IWD 2019: Celebrating Female Design Through Time

There’s a tired old adage that claims that behind every successful man lurks a strong woman. It’s a phrase that has been co-opted by many but says much about the way women have toiled behind the scenes, co-creating many of the discoveries and masterpieces we love today. And while we’re a long way from equality, today, women in design are a force to be reckoned with. From female co-operatives like Front to the Titans leading some of the industry’s largest design houses, women are ripping up traditional templates and reimagining the world of the future.

On International Women’s Day 2019, we’d like to celebrate the lineage of women who have made it possible. From the 20th century rebels to today’s trailblazing artists, we know that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we thank you for making it happen. Without further ado, let’s take a look at female design through time.

Female Design Icon: Florence Knoll

“I needed a piece of furniture. It was not there so I created it” – Florence Knoll

The mother of modernism, Florence Knoll is our Female Design Icon for 2019. While she sadly passed away earlier this year, her legacy is one of eternal style. Born in 1917 amid the echoes of war, she demonstrated a creative eye from an early age, enrolling in the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1934. In her words, she didn’t just decorate a space, she created it, taking a holistic approach to interiors that refused to centre solely on one object or aspect. In 1943, she married Hans Knoll and together they founded the infamous Knoll furniture brand. Modern always, Knoll is the closest thing the industry has to immortality and is revered for its striking yet timeless designs.

Colour and modernity were her mediums, and she spoke through them often in designs like the Florence Knoll Sofa and Coffee Table. Knoll also oversaw the production of some of the world’s most recognisable objects through her careful leadership and management. Like all great leaders, she planted seeds of inspiration among her colleagues, encouraging designers like Eero Saarinen to create the Womb Chair and Sofa through a variety of specific briefs.

However, Florence Knoll was much more than just the sum of her achievements. She was a visionary in a time blinded by prejudice, a woman who used her light to help set others on fire, and one of the reasons that women are so integral to contemporary design today.

Modern Day Female Design Hero: Patricia Urquiola

“Playing is the real way to work. The longer you have to play and to enjoy living and working, the better.” – Patricia Urquiola

A tumbling blend of Spanish, English and Milanese, Patricia Urquiola is a pluralist in every sense of the world. She’s also one of the most famous women in design today. Among her many creative roles, she is Art Director of Cassina, CEO of Studio Urquiola and a regular contributor to brands like Moroso, B&B Italia and GAN. More so than any other of her contemporaries, Urquiola encapsulates the feminine within her work, paying great attention to colour and the tactile sense.

Her desire to play, making materials move in unique and unnatural ways has lead to designs like the Liquefy Tables and Bend Sofa each of which subverts light and shape to create a new physiognomy. Challenging pre-existing notions of what modern furniture should look and feel like is central to her work, with the Gender Chair and Belt Sofa as living proof.

Throughout her vast portfolio, she has courted the extraordinary and ensured that female-focused design appears in the worlds finest hotels and showrooms. Through her tenacity and creativity, she has followed in the footsteps of Ray Eames and Charlotte Perriand, forging partnerships in the highest echelons of contemporary design. For this, Patricia Urquiola is our Modern Day Female Design Hero. Want to take a closer look at her story? Be sure to check out our Patricia Urquiola profile via the link here.

Industry Game Changer: Paola Lenti

“In a way, two-dimensional points of view have never really been my thing.” – Paola Lenti

The ability to see beyond the everyday is something that Paola Lenti truly prides herself upon. And so she should. Once the preserve of bulky, unattractive furniture, she has revolutionised outdoor living beyond recognition. Under her watch, luxurious outdoor rugs, woven poufs and an array of soft furnishings have made their way into the garden, heralding nothing short of a textile revolution. The secrets lie in Paola Lenti’s extensive research and development department, which, since 1994, has been on a mission to create gardens that are as comfortable and tactile as their indoor counterparts.

The collections that followed have not only dramatically changed the way we conceive our outdoor spaces, but have created a new chromatic language. Her method of weaving draws together glimmering turquoises and iridescent teals, to create a glorious tapestry of colour. The sheer quantity of shades on offer in itself is staggering, and represent a departure from everything you thought you knew about modern outdoor furniture. In a time where we all crave more contact with the natural world, Paola Lenti has discovered the secret to enjoying its pleasures without having to sacrifice any material comforts. For this, we’re delighted to pronounce her our Industry Game Changer 2019.

Woman To Watch In 2019: Lucie Koldová

“When I work with glass, I want to show off my feminine side.” – Lucie Koldová

Fluent in the evocative language of light, Lucie Koldová distils poetry into physical objects. Best known for her contemporary lighting designs for Brokis and Lasvit, she creates luminaires that are radical yet beautiful and that often push the limit of their chosen form. Her preference for cutting-edge technologies is evident in the ballooning glass forms of the Macaron Table Lamp and Big One Pendant, both stunning lamps that interrogate our relationship with light and space. Such passion for glass is indebted to her Czech roots and yet her portfolio could never be contained to a single cultural lens. For this and her array of spellbinding designs, Lucie Koldová is our woman to watch in 2019.

Do you have a favourite unsung female designer? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram so we can help share their work.

SHOP OUR FAVOURITE FEMALE DESIGNERS THIS IWD 2019

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