As some of you may know, I used to dabble in styling and during my brief career as a stylist I enjoyed a great relationship with make-up company Illamasqua, a brand that seemed to be really keen on pushing boundaries and encouraging real creativity. One of my oldest clients and closest friends, Gabby Young, swears by their make-up for creating her colourful, theatrical on-stage looks.
If you look around the Illamasqua site you'll notice how different it feels to most make-up companies. This is largely due to the artistic genius at the helm; Alex Box is has been creative director of Illamasqua since its launch in 2008 and has helped establish it as a cult favourite. It's perfect for professional performers- not surprising since the Illamasqua slogan is 'make-up for your alter ego', but this also applies to people who like to experiment with their make-up in everyday life - whether you're a goth or a drag queen or you just fancy making a special pair of fake eyelashes for the festival season, walking into an Illamasqua store is like being a kid in a sweet shop.
Even their simplest products are real stars too; the only foundation I've ever been happy with is Illamsqua's skin base- I don't wear foundation everyday, but when I do, it's the only one I use. What product does Alex swear by? It has to be her very own shade of lipstick; Box. You never see Alex without her trademark red lip.
"I love this lipstick, I wear it every day. I still get a tingle down my spine when I think of the journey my own life has taken to be able to design a lipstick and name it after myself. It’s a make-up artist’s dream and I feel very blessed."
Having grown up in Grimsby (like our editor, Frances), Alex came to London to study fine art - her work has been exhibited in numerous high profile galleries. It was while she was trying to fund her artwork after finishing her degree that she started working in The Body Shop on Saturday mornings. And the rest is history.
She's worked for Vogue, Dazed and Confused, Another magazine and I-D, with celebrity clients including Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. She's been make up director for fashion weeks in London, New York and Paris, for designers like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Chanel.
Being creative director of Illamsqua has allowed Alex to help encourage people to celebrate their own individualism - see ranges like I'mperfection (see what they did there?) that celebrates 'flaws' like freckles. You'll see women over 30 in their campaigns- shock! And the brand gives money from every one of their black eye pencils sold to the Sophie Lancaster Charity who work to stamp out intolerance and discrimination in society.
So what make-up tips would an expert like Alex give?
“When you’re stuck in a make-up rut, ask someone else to do your make-up. A friend or a make-up artist, someone who will see you differently and introduce new ways of application or different colours that you wouldn't normally use. A different hand will always bring new shape or shade to your routine and seeing yourself differently will inspire you to try new things.”
“Looking for inspiration goes beyond the celebrities you see all the time. Look at old films, artists' interpretation of faces and different cultural beauty looks. A totally different country's ethnic diversity and beauty motifs might be the key to unlocking experimentation in new shapes shades and textures.”
You can see Alex working behind the scenes on Illamasqua's latest campaign here- I'm really craving purple hair now. When will Illamasqua do a range of hair dyes? Please, Alex?
'Alex Box' is the ultimate coffee table book for make-up junkies - Alex Box's collaboration with photographer Rankin truly illustrates that make-up can be a work art. If you're in need of some make-up tips, you can see Alex and other artists doing tutorials on the Illamsqua site. And for even more inspiration, browse their collections to see more of the gorgeous campaign images we've used to illustrate this post.