Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we thought we’d dedicate our 5 Chic Finds to all the women out there bringing their designs to life. However, researching women in design areas such as architecture, industrial and furniture design opened our eyes to just how male dominated these parts of the design world continue to be.
Women dominate the textile, styling, interior design, and some of the fashion worlds but it’s the “masculine” areas of “serious” design where women find themselves relegated to the sidelines and essentially told to be content with soft furnishings and fabrics. No.
Let’s take furniture design as an example. The overwhelming majority of women designers I found were either part of a husband and wife design team (Ray Eames), no longer working (Florence Knoll Bassett), or dead (Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Greta Grossman). Where are all the working women? I know they’re out there but where are their online presences?
I found some furniture designers eventually, but this celebration of women in design significantly changed from celebrating the outstanding designs themselves to celebrating a woman for simply being a working designer in a male dominated area. We shouldn’t have to celebrate this because it shouldn’t be exceptional. Women should have the same opportunities as men to realise their own designs so we can have a greater choice of furniture and other designs that aren’t created almost exclusively by men. Then we’ll be able to judge these designs based on their qualities or failures and not simply because they’re created by one of the few women among an glut of male design.
Luckily, furniture designer Katy Skelton’s designs are worth celebrating regardless of her sex but this almost complete domination by men in parts of the design world needs to stop. As far as architecture goes, a great resource for learning about equality in the field is Archi Parlour, a website dedicated to Australian women in architecture that fosters a broader world-wide discussion on the challenges facing women in the industry. This is a great step in campaigning for equality in an industry whose primary focus should be talent and great design, not what people have going on downstairs.
So, after that revelation, let’s begin this week’s list with a monumental example of contemporary design.
Zaha Hadid is a trailblazer of contemporary architecture, realising futuristic designs despite facing strong opposition from various forces. We’re particularly drawn to her Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan (above) and the Vitra Fire Station.
Check out Design Museum’s article on Hadid’s previous work and the challenges she’s faced along throughout her career.
Modern soulful style is Jeanine Hays’ mantra and it permeates everything she does from her extremely successful AphroChic blog to her line of homewares and Remix design book. Hays is a true entrepreneur and uses her individual style to inspire others and celebrate great design everywhere that blends African-American style with culture and a contemporary sensibility.
The Godmother of Punk needs no introduction but certainly needs to be celebrated for her incredible career of creating subversive fashion that continuously challenges the status-quo while remaining relevant and fashion-forward. Vivienne Westwood’s activism deserves a mention too, particularly the way she weaves her causes into her designs using everything from slogan t-shirts to whole collections to champion issues such as the environment, climate change and consumerism.
Industrial design maven Amina Horozic has a taste for sleek, effortless design ranging from her work at Chrysler to Nike and now the Aether Cone speaker (above). We love the deceptively simple design with metal finishes that elevates this smart object – that predicts what you want to listen to at each time of the day – to a statement piece.
Horozic has also written a book – Breaking In – to help aspiring product designers build a portfolio and start making cold, hard cash.
Beautiful furniture and homewares with a vintage feel, all made with socially responsible manufacturing ethics – it’s possible! Brooklyn based Katy Skelton Acuff creates understated contemporary furniture with a nostalgic edge and we’ve fallen in love with almost all the pieces in her collection. Each item is made in the U.S. and every worker is paid a fair wage in a safe environment, something that sadly can’t be said for every manufacturer.
Check out this video from the designer herself as she explains their manufacturing process and her dreams for creating a program to teach unskilled workers how to build furniture and support themselves and their families. Amazing.