YKRA FACES: KATA FILEP
This month, we sat down with food, prop, and floral stylist Kata Filep, to talk about her career and lifestyle as a creative freelancer, how she spends her time off, and why flea markets are the place to be on Sundays. Read on for more!
Hi Kata, you’re a household name in the industry as a food stylist, while your latest venture ATAK PELIF floral expeditions broadened your horizons to the world of flowers. How would you define your different roles and jobs?
The main change is that now my days revolve around two themes, food and flowers. In Hungary, the roles of food and prop stylist are usually not considered as two different areas of expertise, so I do both. However, these are more of a behind-the-scenes roles, while my work as a floral stylist is something new, and also more visible.
I've been working as a food stylist for the past 10 years, and in this capacity, my role is to make food look as desirable as possible. It’s a process that consists of several things, so at times I'm the one adding festive decorations and details to the Christmas turkey, while in other situations I’ll be the one actually basting and cooking it. I also develop and test recipes for food companies as well as creating content — this is a mix of services not everyone does.
When it comes to flowers, I don't call myself a florist, as it’s not something I have a formal education in and it’s a profession in its own right, so I prefer using the term floral stylist. This new role in my career was part of a natural progression, which started out from my days working for a restaurant where I was in charge of communication. I advised on a number of different things, one of them being that I felt a great Parisian restaurant needed to have fresh flowers daily. So I made the task my own and started going to flower markets. Seeing the different types of flowers on sale, or the bouquets available at flower stores, I felt like something was missing, a gap that I could fill in some way. That's where my story began.
You work as a freelancer — what’s your schedule like?
I’d say my schedule is one of the perks of freelancing: being able to afford the luxury of planning my day on my own terms, and that each day is totally different. Of course, there are days when I also have to set my alarm and be up early for a photoshoot, or to buy flowers from the market which is a morning ritual. Not to mention as a food stylist, sometimes my work involves 16-hour shoots or long hours at events. Recently, I’ve also been spending a lot of time on moodboards to present my ideas to clients visually, as a lot of times, words simply are not enough. There are less exciting admin days too, spent with putting together offers and sending out invoices. But on good days, I have the luxury of going out for breakfast with my partner before starting my day, or having casual lunches with friends. It’s definitely a mix of hard work and freedom.
How do you prepare for photoshoots as a food stylist?
This part of my work involves a lot of preparation and running around town. I source the ingredients myself, as it’s up to me to pick the best apples to photograph and it’s the same with everything else. Luckily, I have a 20m2 warehouse in the 7th district, where I store thousands of cups, plates, and cutlery, so I can work in practically any style. This involves constant re-sorting and repacking, so there's a pretty strong logistics side involved, but it’s a great feeling knowing that whether the shoot has a Nordic theme or a retro cafeteria vibe, I can come up with something for every look.
What about your days working as a floral stylist?
I work based on custom orders. So it's actually my own micro-enterprise and I do everything by myself. I don't have a workshop or creative space either, my kitchen is my backdrop.
I usually start the morning by going to the flower market at around 8:00-9:00 am, picking out a selection of flowers, followed by the unsexy part of the job nobody sees, flower prepping. This involves many time-consuming steps: trimming stems, removing leaves, cleaning, and it’s only after that I start working on compositions. I usually deliver flowers to my clients in the afternoon or evening, or they’ll come over to pick up their orders.
In terms of style, I have complete creative freedom, and thankfully the customers that find me respect that. My visual language and creative vision is the reason they find me in the first place.
How do you like spending your time outside of work?
I’m a big fan of good food and drinks outside of work too. My partner and I enjoy inviting friends over and we often host small parties and gatherings. We like this Italian way of life, including aperitivo and recently quite a bit of Negroni too. I usually cook intuitively, not from recipes, simply based on what inspires me on the day and based on what’s fresh at the market. So that's how our evenings tend to go.
During the day, we like being outside in nature. Around 4-5 years ago we joined a hiking group and started the National Blue Trail. We also do a lot of hiking around Budapest, we'll get in the car and head out to the Pilis, Mátra, or Börzsöny mountain ranges.
Another thing we’re keen on is flea markets, visiting them has turned into a hobby. On Sunday mornings it’s the place to be — of course you can arrive at noon, but that’s a lazy, hipster thing to do, and I’ve been on the lookout for Murano glass vases. The atmosphere and vibe at the markets alone is enough alone to make sure you have a great time, without buying anything. I love listening to the vendors chatting, the retro market food, the scones, tea and coffee, and sure, it’s great to drink a good flat white in a cool local place, but this is where you can get a staple black coffee in a plastic cup with whipped cream, it’s a must.
Now let's see, what do you have in your bag?
YKRA Beach Bag - I take this bag everywhere, not just for the beach, and I chose this particular bag because I've always been a big bag person. I use it for shopping and for carrying stuff to photo shoots, it fits everything.
Atak Pelif Bouquet - All my bouquets are made to order and no two are the same. It depends on what flowers I find at the market on the day. This one comprises my autumn favorites, Dahlia, Hydrangea and Gladiolus flowers. I also like having something sprouting out of my bouquets, this one has reeds and different grasses, as well as snowberries, which as a child I loved popping.
Pruning Shears - These were a gift from my boyfriend. I have them in two colorways, yellow and purple. They’re a Japanese brand and besides looking super cool, they’re very comfortable to work with and also won the Red Dot Design Award.
Stickers - I always use my own branded stickers on my bouquets.
Neon Ribbons - I’m always searching for neon colored ribbons. I like using these strong colors, even my bouquets are pastel and powder colors. My clients like this bold touch too.
Sunglasses - I don’t go anywhere without them.
Perfume - This unisex scent is a collaboration between Monocle and Comme des Garçons, I've been using it for years. It's actually a perfume that my partner and I share, and for some reason we both love it. I can’t count how many bottles we’ve used…
Irka Diary - This diary is from a Hungarian brand, its handmade and its shape and layout just works. They also come up with nice designs, I have a whole collection.
Polly Pocket - Owning one of these was a childhood dream of mine, which never came true, so it was such a nice surprise when a friend of mine gifted me one for my 38th birthday.
Pocky - This is a Japanese sweet snack brand. They always keep bringing out limited edition versions with different tastes, and currently their Yuzu flavor is my favorite. A while back, you couldn’t buy them in Budapest, but now it’s sold at most Asian stores.
Leuchtturm pen & pen loop - I have a pen loop which is so useful. It's a small, cheap and very simple product, you simply stick it in the back of your diary and you’ll never lose your pen again.
Photo by Botond Wertan