This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the groundbreaking accomplishments and legacies of a range of inspiring females who navigated male-dominated professions to produce iconic designs that stand the test of time. We have an endless list of heroines, but here, we showcase a small selection of our favourites from bygone eras to today, from Ray Eames to Kazuyo Sejima. Keep reading to learn more about the trailblazing spirit and will of these women that continue to define creativity and courage.
Above: Florence Knoll Sofas
Ray Eames (1912 - 1988)
Ray Eames (Bearnice Alexandra “Ray” Kaiser) is a name on every list of iconic female designers. She was an American designer, artist, and filmmaker who made significant contributions to the fields of industrial design, architecture, and furniture design. She collaborated with her husband Charles Eames and together they created iconic designs that revolutionised modern furniture, including the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, an enduring piece of design that has come to define luxury and taste. Ray Eames was a trailblazer in the male-dominated design industry and paved the way for future generations of female designers.
Charlotte Perriand (1903 - 1999)
Charlotte Perriand was a French architect, designer, and pioneer of modern furniture design. She believed that design should be functional, affordable, and accessible to everyone and her design contributions helped shape the course of 20th-century design. As a young Parisian designer, Perriand applied to work under the tutelage of the renowned architect, Le Corbusier. His response? “We don’t embroider cushions here.” Despite the misogynistic sentiment, Perriand’s visionary innovation would soon claim Le Corbusier’s attention.
Her iconic designs include the LC4 Chaise Lounge and the Grand Confort Easy Chair.
As a young Parisian designer, Perriand applied to work under the tutelage of the renowned architect, Le Corbusier. His response? “We don’t embroider cushions here."
Zaha Hadid (1950 - 2016)
Zaha Hadid, an architect of Iraqi-British descent, made history as the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. She gained recognition for her unconventional and dynamic designs that challenged the traditional concepts of space and form. Her most famous projects include the Guangzhou Opera House, the Heydar Aliyev Center, and the London Aquatics Centre. Hadid infused her work with a sense of energy and motion and strived to create buildings that were not only practical but also emotionally evocative.
Florence Knoll (1917 - 2019)
Florence Knoll, a renowned American architect and designer, played a pivotal role in shaping modern furniture design. She studied under some of the most eminent architects of the time, including Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe, and eventually established her own practice, Knoll Associates.
Her most famous designs include the Florence Knoll Sofa and the Florence Knoll Lounge Chair, which were celebrated for their minimalist aesthetic, functionality, and practicality. She humbly referred to this collection as ‘meat and potatoes’, a filler between the more famous pieces at the time from the likes of Bertoia and Saarinen. Despite her humility, the collection became, and remains, among the most celebrated furniture of the modern era.
She humbly referred to this collection as ‘meat and potatoes’, a filler between the more famous pieces at the time from the likes of Bertoia and Saarinen. Despite her humility, the collection became, and remains, among the most celebrated furniture of the modern era.
Kazuyo Sejima (1956 - )
Kazuyo Sejima is a prominent Japanese architect who holds a significant place in contemporary architecture. Sejima's work is defined by a sense of lightness, transparency and fluidity. Sejima's notable projects include the Rolex Learning Center in Switzerland, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, and the Louvre-Lens Museum in France. Her contributions to architecture have earned her several accolades, including the 2010 Pritzker Architecture Prize, making her the second woman to receive the award after Zaha Hadid.