This interview was originally published on Medium.
Canadian makeup and mixed media artist Lyle Reimer has over 97,000 Instagram followers who visit his account @Lylexox to experience the fantasy and undeniable creativity of his self-portrait personas, which fuse facial sculpture, makeup, and found objects, accompanied by hilarious fictional backstories.
In his work, personalities come to life through cosmetics, but what really adds to Reimer’s facial sculptures are the accessories he mixes in. From costume jewelry and lighting hardware, to raisin boxes and calculators, 98 percent of his work utilizes garbage or recycled materials people gift him, he says.
Recent collaborations include editorial shoots for Pepsi, Gucci and Jeremy Scott x Moschino.
A selection of his Instagram personas is documented in “Head of Design”, a Rizzoli New York book that will be published in March 2019.
1 – How did you find your personal brand?
Lyle Reimer – At first, I did freelance work in parallel to my full-time corporate job but soon enough, on my 40th birthday, it became really clear that I just wanted to put my whole energy into doing this that I love. It felt like my focus should be solely on this work. My mindset was to take it seriously and to look at it as a business and as a brand. So, I left my corporate job at MAC. Iit was hard, but I left MAC in very good terms and still up to today the relationship is very beautiful.
Since then, most of the time, I am in the studio creating concept, working on pieces or shooting images. Over the years, more people started reaching out, people I look up to. Be it Bea Akerlund, who is Madonna, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj’s stylist and who wanted me to work on a project of hers or, Fabien Baron who was interested in helping me out with the book. I was humbled and shocked that these people that I really admire and look up to were contacting me.
Then, Viktor and Rolf invited me to come to Amsterdam two times to spend some time with them and attend their 25th anniversary. They also wrote the introduction to the book. I feel incredibly grateful to have this support of my work and what I do.
2 – How did you grew your brand?
Lyle Reimer – People talk how busy and tired they are but typically into a conversation they will talk about the TV show they are watching. For me, the focus is solely on the work. After my full-time job, every single day and still today, I am in the studio. It was this mindset of looking at it as a business, of approaching it as a brand instead of as a fun little hobby, that made the difference.
Today, people ask me which PR company I am using, but up until now I have not used a PR agency to get work. I develop these relationships with people through Instagram, through social media, which develop and blossom into relationships outside of that world of social media. You need to be looking at who are the people that you want to reach out to, who are the people you feel a connection with, what are the companies that inspire you and just go and contact them. I really feel that you have to put yourself and your work out there and then things start to happen.
3 – How do you choose which project to take on and which one to turn down?
Lyle Reimer – Part of the choice is if I feel inspired by the brand and their philosophy. Gucci was the first brand to reach out to me, they sent a direct message on Instagram, which at first, I didn’t though it was real. When I realized that it was, my gosh! What they have done the last years since Alessandro Michele has come on board is just really incredible to watch. So, when they wanted to connect with me it just made sense. I already felt connected to that brand.
Sometimes other brands reach out and it feels too corporate. To hold up a product and take a photo, doesn’t really feel like a true exploration and I wouldn’t want that kind of collaboration.
Even with Pepsi, I asked, do I have complete freedom? Will I have the ability to edit and give feedback? I was a bit nervous about doing it but I sent them my first sketch and they immediately approved it. It became a celebration of art history.
4- How do you stay “brand authentic” in what you do and the partnerships you choose?
Lyle Reimer – There is so much out there… Every week there is a new cosmetics brand. The industry is constantly evolving, constantly growing.
When you talk about authenticity, though there is constant grow, there is this heart…. when you know your voice. I think people immediately recognize authenticity and want to be part of it. Collaborations have been mostly editorial work, campaign work. Some companies reach out and talk about doing videos in which I would become the art object in it.
With Gucci it started by them inviting thirteen different artists to re-interpret their Gucci Blooms print. I was the first of the Guccigram collaboration for social media. Originally, I wanted them to send me scraps, pieces from the design floor, but they said that they have no scraps only new product. So, they sent me new product, which I cut up – even if it felt heart-breaking to be cutting up this luxurious piece – and I gave it a new life. It really took on a life of its own.
5 – How do you renew your own brand/ How do you keep it relevant?
Lyle Reimer – Even though I use make-up as a vehicle, I don’t consider myself a make-up artist. It doesn’t feel like an appropriate title. There are so many elements that are part of the work.
I also feel that in terms of the beauty landscape, I don’t fit in and I am okay with that. I am creating a new type of beauty or, a new way of looking at that world, even though I am part of it, I still feel like an outsider.
Brands want to have that type of relationships. They say, “we know that when we send you product, you are going to do something with it totally different of what we would ever think of doing”.
Getting new ideas also happens while I travel for work. It’s work but also a way for me to explore other cultures and to see how other people live their life, to see art. I am constantly inspired by what happens around me. I have a fundamental believe that inspiration can come from anywhere. Just being really open all the time even to the smallest most insignificant things of life, it’s when magic happens!
6 – What is the biggest trend in branding and marketing you see right now?
Lyle Reimer – Fashion used to feel monotone, like all designers got together and decided what they are going to do, which colour they are going to use…
Right now, a mashup of things is taking place. The trend is really the non-trend. There is so much more voice for personality, there is so much more excitement. A lot of the established houses are looking for new blood, for a new fresh way to reinvent their line, so you see a lot more of experimentation. To see this landscape that is super open and creative, to see that so many brands are collaborating with really interesting people, and as an artist who wants to collaborate with others to be witnessing this taking place is very exciting.
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