Creatives in Conversation: Missie Crawford, Photo Stylist

We are excited to launch a new blog series titled Creatives in Conversation! The mission behind this blog series is to introduce and celebrate fellow female creatives and entrepreneurs that also happen to be ExVoto clients.
Meet Missie Neville Crawford.

Missie Crawford and I met shortly after I moved to Birmingham. We became friends and thankfully we have been able to work together a few times as well because I don’t know that we would be able to see each other much if we didn’t. Missie works really hard! She has a strong work ethic and the boundless energy to match it. She is the photo stylist for the newest ExVoto lookbook, which will release soon! 
Missie is a lot of fun to work with. She keeps the total story in mind all along and she is really great at watching the details to make sure there is continuity in the photographs throughout the project. She really knows how to dig in to the brand she is working with and represent them well. To me, her work always looks fresh and crisp but it still has an aspect about it that pushes an envelope and stretches a boundary. If you have noticed lately that quite a few national brands have print ads and commercials that are looking better, it is probably a project Missie has been working on!

Missie has been fortunate to work with some of the best photographers on shoots all around the world with supermodels and celebrities! Lauren Hutton on top of a snow covered mountain, Elle McPherson, Cindy Crawford, etc etc. In the 90’s, I would grab the J. Crew catalog out of the mailbox and sit down and pour over the pages. The J. Crew catalog was my favorite “magazine.” Little did I know that later the photo stylist for those catalogs would be styling photos for my own brand!
Missie is a native of Mississippi and now lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and two boys. I already knew a good bit about Missie’s career, but I learned even more through this interview process. Her career story includes all the great life lessons of hard work, patience, tenacity, building relationships and learning from your mistakes. I’m excited to share it with you!.

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Elizabeth: “What is your background?”
Missie: “Well, I have very creative parents. You know how it is being raised by creative people! I would walk in the door from school and there was my mom, cut apple in hand, hand-printing fabric with an apple! My father had a men’s clothing store which means I grew up around high quality clothing and tagged along on his buying trips to NYC twice a year from the age of seven. So as a child, I was exposed to culture beyond my home in Mississippi. I went to the University of Alabama and graduated with a communications major. After graduating I went to Europe for the summer. My older sister was living in NYC at the time, and she invited me to stop in NYC on my way back home. I did and I never left! 
My first job at the J. Crew corporate ofice had an interesting start. Family friend, Sid Mashburn, helped me land an interview with Emily Woods. Emily’s father was the founder of J. Crew. I waited in the lobby for her for 5 hours! She had been on the recent cover of Harper’s Bazaar, so I knew what she looked like. I saw her coming off the elevator at 5:00 and I stopped her. I said, “Hi, I believe we had an interview today.” She immediately apologized and took me to her office. I got the job at 5:00 on a Friday. That next Monday, I was moving my things to NYC, and on Tuesday I was in St. Barths on a photoshoot for J. Crew! 
It was here, that I was around the best of the best in the industry, learning to steam clothes, hand-distress jeans, tromp through snow to get photos, and work on conceptual story boards. I worked on a team of several women as an assistant wardrobe stylist. Emily Woods ran the catalog like a magazine so I basically learned how a magazine worked at a very young age. I was taught to see the bigger brand picture. These years helped me form my career as a freelance photo stylist.”

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“I had some great experiences at J. Crew. Like spending my 21st birthday on top of a snowy mountain on a shoot with Lauren Hutton. I was able to work and learn from amazing freelancer stylists, like Ann Mashburn. One of my bosses was Lisa Safir. Lisa has amazing taste. Ann and Lisa taught me a lot about being able to remain flexible and making things work! We were once producing a shoot that would take the models and crew on the Windjammer Cruises in the Caribean. We were spread across three yachts. One of my tasks was to get all the pants for the shoot altered. I picked up the pants and all of them had been altered too short! I called Lisa and she said, ‘Well, honey, we will wing it and make it work!’ Of course Lisa started a new trend, and some of those images were our most popular! I spent 12 days sleeping on a blow-up raft on the top deck of a boat. I can still show you the bathing suit I lived in for those 12 days! On another shoot in Puerto Rico, Lisa found these fabulous hand-woven straw hats woven by local guys on the beach where we were shooting swimwear for J. Crew. She fell in love with them and we never took an image without the hats. Of course the world wanted to know where the hats came from after one of the images ran! J. Crew couldn’t source these hats to sell in the catalog, so we had to go back to Puerto Rico and re-shoot the whole thing! I learned to always get the shots with and without. Shoot it ‘naked’ I like to say because then you don’t have to go back and re-shoot. It’s always best to have a variation to play it safe.
After J. Crew, I worked as Cindy Crawford’s personal assistant. This was right as she was becoming a brand and not only a supermodel. I helped with the business end of her brand. She would tell her team, ‘We all work for that Cindy Crawford image.’ She meant that she did too! The experience of working with Cindy taught me that a brand is its own thing outside of any one person.”

Elizabeth: “What is your favorite part of this job?”
Missie: “I love seeing the end result! I love seeing your concept come to life. I learn something from every shoot. I want to keep learning!”

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Elizabeth: “What has been one of your most interesting commissions/jobs so far?”

Missie: “There are so many. But maybe I would say Cindy Crawford’s wedding and a memorable dinner at Valentino’s home in Rome. We had to be completely confidential. I couldn’t tell anyone what I was working on or where I was going. My mother came into town to visit me and I had to tell her I had to leave town the next day and couldn’t tell her why or where I was going. After the wedding, I stayed up all night with the photo editor editing the wedding photos to be released to People magazine the next morning. You have to remember this was a time before social media existed and all you got was one page in People magazine. It was also an incredible time to be a part of fashion.”

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Elizabeth: “Where do you dream of your career taking you next?”
Missie: “I just want to continue to help different brands grow by being a part of their teams whether it is shooting tabletop, fashion or lifestyle. I want to continue to build relationships. I sometimes come home from a really long, hard day and I tell my family, ‘I’m just ready for a 1,000 square foot cottage and nothing to do.’ We can laugh at that, because we all know I would still end up with a bakery and a book store next door that I either run or style! I can’t stop, however I have learned that some time off, a run and a good bath are great ways to recharge.”

Elizabeth: “What is your advice for a 20 year-old wanting to build a career like yours?”
Missie: “You have to enjoy what you do because you have work really hard in this profession! Especially early on. I kept a sleeping bag under my desk at my first job at J. Crew! I don’t think some young women realize that. I would walk into work, and be told that day that I had to fly overseas for a shoot, and I couldn’t fly home to Mississippi for my sister’s engagement party that weekend. You can’t expect to be given time off for your birthday or a family event, when you are first getting started. You have to be flexible and available. That, I’m told, is one of the reasons why people like to work with me. I’m showing my boys what a good work ethic looks like. I hope they are picking up on that. I’m not able to be at every PTA meeting, or school field trip or after-school practice. They climb into the car at the end of the school day and have to find a place to sit among the props I’m carrying back from a shoot. They climb in my car, and instead of complaining, most of the time, they ask what I was working on that day. They see the bigger picture.
I think I would also advise a girl to go with her gut, be a listener and build good relationships! I became friends with the manager at the resort where Cindy Crawford held her wedding and he told me to reach out if I ever needed anything. So when my husband and I got married, I called him. He was the manager at a different resort down in the Florida keys and he helped us schedule a honeymoon there. Relationships are important.”

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Elizabeth: “What is your favorite piece of ExVoto?”
Missie: “I would say my ExVoto Crocodile Cuff. I can wear it day or night. It’s a year-round piece. I wear it with all white in the summertime and I layer other bracelets with it in the fall. I believe in the ExVoto brand. I know I can find a special gift for my mom or my niece because ExVoto spans the generations. I’ll come in for a gift and see a one-of-a-kind piece that I like and believe in and I have to have it. ExVoto is exclusive and unique and that is what makes it special.”

To learn more about Missie and to visit her website, click here!

Elizabeth Adams