share your aesthetic and creative vision can be inspiring, and generating an image that you can be proud of or pleased with even later in time is amazing. On the flip side, when you work with counterparts that don’t share in your vision, perhaps don’t even care about your vision or there is a lack of mutual respect or just an incorrect fit, the experience can be miserable and really miss the mark.
Describe what has been your greatest challenge so far.
Surrounding myself with good, positive people, keeping above pettiness and not letting those things allow me to lose sight of prize-creating, amazing work and enjoying the process.
What kind of personality is suited—or not suited—to be a stylist?
To be a stylist you should have a certain confidence and your own original point of view of fashion—without being too pushy, snobby or bossy. You need to be able to stand up and handle your job and be the expert. I did an interview for an assistant a few years back and one of the questions I asked was whether they ever had to be an expert at something they knew absolutely nothing about. The key to that question is that you need to be able to figure things out—perhaps things that have not been communicated clearly or things you simply don’t know. You need to be able to deduce every possible solution to do the job correctly. You need to keep a level head and resolve things on time and on budget. You need to be able to handle stress.
Tell us about Ajentse. What inspired you to launch your own agency?
Ajentse is an agency that represents artists and works with artists in producing shoots and events. Some of my good friends in the industry began asking about how I would handle different situations, such as selecting final images, putting together my portfolio, contacting clients, marketing and things like that. They perceived my tips as good advice and asked me to be their agent. I actually declined for a long time but decided to do it about five or so years ago. I started representing four of my personal friends; photographers whose talent I wholeheartedly believed in and added on a new ingénue I did not know every well.
Then and now, my inspiration for Ajentse is fourfold: to highlight and increase the visibility of the level of talent in the Pacific Northwest; to share what I know and help my peers with the business experience I have gained that proved to be successful; to see people I truly believe in thrive in the industry; and to provide a fraternity atmosphere where these artists feel like they can question, share and work together.
Given that you work around so much glamour, do you splurge on a lot of goodies? What are your greatest extravagances?
When I use items for a shoot that I really love from a design standpoint, somehow I don’t feel the need to own them if I got to immortalize them in my portfolio. But I have a true love for clothing and shoes. I used to purchase and still own an archive of couture pieces. I would collect iconic pieces from specific designer collections that were really key from the season they were from. I have some Galliano from Dior back in the logo days, YSL from the Tom Ford gypsy collection, Chloe from the Stella McCartney era. Very unique shoes as well, ones that were way less functional than wearable. Now I tend to buy things for myself that are more functional and less of a museum piece.
Do you have an ultimate career highlight moment?
I have some experiences that are personal triumphs or highlights. A shoot at the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach was an amazing personal experience and project. The level of creativity and professionalism of the entire crew was just unparalleled. So much talent from around the world worked together on a concept that was based on magic and everything that came out of it was certainly magical. We celebrated as much as we worked—and we worked really, really hard! The relationships that were forged on that project are now some of my closest friends.
Another memorable time was shooting Tommy Hilfiger on the Olympic Peninsula. I had the opportunity to work for Randall Peacock—a set designer and prop stylist extraordinaire—and working with that caliber of talent was a great experience. We created a luxurious fantasy on the rainy beach in Forks, Washington, with a nine-foot concert grand piano, 10,000 sterling -silver candelabras, custom-made patent patio umbrellas, chandeliers and a made-to-order driftwood bed—to name just a few things that were out there. It was really a highlight for me.
Other things would be a shoot for Report Shoes in Paris, France, and a Nordstrom shoot on Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys…
What has surprised you the most about being a stylist?
How much my previous business experience has helped balance the rest of the job requirements.
Name three things a hopeful stylist needs to know or be to get their foot in the door.
• Be technically good at fitting clothing to someone.
• Be creative and have an eye for what works and what doesn’t and be well studied about trends, designers, points of reference, your city, your market, the market’s clients, your competition.
• Be able to direct and listen and be strong and humble.
What’s next for you and Ajentse?
The big news is I am currently in escrow on a place in New York City. It will be the Misterek residence and Ajentse office East. Over the past year or so, my time has been split only 50 percent of the time in the Northwest, so I will still spend half my time in Seattle and the other half elsewhere. I’ll continue to work for my clients on both coasts and also look for more clients. Agent Laurelei Papajani will continue to be the point person for Ajentse and I will continue to support her while doing wardrobe, prop and set styling. (On February 26,
Finally, what would you like people to know most about your job or Ajentse?
I love it! The industry is rich with amazing people and amazingly talented people. It’s a pretty good place to be.
Hope Misterek is represented by AIM Artists and was interviewed in January 2011 by Ali Basye for On This Day In Fashion. See more of Hope’s work at “The Dozen,” an exhibition and party on February 26, 2011, at 7 p.m. at Built for Man studio loft on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington. More info to come!