Karissa Mitchell is showing us why she is a force to be reckoned with. With her unique style, ambitious attitude, and niche for networking, this NY based stylist is steadily moving out of the realm of aspiring and into the realm of arrival—one expertly styled celeb at a time.
When did you first realize you were interested in fashion and media?
I was always pretty stylish, but in High School I started dating one of my best friends and he was literally the best dressed guy in school and introduced me to a variety of brands. He literally would quiz me on eyeballing high-fashion brand aesthethics. From there, style was just something I’ve always had but I began to take a lot consideration into the quality and longevity in my threads. It wasn’t until I realized why people chose the $300 sweater over the $45 sweater that I began to take the quality and longevity of my threads into consideration. I was into visuals my entire life because I’m a huge book warm and when I read, it’s up to me what the setting and characters look like – but of course 9 times out of 10, the movie comes out and ruins everything so that’s when I began obsessing over creating my own images and film. It was only a matter of time before I ended up dressing the models in my films/photos so that’s the extensive back-story of how my interest in fashion came to be.
Many creatives often talk about the lack of support they receive from others whether it be from their family members or peers about their career ambitions. Did you face any this when pursuing your career choice? If so, how did you deal with it?
My parents literally back everything I’m into financially. Like, of course I have a job so I take care of what I can but when I need a huge budget for something – they are always down to ride. Mostly because I have receipts of all that I am working on so they see that they’re money is going toward something major and it helps them see the bigger picture. Not to mention, I’m in school for my Masters in Fashion Marketing and just like most parents, if you’re in school – they have all the more reason to back my interests. My friends are all exceptionally supportive of what I do because I always give back and they see the appreciation I have for them. For example, I assist a celebrity stylist in my spare time and when he was traveling, looking for temporary help while he was away from NY so I linked him with a friend of mine who doesn’t have much fashion experience but could benefit from it because I know just how bad she wants it. A lot of my old friends from my younger days often mention that I haven’t changed at all and that they saw my obsession with fashion grow over the years… but I can’t say I did, I just kind of ended up here on accident through all of my creative directing ventures.
You’ve had the opportunity to style Bella Hadid, Cardi B, Keke Palmer and Nyadak Thot. How did you land the opportunities and what has been your favorite thing about styling them?
All in all, assisting various stylists and interning my ass off, has afforded me the trust of major stylists and rewarded me with these opportunities. I have Mikiel and FUCCI to thank for trusting me to prove my dedication as a stylist for such major clients.
I only follow creatives on Instagram so my TL is basically a mood board of inspiration. I came across Keke’s stylist, Mikiel early in his career when he was up and coming, I mentioned to him that I was a fan of his work and would love to help out if he needed anything. About three weeks later, he extended an invitation to intern with him on his Cardi B shoot and being that I’m rather seasoned having worked with CR Fashion Book, and plenty of other celebrity stylist in NY, I proved to be exceptionally invaluable. From there, he included me on just about everything following and that’s how I ended up with him and Keke. Bella literally happened on accident! I was contacted by FUCCI about helping him to pull for their cover release party with PAPER Magazine but the pull was from LA and on such short notice, it wasn’t able to make it to her by the date of the party. I was so crushed and thought I had missed a wonderful opportunity. But I always trust that things happen for a reason and it did!! The following morning, I met Bella at her apartment and she fell in love with the jumpsuit and it turned out being more appropriate for New Years Eve after all! Styling Duckie also fell into my lap. At midnight on a Saturday morning, I was contacted by FUCCI’s management to step in and style her due to a last minute change in his schedule – with this being only my second time styling someone alone, I was very nervous. Style pulls are definitely best to do on the weekdays because all of the showrooms operate on business hours. However, luckily by way of prior internships and assisting gigs, I had a few relationships with showrooms that agreed to meet with me on the weekend.
You’ve also written for Saint Heron, Respect Mag, and Vibe Magazine. Do you plan to merge your career in fashion with your career in journalism?
My undergrad degree is in journalism and as mentioned before, I am a major bookworm, so it’s literally inevitable for my passion for both fashion and journalism to collide. My dream career is Fashion Director of a major fashion publication – I plan to initially begin as an editor and work my way up. Not to mention, I’ve been writing a book for about a year now so – it’ll all work out when it is supposed to I’m sure.
Who are some of your biggest influencers within and outside of the fashion industry? Why?
My biggest influencers within the industry are Shiona Turini, Solange Franklin, Renell Medrano, Carine Roitfeld, and Elaine Welteroth. Outside of the industry, are my fellow interns and runway model friends for sure! I meet some of the best people interning! Also, my boyfriend, is my biggest influence – he is the most supportive and creative person I know.
What do you think will be THE fashion trend for 2017?
I have a burning feeling that exaggeration is the thing for 2017. Exaggerated cuffs on the end of pants, extremely lengthy sleeves, and excessively deep turtlenecks.
How would you describe your personal style and how does someone define their personal style?
Lately, I’m so busy – I literally have to be comfortable. I’m always really casual chic. Sneakers and booties is all I wear. Heels ONLY happen when ABSOLUTELY necessary. I’m obsessed with culottes, trousers, stripes, mesh, and jerseys. I’m never over dressed, not too often under dressed either. I’ve been told I dress like a stylist.
People’s personal style is influenced by who they think they are. The tricky part is some of us aren’t who we think we are while the rest of us actually… are.
How do you find the perfect look for your client?
I always research the client to find a balance between their personal style and the potential I see in them. Also, sometimes, I visualize my client in an era of fashion that I feel they would fit and take inspiration from that time period.
What is the best experience and/or advice you’ve received since you’ve been in the industry?
Best experience was undoubtedly – walking through the snow on a Saturday night pulling last minute styles for Duckie. I feel like that experience will make me an amazing stylist for moments when I have ample amount of time to prepare. Best advice I’ve received is to put my foot down and not stand for people who attempt to downplay my influence on a project.
What is something that you thought you knew that you know now?
I always thought styling was super fun and cute and dress up. I know now…. It’s not.
I’m sure working in the industry is time consuming. Do you have a work-life balance? If so, how did you find your balance?
I don’t have a choice not to work, because I’m a student living in NY working for free. I find a way to balance it all though, there’s no special way I do it. I just literally, HAVE TO. Ya know?
Some millennials are bypassing the college route and heading straight into their field. What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe college aided you in preparing to work in the industry?
School is a must for me. I am not the type to bypass school at all, as bad as I may consider it sometimes. I have heard a lot about how I am “wasting my time” getting my masters in fashion because no one is fashion does. But that’s exactly why I am because in an industry where no one else does, where does that place Karissa? That makes me the one candidate who has her masters. I also genuinely want to understand why people buy what they buy and how advertisements and trends translate into the cognitive realm of us fashion enthusiasts. I am not getting my masters in fashion. It’s the MARKETING part that I know will matter big time in not only my personal projects, but will also be the difference between someone who’s been winging it all this time and me, who’s been winging it – except with a 40+ credit hours of actually knowing my stuff.
What is a harsh truth about working in the fashion industry?
No one is your friend. Everyone is your competition.
What is the best thing about being creative?
You learn so much about yourself every single project.
How do you prepare to creative direct a photo shoot?
I love casting models – omg omg omg! Favorite part of it all is casting the model because he or she sets the tone for the entire shoot. I base my styling and set design off of the personality and look of the model. Also, choosing the photographer is a great part of it all too because everything I visualize, the photographer has to be trusted to bring to fruition.
What are three things you can’t live without?
My laptop, a good read, and Tom Ford
Who is your dream client?
Lana Del Rey
How important is it to be well rounded in the fashion and media industries?
Obviously not that important if we’re being honest. . . It’s getting a big lax when it comes to being qualified but I don’t let that affect me because Karissa’s plans for Karissa requires Karissa to be qualified.
A year from now when your name comes up in a conversation what do you want people to know or say about Karissa Mitchell?
Karissa Mitchell works her ass off.