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Alex Box

beauty secrets from the counterculture's patron saint of makeup

We have MySpace to thank for Illamasqua. "He contacted me [online], and I thought, you can't be serious," says Alex Box, the British makeup brand's creative director, of the day that the advertising and branding mogul Julian Kynaston reached out to her. "I did this interview in The Guardian and I said, there's no one doing alternative beauty and no one is brave enough to have a makeup range with anything but beige. Julian's wife saw the interview. And it was like, let's go, let's build a makeup range."

The infrastructure was already there—sort of. Kynaston had also enlisted the creative services of Dave Vanian of the seventies punk outfit the Damned, a makeup pioneer in his own right. "They were essentially my art team," Box recalls. "It was great big blue-sky thinking—what was makeup? What is color? Now it seems mind-boggling. When I go into stores sometimes, I get really overwhelmed, because all this came from a few people."

But Box, who double-times as Gareth Pugh's trusted backstage collaborator, is getting used to success—and the considerable impact she's made on the beauty industry. "Before Illamasqua, nothing spoke to the alternative cultures," she points out. "Makeup is a palette of expression if you're a goth or a glamorous old woman or a club kid. My objective has always been that it comes from my heart. And people really respond to that."

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—Celia Ellenberg

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