Sitting with Richard Misso, you’re immediately struck by his warmth and enthusiasm. His eyes light up when talking about business and style, as he examines the interior of the Oscar Hunt showroom snapping a shot for The Stylesmith’s social media.
Richard is the Creative Director and co-founder of The Stylesmiths, a platform which manages hundreds of interior designers, and matches them with clients depending on their tastes and requirements. He is also editor and publisher of online style inspiration platform Design Addicts. While getting a fitting for his new sports jacket, we asked him about his life, his accomplishments, and his advice to those just starting out in the design industry. We sat down with him to hear about the lessons he's learned along the way on business, building a career, and personal style.
OH: You’ve got a television show in the works, and manage two successful businesses – The Stylesmiths & Design Addicts. Tell us a bit about how the Stylesmiths came to be, and what you’re focusing on at the moment?
RM: With my business partner, we developed The Stylesmiths, a customizable service which democratises design, giving real people design solutions - we match a client with their ideal interior designer who fits their style and budget criteria. Our clients range from everyday people who just want to update a room in their home to a full renovation, to corporate offices, and hospitality design.
We spent the first year really focusing and honing the product, building our own software program, and by the end of year one it had taken off really quickly, just through word of mouth – we’ve just celebrated our third birthday. At the moment we have a big focus on east coast domination, along with expanding internationally to London, UK.
Design Addicts is a design blog I developed, which uncovers the latest trends in design around the globe. It’s read all over the world across multiple languages, with the biggest markets being the US and Japan, connecting with design-focused professionals.
OH: Tell us about when you decided to get into the design industry?
RM: When I was 17 I went to a cocktail party, and I was looking around seeing a bunch of people who were wearing the same tie as me. It made me realise I didn’t want to buy just a regular tie. I saved up for weeks, and I went to the House of Merrivale to buy myself a unique tie, and I spent about a month’s worth of wages to buy it. I remember wearing it, and I never that saw anybody else wearing that tie. That was the start of it which lead me to fashion based careers leading to interior design.
OH: Tell us about your first job?
RM: My first job was working in a nightclub on Swanston Street, it was a lot of fun. I had crazy hair back then - dreadlocks that were always coloured - blue, red...very 80’s ‘new romantic’. My job was doing the cloakroom and door where I scored a job earning a dollar an item. Surprisingly I earned hundreds of dollars in a night because it was open until 7 in the morning.
After that, I joined the fashion design council as a volunteer – and that’s where I really found my love for all things design related - things that were not quite the norm and let me be free-spirited.
OH: Three lessons you’ve learned you wish you knew when you were starting out?
RM: My advice for anyone starting out in the design space, because it’s changing so rapidly, is to try to work out what really requires face-to-face time with people. At the moment we’ve got these ‘design farms’ popping up in places like Singapore, Malaysia, India, which means when you’re graduating, entry-level jobs are being filled by cheap overseas labour. My advice would be:
- Embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and develop the skills to start out on your own.
- Find yourself a mentor.
- Dream about how you want to live, and look for a way to create that. You don’t need to work for big companies.
I left school in year 9 at age 15 and a half, and was living in St Kilda on my own. I later went on to study fashion. If you look at the most successful people in the world, people who have completely changed the industries they work in, very few of them have got formal degrees. Often people with MBA’s don’t run their own companies - they work for other people.
We took on 35 graduates last year at Stylesmiths who went straight into well-paying roles and we teach them how to manage their money, expenses, run their own operation, and none of them ever had to get an entry-level job in a design studio earning minimum wage.
OH: Do you remember your first suit?
RM: My first suit I bought was to go clubbing in. It was pinstripe, double-breasted navy and I think it had brassy gold or brown stripes with vintage gold buttons.
OH: How would you say your style has evolved since then?
RM: I feel like I can’t be as fashion-forward anymore, it’s more about finding your comfort zone. There are things I want to wear but I know I no longer can. My brother is younger than me but he works across the world and gets away with a wardrobe that’s a bit wilder than mine.
OH: What do you think is important to consider when getting a suit/garment made?
RM: It should look like it really belongs to you. Clothing should reflect you and your personality, and not look like a costume. For example, if you look at Madonna, she owns who she is, even though her style is wild, it doesn’t look like she’s playing dress-ups.
OH: What’s your idea of luxury?
RM: My idea of luxury is something that’s super special, and limited. The true luxury in life is time, it's elusive, attractive and never enough.
OH: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
RM: I would say my most meaningful achievement is that I spend time mentoring political refugees and young entrepreneurs, one in particular, a man from Sierra Leone. His story was so tough. His family was executed and he walked for weeks across to Guinea to escape. He saw a poster about my mentoring up at a refugee centre and contacted me saying "I need to get a job".
Helping mentor refugees like him has been really rewarding - heartbreaking as well - because they’re coming from really tough circumstances. He said he wanted to become a doctor of all jobs! Which was never going to be easy. There are no programs in this space for helping a refugee with minimal education to become a doctor, but I mentored him through doing a pathology course, which he was really struggling with as his teacher didn't understand where he was coming from. I worked with the teacher to understand his situation and it totally reversed the situation, leading him to successfully graduating. It showed me that was the reason I got involved. I also mentor 3 young entrepreneurs at the moment all in U-tech businesses and was also involved in the Big Brother Big Sister program.
Visit The Stylesmiths website
Visit Design Addicts website