Lindsay Cornell is an Australian creative brand director based in Los Angeles, whose story immediately inspires travel. And creativity. All at once. Fresh out of university, a twist of fate saw her working with entertainer and entrepreneur, will.i.am, where she led progressive entertainment, fashion and AI brands for several years. Just recently, she took on a new role as Chief Brand Officer at 'Untitled-1', an art-based start-up in Los Angeles with a bold mission - to close the gap between the aspirational art world and mainstream culture. We spoke to Lindsay about creative life in LA and her inside playbook for the city.
ON WHERE YOU’RE FROM
Bolton Point in NSW, Australia. It’s a suburb of the City of Lake Macquarie with a population of about 2,000 people. When I was in primary school, I got a 50% academic scholarship, 50% visual arts scholarship to Newcastle Grammar School. I then caught a train to the big smoke to commute to Newcastle every day.
ON LANDING IN AMERICA
I visited New York for the first time when I was 19, in my first year of university. We are talking when Facebook was in its infancy and Instagram wasn’t even conceptualized yet. It was like I had been transported to a parallel universe. During my three months there I was exposed to an agency called Black Frame, which was and still is a leader in innovative communications. It was the beginning of the collaboration and they represented Opening Ceremony who was pioneering this at the time. The energy and disruption of the city as well as the feeling of something really big happening in the world of art/fashion/lifestyle stung me. I went back to Sydney, finished my degree and held that feeling and vision with me until I made the jump back to New York.
ON YOUR MOVE TO LOS ANGELES
I arrived in New York in September 2012, where I fortuitously met will.i.am and then moved to Los Angeles to take an in-house position with him at the very end of 2012. Literally the week before Christmas.
ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LA
ON LA AS A MOVIE CHARACTER
Tony Stark from Iron Man. Charismatic, ridiculous and fluffy on the outside, but essentially good on the inside, despite itself.
ON WINDOW SEAT OR AISLE
Window for life.
When I made the move to Los Angeles to work for will.i.am, I had naivety on my side.. A new role itself is always hard, let alone a new city, country, life and in an alien industry where there wasn’t, and really still isn’t, a guide book.
ON YOUR TRANSITION INTO U.S CULTURE
When I made the move to Los Angeles to work for will.i.am, I had naivety on my side. I was in my early 20s, so despite it being daunting and at times definitely overwhelming, I was still extremely impressionable. I had no choice but to say yes, figure it out myself and get things done. I only had a few years of professional life in Sydney at ksubi and the culture there wasn’t exactly corporate, so beginning this new role in the heart of the entertainment industry was essentially a baptism of fire. I was malleable and hungry, so learnt all aspects of the celebrity as an entrepreneur business from the ground up. A new role itself is always hard, let alone a new city, country, life and in an alien industry where there wasn’t, and really still isn’t, a guide book. In that sense, I see it like simultaneously learning two languages as an infant as you are just learning how to speak.
ON HOW YOU CONNECTED WITH LOCAL CULTURE
To be honest, this took me a very long time. In general, Los Angeles really struggles with sense of community given the mere scale and geography. People tend to congregate in pockets and at home vs. out and about. I really thrived when I started to develop my international creative community. There is this amazing network of creative individuals killing the game in art/fashion/music, who predominantly travel between LA, New York, Miami, London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo. Whenever you are in one of these cities, you can guarantee someone you know is there. When these friends would come through LA, I would always meet their other LA-based creative friends and it just kind of snow balled from there. This culture is more international than just local US culture, but it manifests in different ways in each country and city. This is my local US culture.
ON YOUR WORK WITH WILL.I.AM
My goal was always to be an in-house Communications Director at a luxury brand in New York. To be completely honest, I realized pretty quickly how much this relied on schmoozing and sample trafficking. An art in itself, but for an introvert like me, I was more interested in how brands exist and create purpose in the world.
Through a strange twist of fate, my boss from ksubi, George Gorrow, reached out while I was in the US and asked if I would work with him on a project he was acting as Creative Director on. I knocked him back a few times before he begged and assured me it would be something so unique I wouldn’t regret being involved. It ended up being the launch event for will.i.am’s sustainable initiative with The Coca-Cola Company, EKOCYCLE. George empowered me to be his voice and to also use my own when it came to curating and executing. During the process, I worked closely with will.i.am’s business COO, who then offered me a job with will.
When I first started, I was responsible for producing will.i.am’s TRANS4M conference in Los Angeles. TRANS4M was an initiative of his i.am.angel Foundation which focuses on STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). From there I worked across all of his other entrepreneurial projects on the business side of things. I was then appointed Director of Communications / Director of Integration for his AI tech start-up, where I led a lot of the marketing programs and partnerships with the likes of Kering and Gucci. I was officially employee number 3. There are now over 300 employees. Most recently, I focused on building out his eyewear brand under his accessories division as a Managing Director / CEO. I am excited to take such a diverse range of experience to my next role which will similarly be spanning many industries.
ON A TYPICAL WORK DAY IN LA
A lot of WhatsApp! Lots of communication with different partners and time zones. LA is a different kind of work grind. Because of the irregular entertainment industry schedules, it is culturally a lot more flexible. But, because of this flexibility, there is no such thing as a typical work day. Work is just integrated with life (and driving). The spread out nature of the city also means fractured days if you’re traveling around for meetings.
The current and future creative generations aren’t bound by geography. Spanning cities and locations, having a global outlook – that is part of my own identity and what I believe makes me successful at what I do.
ON HOW TRAVEL AND NEW CULTURES SHAPE YOUR OUTLOOK
Travel and life in new cultures is the foundation of my profession. It is my job to speak multiple cultural languages and create meaning for brands. The current and future creative generations aren’t bound by geography. Spanning cities and locations, having a global outlook – that is part of my own identity and what I believe makes me successful at what I do. I get antsy and bored if I am in one city or country for too long at a time. It sounds ridiculous, but with my international group of creative friends, sometimes I catch myself not even registering what accent they have or what city or country we are in. It is just this one big melting pot.
ON SOMETHING UNIQUE TO LA’S CREATIVE CULTURE
The fact that there is no central hub creates creative pockets. Galleries therefore become a destination that create a sense of community. Also, the actual light here is unlike anywhere in the world. I really feel as if the perpetual sunshine and physical environment has an effect on the unique artistic output.
ON A FEW FAVORITE PLACES TO FIND INSPIRATION
The Frank Llloyd Wright ‘Hollyhock House’ in the Barnsdall Art Park. You can pay to go inside and tour the incredible home that was actually built and never lived in, or set up a picnic on the lawn outside and take in 360 views of Los Angeles.
Eames House in the Pacific Palisades. JF Chen and Galerie Half for design inspiration. The Huntington Botanical Gardens for a day in nature.
ON GOOD FOOD
Sunset Tower Hotel – part for the food but mostly for the vibe. Sushi Park, hidden in a strip mall in West Hollywood. MHZH in Silver Lake.
ON ONE THING TO DO IF YOU’RE PASSING THROUGH LA
Taking a drive around the Hollywood Hills / Mulholland Drive / out to Malibu on a sunny afternoon.
ON SOMETHING YOU NEED A FIX OF FROM AUSTRALIA IN AMERICA
Just coffee. I am a proud coffee snob and need it every single day. I love Blue Bottle and Bluestone Lane.
ON LOS ANGELES IN ONE WORD
food and drink
food and drink