It's International Women's Day on Sunday. YEAH!!!!!!
But what does it mean? I was wondering that myself so after a bit of research I discovered that it happens every year on 8th March, it's global, in some countries it has become so important it's a national holiday, and it celebrates female achievement and equality in all aspects of life. We may take our right to vote for granted, but that freedom is obviously not the case worldwide.
Anyway, politics aside, while the day has its roots in the socialist movement of the early 1900s it seems like a good opportunity to take a minute to think about some rad women in design today.
What got me thinking about this was an article I read on Dezeen about Hella Jongerius, the Dutch industrial designer, who said this week that the design industry has lost touch with its social and cultural values and is producing "too much shit design".
I love a good quote and this one made me sit up and listen. She argues that design companies need to take a more ethical approach and focus on quality rather than novelty: "there's too much shopping without thought" (er, guilty). You can read the full article here. She is currently design director of Dutch company Danskina which makes beautifully crafted rugs.
A few weeks ago, another comment grabbed my attention when designer Ilse Crawford announced her new StudioIlse furniture range with Ikea. One of the materials she's decided to use is cork because, apart from its acoustic qualities, "no one wants wine corks any more". You can read the full article here. I love the idea of re-purposing a material and cork is a fantastic environmentally friendly product - cork is stripped from the bark of trees, so it's sustainable as they don't need to be chopped down, and there are huge cork oak forests in Portugal.
Ilse Crawford was the launch editor of Elle Decoration (in 1989). She's been running StudioIlse since 2001 and created the much emulated laid-back interiors of Soho House and Babington House. Her focus is always on how the space makes you feel and with consideration for life's "messy realities". The normal, over the spectacular. I love that.
I heard Paola Navone introducing her fabric collection for high-end Italian textile company Rubelli a few months ago and I thought she was fantastic. Not just for rocking oversized jewellery, but because she said, in the context of explaining why one fabric was a bit rough around the edges that was meant to look "like your cat has destroyed it".
She has spent twenty years living in SE Asia learning about craft and takes a painterly approach to fabric. She says: "I try to promote imperfection. Those little accidents - I like them. Things get old, textiles age, the industry doesn't like to talk about it".
"I work fast. I don't look back, I don't have a sense of history. My favourite project is the one I'm working on, or the next one. And if we don't have a client we go to the beach". She's got attitude.
Afroditi Krassa works mainly in hospitality design which is something we can all have an opinion on as we actually get to experience it. Do you like the feel of Itsu, the packaging at Pret, the cosiness of the upgraded Curzon cinemas? Afroditi's design studio was behind them all. She even did my local Cafe Rouge and has just won an award for the design of Heston Blumenthal's The Perfectionist's Cafe at Heathrow's Terminal 2. I was introduced to Afroditi during the London Design Festival last year at the bar she had designed for the SuperBrands exhibition and I was impressed with her intelligent approach to designing social spaces.
I stumbled across Tracey Neuls shoes at last year's Designs of the Year media preview at the Design Museum where she was nominated for her rubber-soled Geek shoe for cyclists. Tracey is an Australian-born designer, based in London, whose design ethos resonates with me. "Good design is something you feel as well as see", she says. "You wear the shoes, the shoes don't wear you".
She launched her business in 2000 and takes a traditional approach to shoe-making by designing all the toe and heel shapes from scratch - no pre-fabricated components - so they're not cheap, but they will last. She displays them in her Marylebone and Redchurch Street shops by dangling them from the ceiling. As a recent convert to flat ankle boots I can walk around town in all day I'm going nuts for her new collection (pic below).
As with any list it's completely subjective and I've only picked five awesome women today, there are many more. But this post has been done in the spirit of an upbeat quote I read the other day: "celebrate what you want to see more of".