10 Incredible and Inspiring Female Designers to Look to on International Women's Day
March 8th is International Women's Day. As a means of honoring and acknowledging this important day of recognition, I wanted to continue to bridge the gender gap by highlighting a few of my most favorite contemporary female designers who are doing amazing work every day. By no means an exhaustive list, these brilliant women regularly inspire me to create things of thoughtful beauty, impact and purpose. And while there are literally hundreds of women out there who make me glow with pride (Michelle Obama, Rupi Kaur, Ava Duvernay, Gloria Steinem, Jane Goodall, and Emma Watson, to name a very few), I wanted to focus specifically on designers this time around. There are a few big names who didn't make this list (Zaha Hadid, a groundbreaker and absolute legend; Kelly Wearstler, queen of pattern and shape) simply because I wanted to make a little room for the ladies who have yet to fully take the center spotlight. These women are all incredible, inspiring, and absolutely dominating the industry in ways that are uniquely their own. They are proof that the sisters are doin’ it for themselves, and that women have an important and relevant perspective to contribute to design, creativity, and culture on a grand scale.
images via amber interiors
Why I Love Her: Amber is so real, you can’t help but want to be her best friend. She is honest, humorous, and her work is downright stunning. Every image she shares makes me want to restart all of my projects from scratch. She is a master at marrying styles to create one that is at once both her signature and clearly deeply personal to her clients. She also knows her worth and isn’t afraid to say so, which is really important and empowering for female entrepreneurs everywhere.
Why I Love Her: India’s work is the epitome of transformative, luxurious and original. Her work for Sketch in London is what initially caught my (and all of instagram’s) eye, but I have since fallen in love with every other thing she and her teams have produced. She is exceptionally gifted when it comes to color and shape, and she has an uncanny ability to create energetic spaces and experiences that truly transport the visitor to another place entirely. For a really wonderful and revealing interview with her, head over to Atelier Dore and be subsumed by her genius.
Sarah Sherman Samuel
Why I Love Her: Sarah’s work is so original and fun! I absolutely love her eye for pattern, color, and texture, and she is super resourceful and innovative. She is great about transparency when documenting and sharing her work and her process, which is refreshing- Sarah makes amazing design feel accessible. She is also an ace in product design; essentially every collaboration she’s participated in is so well done and beautiful. Plus, girl knows her way around tile- she makes it look like she invented it! Her recent work for Mandy Moore has reinforced my obsession with terrazzo x10. I always look forward to seeing her new work.
Why I Love Her: Kimberly Ward worked to allow others to be seen. Her effort to elevate fellow designers of color to achieve recognition in a traditionally underrepresented, white-washed career category is inspiring and continues to be ever more relevant today. In August of 2017, Kimberly very sadly passed away after losing her battle to cancer. Her work, however, lives on through the Black Interior Designers Network (BIDN), and she continues to be a reminder to me that we need to support and uplift our community members as best we can. We mneed to keep moving towards intersectionality and inclusiveness, so that we all have an opportunity to be seen.
For a wonderful interview about Kimberly's work and the future of BIDN, head on over to Design Sponge and read up!
Caroline Landry Farouki
image via farouki farouki
Why I Love Her: Caroline is a dear friend of mine and an extremely talented designer. Together with her husband, she is quickly taking over the design scene around New Orleans and beyond with not one but two award winning restaurants, and she is an endless font of kindness and intelligence. Caroline’s attention to detail and professionalism struck me the moment I met her on my very first professional design job in NYC. She taught me many of the things I know today, and she epitomizes calm and collected boss lady-ness. Her sharpness, refined eye, and quick thinking are aspirational!
Why I Love Her: Ilse Crawford designs with philosophy and intention- something missing from so many trendy designers today. She is timeless, intelligent and driven, and her episode on Netflix’s Abstract was so inspiring to me I watched it 4 separate times and took notes each time. Ilse designs for humans, for comfort-oriented experiences and sensory and emotional values that improve quality of life- and she happens to do so beautifully. In a time when we hear more about trends, that awful six-letter word, than we do about function and intention, this is uniquely refreshing, and something that resonates with me with every new project I encounter
images via leanneford
Why I Love Her: Leann has amazing style, plain and simple. She manages to make literally any space look good, and I love how easily she floats between her minimalist lux and farmhouse chic aesthetic. She seems like she has an answer for anything. Plus, she pulls off bangs and overalls so well, it makes me want to get my scissors out.
images via catherine kwong design
Why I Love Her: Honestly, her work speaks for itself. Catherine’s spaces are fresh and elegant in all of the right ways. Her ability to make modern design feel so warm is astounding. She is a master at creating soothing spaces that perfectly blend modern and traditional, and I consistently look to her for inspiration, especially materiality and detail work.
Kate and Ellen of The Modern Caravan
images via themoderncaravan
Why I Love Them: Kate and Ellen take tiny living to the next level (think micro-palaces) and beyond. Their now infamous work in renovating airstreams and homes on wheels is a major hit on Instagram, and they are truly skilled at transforming small and grim into airy, bright, and beautiful. I love the warmth that their spaces radiate- you really feel like you could spend all of your days in 200 sq. ft. or less and not miss a thing. They are craft oriented and skillful, and they really make me wish I owned an airstream of my own.
images via justinablakeney
Why I Love Her: Justina makes me want to work with color, and that is a difficult thing to do! Her bright palettes, playful patterns, and unique "jungalow" style are so warm and inviting- you know you'll have a good time when you enter one of her spaces, and each one feels totally personal and different. I also love that Justina's style is bold with a capital B. As women, I think we have all felt at some point or another like we need to shrink or hide ourselves; like we must be pretty and manicured and perfect all of the time. But Justina and her work make me want to broadcast my weirdness and be unapologetically myself as loudly and proudly as I possibly can. She shows that there is so much beauty and interest in being different and doing things your own way.
Are there any other female designers out there doing incredible and original work? Share your favorites below!