Meet Dani Reynolds
, an art director, prop stylist and all-around professional creative living in downtown Toronto, Ontario. By her own words, she spends her 9-5 working on the creative team at an experiential marketing agency. Outside of that, she freelances as an art director and set stylist and also gets to dip her hands in set and prop fabrication. For a long time, we've admired both her work and personal style from afar. Finally, we received the chance to talk to her about her work, how she keeps grounded amidst all the hustle and bustle of freelance life, what project has been the singular cause of personal growth, and what her creative process looks like. Keep on reading!
To start things off, how would you describe your personal style?
I recently received a holiday present from a friend who said I was hard to shop for because “my style is all over the place” and I think that it the best way to describe my taste. A nice thing about living in Canada is experiencing the change in seasons. The shift allows for more flexibility with your style. I can be boho in summer and by the time I get tired of that autumn has rolled around and I’ll experiment with a sportier look. The change in season definitely makes getting dressed more fun!
At what point in your life did you really start to come into your own in terms of personal style? Or do you still feel like you’re in transition or experimenting?
Subscribing to Teen Vogue in 7th grade was my pivotal personal style moment. I would flip through the pages and attempt to copy the outfits in their editorials with my wardrobe (90% of which was purchased from Winners haha). That time of experimentation definitely set me up to develop my own style.
You’re an art director and set and prop stylist amongst other things – how did you fall into this line of work?
Straight out of university I was hired on as an Editorial Assistant by my former internship boss. A major part of my role was to interview established creatives for the agency’s website. Hearing about other people chasing their dreams was a huge catalyst for me to start making things myself. I began by giving myself small creative projects- shooting set ups on my back porch using sun instead of studio lights and the food from my fridge as props. I posted my projects to instagram and got some positive feedback so I just kept shooting. Eventually a brand hired me for freelance photo work, and things just progress from there. Lesson learned: sometimes you need to make your own opportunities.
What and/or who inspires your work?
Visually, my work over the last year was heavily inspired by architecture.
Designers like Barragán and Bofill, both for their use of form and colour, have informed by set design.
Process wise, my work over the last year was heavily inspired by my peers who are striving for a more mindful approach to production. Eliminating aerosol paint from my practise was a big one. When working with brands I try my best to offer sustainable options for their creative needs. I’m always reusing props and materials where I can. When they’ve run their course I trade them on BUNZ - a community based trading app.
What does the slow fashion movement mean to you?
To me, slow fashion starts with making more mindful purchasing decisions. Before buying anything I consider if my new purchase to will work with garments I already own. One test question I learned from New Classics is to ask whether my dollars will be going to good use- supporting a small business or independent artisan. Another no fail test is to ask yourself if you’d be happy to be wearing that item if you ran into someone you really admired while wearing it. Aside from smart buying habits, slow fashion also means wearing clothes that are fabricated in a sustainable way (whether that relate to the process or the materials).
Where are your favourite places to shop and eat in Toronto?
For clothing - Tusk and CHOSEN For homegoods - Easy Tiger and Souvenir. For food - Happy Coffee & Wine, Mongomery’s, and Fat Pasha.
What does a typical day in the life look like for you? After hitting snooze 4+ times, I head straight to the kitchen to put on the coffee and make breakfast. My go-tos are an Ethopian roast by Toronto-based Not Even Coffee and a green smoothie. I throw in a tablespoon of “Lion Power Potion” by The New New Age for an added kick. My walk to work is a perfectly timed 30 minutes- exactly the length of one episode by my favorite podcast The Daily. My workdays are always different, but no matter what the day throws me I like to destress with a pilates class at Misfits studio or an evening run. Can you describe your classic and ideal weekend? A classic weekend for me starts with my favourite Saturday morning pilates class. My sister and I go together, and we can always count on seeing a handful of our friends in the class too. On our way home we’ll pop over to my partner’s cafe for a matcha latte and blueberry muffin. The rest of the weekend is split between time with friends or creative projectives. I have a membership at a maker space in Toronto and I try to make it out there every few weekends to use the woodshop. What are some of your favourite instagram accounts to follow? @healthy_ish for recipes. @garmentory for discovering new brands. @_sightunseen_ and @comingsoonny for home inspo. @helloartists for styling inspo. @singsingstudio for the set design inspo. What project has been the singular cause of personal growth? I think freelancing in general has been my greatest cause of personal growth. The business skills I’ve acquired have made me a better communicator, for sure!
If you’re an artist at this moment in time, there’s a sense that you need to be in a constant state of production and always showing new work. How do you keep yourself grounded and prevent yourself from burning out?
This question is so relatable and it’s an issue I’m still working on solving, but my best success so far has come from prioritizing “me time” every day. Movement has been a big part of my life ever since I was young. I feel best when I have time to be active so I always make sure to carve out an hour to move. Currently I’m really into pilates but I also love running because it gives me a chance to explore the city. Another plus is that physical activity can be extremely social. By joining run clubs and doing group classes I’ve turned my movement time into social time too. It’s a great way to meet people outside of your typical circle.
Do you have any 2020 resolutions you can share with us?
I’d love to explore Canada more by doing a cross country road trip - so I’m working towards that. First, by re-attempting my driver’s license (I let mine expire when I move to Toronto… worst mistake...) and saving up to buy a car in 2021! I’m currently enrolled in driving school, so I’m off to a good start :)
What does your creative process usually look like?
I like to start with a brain dump of ideas in complete disregard of the budget and sometimes what is logistically possible. From my experience it’s best to think big and then scale things down. Often times you can accomplish more than you thought possible, simply because you had the opportunity to dream outside of project contraights. Next I’ll do a scan of my favorite sites, sourcing inspiration and building on my initial ideas. After that, I like to bounce ideas of a friend/ teammate. Bless my sister of sitting though countless “pitches” and helping me flush out my ideas.
We love your approach to clothing, what are some of the most unique and cherished pieces you have in your collection?
Thank you! My three most cherished pieces are... (1) An olive green vinyl trench coat from the Frankie Shop that the partner gifted me for Christmas last year. It’s my go-to jacket for special occasions.
(2) White calf-high heeled boots by Paloma Wool that I bought as a Christmas present to myself this year. They are the first pair of investment footwear I have ever owned and I love them very much and have been storing them safely in the box when I don’t wear them haha.
(3) Pink vintage cowboy boots that I bought at a thrift store in Nashville for $30. I found them while visiting Tenissey on a work trip. They were just my size and in mint condition. The work trip was one for the books, so the boots are a nice reminder of a special experience from my last job.
Can you share with us some of your favourite online and print publications to read?
Bon appetit and Healthyish (both my the New York Times) are my most regular reads. I’m really inspired by the crisp photography and smart but approachable styling. Even though I don’t work on much food content, I’ve been influenced by their design direction in my own work, applying their techniques to beauty shoots and product photography. Aside from that I’m a big podcast fan. My favourites are The Daily, The Argument, and Still Processing.
Beauty and/or skincare products you swear by?
Because my skin is super sensitive I swear by natural product. For make-up my go-tos are “Narcissist” Foundation Stick by W3LL People, “Un” Cover-Up by RMS Beauty, and Bronzer by Alima Pure.
When it comes to skincare, in the summer I keep things simple with cleanser and facewash from Sukin. In the winter when my skin is my dry I switch to “Phoebe” face oil by Cardea AuSet.
What I eat really affects my skin so I also count my vitamins as part of my skincare staples. Everyday I take a turmeric supplement and a Vitamin D. I like the brand Well Told Health because they are very transparent about their ingredients.
Aquarius! :) but I prefer my Myers Briggs identity INFP.
Your idea of happiness?
Spending time in nature with my favourite people
What is your present state of mind?
Happy- because I’m currently at a cottage springtime with my favourite people in nature.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the am, Tea in the pm.
What item of clothing makes you feel most yourself?
Outerwear - love a good light jacket.
What is something you never leave the house without?
My reusable water bottle. I have a fear of being dehydrated.
What are you currently listening to?
Steve Lacy (music), The Argument (podcast)
Dream project or person to work with?
Healthyish or Bon Appetite