When I resumed blogging for myself I made a not that I wanted to talk about my styling icons, stylists, and art directors I admire and look up to for inspiration and guidance. They’re all women, some near some far, some I’ve had the honor to get to know personally.
Then there’s Annette Joseph, who not only became a close friend and somebody I can collaborate with on special projects, but also a lady I discovered a peculiar personal affinity with.
This article tells the story of how I work with Annette, and what you can learn from her and our common experience.
These are not styling tips, but veritable life lessons that have come to support my approach to creative projects. This is why I thought they would be valuable for anybody who wants to do a creative job.
I started following Annette on Instagram around 2015, after having re-read an old post on Design*Sponge that showcased her Alassio apartment, and another one about the interiors she’d designed for Gwyneth Paltrow. Up until that moment I’d known of Annette mostly as an entertainment stylist and creative producer, but I found myself loving her versatile approach and somewhat recognizing style choices I would have similarly made. And that is why I started following her more closely.
Follow creative professionals you feel in tune with, regardless of how many followers they have or of their fame.– Barbara Pederzini
In the summer of 2016, Annette began renovations of her new Italian home, La Fortezza. Only recently I’d witnessed a couple of clients of mine bought a dilapidated building in the Modena hills only to find out later it was inhabitable. So when I saw she was dealing with what looked like similar complications I did what I normally do when I have a chance: I reached out with informative advice. Not the annoying kind (“why didn’t you do this?!”), but the gracious and truly helpful kind (“I love what you’re doing! You probably already know, but you might want to do this”). Annette replied with her email and an invitation to keep in touch since we have similar professions and Modena is reasonably near to Fivizzano.
If you decide to reach out to somebody you admire, do so providing something useful without expecting anything in return. You shouldn’t care about immediate rewards but about building a relationship.– Barbara Pederzini
In the spring of 2018, the first pictures of the renovated Fortezza appeared on Annette’s feed, and they were gorgeous. So I went to Giusi Silighini (editor in chief of CasaFacile, back then) and suggested we should try and get an exclusive for the first print feature of the completed compound. When Giusi agreed, I involved Chiara Battistini and Sara Guarracino (Infraordinario), with whom we’d long discussed tackling an original interiors project. It was thus as a producer that I wrote to Annette submitting our proposal.
A few weeks ago we were discussing random proposals with Annette, and she told me about the frustration of getting general requests for collaboration. “Honestly nothing turns me off more than a long and rambling email, I won’t read it. Five sentences should be enough to do an introduction and ask your question,” said Annette. Also, people often seem to expect her to come up with the idea for the collaborative project. Anybody who has a creative job and some visibility is likely to receive this kind of generic proposals… and knows how often they end up being off-putting rather than inspiring.
For me, everything is about being on-brand these days. If I am approached by a company to sell products it has to be on-brand for me otherwise it is a no. At the end of the day, I have to love the look, the feel and the vision of the product to be inspired.– Annette Joseph
And the same works for collaborative projects.
Beyond the way I submitted my proposal to Annette, the project had two key elements that I later discovered were perfectly aligned with her approach. In hindsight, the fact that we saw something of ourselves in each others’ work approach was part of the reason why we bonded so quickly.
A project at once entertaining and inspiring
From the start, I was drawn to Annette’s La Fortezza because it combined interior decor features I love with an approach to styling that I think can be inspiring to anybody.
On the one hand, my personal creative affinity with Annette made it easier to work with the interiors, and it allowed me to elaborate more freely on it, while not altering its identity. It is not always possible to get this scope: “I think we have a very similar point of view, it’s why we bonded instantly. Like a creative soulmate thing. Your smart approach to projects always inspires me. Although we are alike, there is enough of a difference to make it interesting,” said Annette.
That being said, La Fortezza in itself is a unique project, packed with decor ideas easy to replicate on a smaller scale. That made the story interesting for any audience.
As a stylist, you are hired to bring your inspiration to a project, while supporting the story.– Annette Joseph
A supportive network with shared goals
The second element grounding our La Fortezza shoot was the team behind it. I’ve been making a habit of keeping track of creatives I admire and want to work with over time so that when I happen upon a project, I already have a wishlist of collaborators in mind that could benefit from it, and be comfortable with it.
The concept of a supportive collaborating network, even if it’s just on paper, in the beginning, and the approach of looking at prospect projects as opportunities for all parties involved to shine is about economy of resources for me. And yet it makes working on projects that much easier.
That being said, “the truth is sometimes clients are challenging,” as Annette said to me more than once. But when someone on the extended team is not your favorite person in the world, you should welcome the challenge.
It is easy to work with like-minded people, it is a true success making people that are not like-minded to come over to your point of view or come to a compromise. It takes tact, understanding, and lots of insight and good communication. After all a stylist, in the end, understands how to communicate.– Annette Joseph
Own it and work it
Spending time with Annette, and working alongside her, teaches me something new every time. But the most impactful insight I had from her was to stop doubting myself and to channel my energies into owning my talents and working them. There will always be a new skill to learn, something new to practise, ways to perfect my style and abilities. But I am talented as I am, and I can become even better if I embrace that as I work.
That’s why whenever I have an idea these days, I immediately reach down to somebody I want to make it happen with. It doesn’t matter if that person is much more successful than I am, or if their collaboration seems unattainable. And if it’s a solo project I immediately jump on strategizing to make it happen or to schedule it.
If the project doesn’t work out I move on, I don’t consider it a failure but just a stepping stone in a longer learning process.
I found out that I grow and expand my mind much quicker through practice then through study.– Barbara Pederzini
And here’s my takeaway for you. When you stop reading this, close your device and pick up an idea or a project you’ve been nursing for a while. Think about who you want to share it with and write to them. If you have nobody in mind yet, pick the smallest, most simple task to start the project yourself and do it now! You are enough.