alex box is the make-up artist with the midas touch
Working alongside Gareth Pugh, Karl Lagerfeld, and Alexander McQueen, and contributing to the likes of Vogue, Numéro, and i-D, Alex has established herself as one of the most sought after names in fashion.
Having studied and exhibited as an installation artist before falling into the wonderful world of cosmetics, Alex's work focuses on the relationship between the human body and its surrounding environment. Eschewing all fashion trends and normative standards of beauty, she's been breaking boundaries ever since she picked up her first brush, something which is echoed in the ethos of her cosmetics brand Illamasqua which she co-founded in 2008. We caught up with the British beauty to talk about peace, happiness, and what makes a person truly beautiful.
What made you want to become a make-up artist?
I've always said I'm an accidental make-up artist and more of an artist that uses make-up. As an installation artist I've always used performance and image manipulation in my work, and people have often perceived these elements as make-up. I created a piece of work with a fashion designer and my artwork was framed in a fashion context - from that moment I've been perceived as a make-up artist.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
How would you define the way you work? Are you decorating the face or using the face as an artistic medium? Or is it a bit of both?
I surrender very much to the spirit of the moment. I come to a project with lots of ideas and research but then surrender to the moment and love it when unexpected accidents lead you to a place that is raw and new. When you work on a face you come to it with the entire history of everything that has gone before you, so the history of 'decoration', tattoos, masks, tribal markings and the conceptual gamut of artistic interpretation. Surrendering to the muse and being lost is very important to the way my work takes form, this is why music is integral when I work, it helps me 'set the scene' and tone to what I do. I often make playlists for the characters I create; it helps me paint cerebrally as well as physically.
You've spoken about embracing new formats and emerging technologies when it comes to make-up, can you tell me a bit about this?
I'm very excited by science and see it as true magic. I use new and existing technology in my work and love it when it's seamless and unseen and just felt, or when it's there heightening the experience of 'seeing' for the onlooker. As I've said before, as an artist I have never been held back or restricted to the concept of make-up being just pigments and brushes. Unlocked by that I use many different mediums that excite me. Whether it's projection mapping or painting with light or using 3D head scanning and printing, it's all towards creating something visually resonating. For me it's not about the technology being championed as much as it's not about seeing techniques in make-up. It's much more beautiful to me when you 'feel' the art first and almost don't notice that any one part of technology or technique is involved. It's just a seamless flow of visual stimulus.
What's the story behind Illamasqua?
An understanding that we are all individual and evolving, so need a brand that will support that journey, this is what galvanised Illamasqua's existence. It's a brand with a large heart and desire to touch and connect with everyone's individual spirit and power. I've wanted to create worlds and products that will captivate, create magic, transform and encourage people to think and question and feel incredible. It's a place where you aren't going to see endless representations of one cookie cut beauty aesthetic; you will hopefully see many forms of beauty.
Do you think about things like beauty - in the general sense of the word - or fashion trends when making over someone's face or is it more about artistic expression?
I have no idea about trends and don't follow fashion doctrines - they always become apparent in hindsight and, by definition, are over once defined. I strive to make beautiful artistic expressions that you can see the soul through. Even if it's the most avant-garde mark making, it's always about the beauty of balance, the beauty of emotional resonance. I hope to create like nature creates.
When collaborating with designers for a catwalk show how do you negotiate between what designers want and your own vision as a make-up artist?
I'm very lucky to be in a position where I am hired for my vision. I am also drawn to people with strong vision too. It's very important for me when working with a designer to stand in their shoes and see what they see. I'm there to bring their visual equation to the most perfect conclusion. It's harmonious and extremely exciting; like being in a great band and just jamming.
Who is the most beautiful person in the world and why?
My son. It needs no explanation.
What makes a person beautiful?
Happiness and being at peace with everything they have probably been trying to change or have been told they should change over the years.
What does beauty mean to you?
Something that shines from the soul and makes people forget for a moment and fall into that space where magic, innocence and peace live.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Nick Knight
From The 30th Birthday Issue, i-D No. 308, Pre-Fall 2010