Sunday 8th March is International Women’s Day 2020, a day which celebrates women’s achievements and calls for a more gender-balanced world. In our industry we are lucky to have relationships with some of the top female designers in the world, so to mark this important day we thought we’d celebrate the leading ladies behind the brands you love. Answering all our burning questions from what advice they’d give their younger selves, to the biggest business mistakes they’ve made and how they fixed them, meet the women behind some of your favorite interior brands…
Sam Hood is co-founder and Creative Director at AMARA and the driving force behind our own label, A by AMARA. Launched in 2016, our own brand includes all the everyday necessities discerning homes need along with the latest styles and looks. This season we’ve also added three new permanent collections to the brand inspired by key trends our customers love.
One of the leading names in the British fashion industry, Bella Freud is known for her slogan emblazoned jumpers. In 2012 she launched her own scented candle range inspired by the signature motifs which was followed by a homeware collection to bring her creations to the home.
What advice would you give to young women looking to follow in your footsteps; do you think it’s still harder for women to make their mark in the industry?
The business of fashion is hard generally – but it seems particularly difficult for women to protect their interests. Most of the people in power financially are men and being ‘tough’ as a woman is not respected the way it is with men. It is generally admired as a strength when a man is adamant and demanding yet when a woman is the same it’s met with resistance and often distaste.
With her collection of candles and diffusers which look as good as they smell, multi-national Alexia Peck was born in New York and raised in London. She creates her scents as decadent snapshots of her life, the places she loves that signify a special place in time.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I was ever given was to trust one’s own instinct. If you can’t do that then you’re sailing your own ship through life without navigation. One’s inner instinct is fundamental to knowing what it is you like and what you don’t like. What is wrong and what is right. Furthermore, always think to yourself that you can do better. The day you think you’ve reached your highest potential is the day you stop creating. One must always keep the bar above one’s head; striving forwards with momentum and passion. That’s what keeps the creative flame burning.
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Launching her eponymous brand in 1989, the then 29 year old Lulu Guinness’ intention was to always push the boundaries. Today she still abides by her motto ‘dare to be different’ and is the living, breathing personification of her brand and never seen without her trademark red lipstick.
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
Trust your gut and stick to it. A lot of people will try and influence and advise you along the way and it can cause you to move away from your original ideas. So, try to stay focused and true to what you know and feel is right.
Urban Apothecary London creator, Tajinder Banwait, uses her expertise as a perfumer-alchemist to bring an unusual approach to the pairing of botanicals for her home fragrance collection. She aims to lock memories in fragrance as a special way to remember special moments.
What’s been the most challenging part of your career to date and how have/do you overcome it?
The most challenging part of my career to date has been going from an employee to running my own business. I was fortunate to work for some amazing beauty and fashion brands prior to launching Urban Apothecary where I gained some wonderful commercial experience and this made the transition easier but it was still a steep learning curve! I love the fact that no day is the same and that there are many ups and downs along the way which makes the journey truly exciting.
Granddaughter of Estee Lauder, Aerin Lauder founded AERIN as an extension of her own signature style. Believing beautiful living should be effortless, her homeware is timeless with a modern twist, to make life more beautiful with ease.
Who or what has inspired you the most in your life?
My grandmother Estee has been my biggest inspiration in so many ways personally and professionally. Her quote “Love what you do and do it with passion” is on my mind every day when I go to work. She taught me the importance of balance between family and business.
Elizabeth Petrides, driven by her love of soft textiles, founded Elizabeth Scarlett in 2013. Inspired by calming colours and her childhood summers spent escaping the city to the South of France, her uniquely embroidered designs are fabulously fun.
What was the hardest lesson you learnt from creating your own brand?
Learning how to switch off and relax. It’s very easy to become addicted to working when every day is exciting and you’re making visible progress. I feel like my head’s in the clouds a lot of the time, but excitement can be just as exhausting as stress. It’s hard to stay calm and I’m always trying to find ways to wind down.
Rebecca Proctor is creative director of MacKenzie-Childs who are renowned for their iconic designs loved by celebrities. Joining the brand back in 1991, she’s responsible for the MacKenzie-Childs we know today.
What stands out to you as your biggest career highlight?
Being a mother! That’s a career highlight for you! I would call that a highlight of my life, I have an extraordinary 17 year old boy with my incredible husband and we have an Irish Wolfhound and so it’s the four of us. My family is my highlight and it gives me a really strong foundation to do what I do.
Based in San Francisco, Tina Frey Designs produce unique pieces which are inspired by organic forms found in nature and on travels around the world. Tina herself designs and hand sculpts each piece in clay before handmade moulds are created.
What advice would you give to any aspiring designers looking to start a career in design?
The advice I would give to any aspiring designers is to follow your heart when you are creating something and it should be something you love and believe in. Whatever craft it is that you pursue, you should pursue it wholeheartedly and not compromise on your vision of what you want to create. Make sure what you create is your own. Of course you will have to consider important aspects of what you are making like practicality and functionality also. Once you have decided on your path, you must keep in mind the quality of your products and never skimp on this. It is also super important to have good communication with your customers. This means timely replies and on-time delivery of whatever you promise to deliver.
Then there is just simple perseverance since this is probably the single most important skill to acquire. You will probably work the hardest you have ever worked in your life but it will all be super rewarding when you see you have accomplished what you set out to do and you will forget all the tough times you go through to get where you are.
Trained in painting at Camberwell College of Arts and in interior design at Chelsea College of Arts and Central St Martins, Anna Jacobs launched her first homeware collection in 2015 with art at its core. With a unique sense of craft and a handmade nature, her pieces stand out wherever placed.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Find a way to be honest with yourself about what you really love, not what you think you should love – and do that.
Laurence is the creative director at Yves Delorme, one of the finest bed linen makers in the world. Finding inspiration from the world around her, she is responsible for creating the brand’s ever popular prints.
Painting has always been a great source of inspiration. It creatively nourishes my sensitivity to color and my imagination. It’s a source of pure emotion I need in my personal life just as much as my stylistic work. It brings me energy, new perspectives and reflection on the world around me.
As a child I remember discovering the paintings of Gauguin. It was like a new world opening up before me; a tree could be blue, a mountain pink and it showed all the magic of contrasts we can observe sometimes in reality without being able to express it.
Cy Twombly was my first experience of contemporary painting. The color flying in stains, the raging or delicate moves, the whites, the sub-layers reveal everything about the artist. Ingres also remains a big inspiration. His approach to different hues and details in his art always fascinates me.
I am also very inspired by nature that I like to observe and feel during a walk or a long trip. I grew up in the sun of the south of France where nature is omnipresent. Walks at night in Provencal orchards where shadows come alive, luminous fireflies hidden in the hand, wild bouquets gathered along paths, all stay with me. The Yves Delorme DNA is built on the poetry of nature and it’s for this reason that I take so much pleasure in creating the designs and I want to transmit this passion through the creation of beautiful linen.
The flowers I create for Yves Delorme speak of lightness and movement. The drawings are written with lines in ink, lead pencil or watercolor to copy textures and transparencies. Sophisticated colors speak of half-tones, pastels or deep vivid nuances to evoke the freshness of the morning, the fullness of summer or the nuances of the evening. I imagine delicate associations of the reality and the imaginary so that your nights are as beautiful as your days.
Evolving from a simple scarf business to one of the most successful textile brands in the UK, Clarissa Hulse has turned her passion for colour and print into a vibrant homeware collection. Drawing inspiration from the countryside, she captures the beauty of nature in every piece.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Advice I would give my younger self… An interesting question that has made me think hard!
I regret not working for other people first before starting up my business. It did all happen quite by accident in an organic way, and I suppose if I had worked for other people and I had realised how tough it can be I might never have taken the plunge. So you can’t really have regrets… but I have learnt everything the hard way through making mistakes. I think I should have been less impatient, listened harder to advice from others, and been more patient with filing and organising (still haven’t grasped that one).
One of the most iconic design houses in the world, Missoni is loved in both the fashion and interior industries thanks to their eye-catching prints. Created by Rosita and Ottavio Missoni over 60 years ago, Rosita is still at the helm of Missoni Home which is where her great passion lies.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
When in 1965 we were looking for a place to build our factory my husband Tai said: “We should find a place to work where we would like to spend our weekends” and I totally agreed. Our choice was so right that once the factory was built we started to plan to build also our own house. The best decision in our life!
Jan Constantine creates ‘heirlooms of the future’, her instantly recognisable embroidery is unique in the industry and her goals are to keep alive the ancient, hands-on skills her talented workforce exhibit when making her colourful collection.
What’s the biggest business mistake you’ve ever made, and how did you overcome it?
I was so excited when London won the bid for the Olympic Games in 2005 that I made a successful pitch to create a homewares collection in collaboration with London 2012! It was the most difficult and disappointing thing I ever did in my business, but in retrospect, it was great because it attracted wonderful press and international coverage for my brand.
Irish retro print designer Orla Kiely’s patterns are instantly recognisable the world over. Working with many household brands over the years to give everyday items the Orla Kiely treatment, her own homeware brand continues to be one of the most popular with a host of ‘60s and ‘70s inspired designs to bring a pattern pop to any room.
What’s the best advice any one has ever given you?
Be yourself! And I think that is really important, because as soon as you try to do something that’s not really you it falls flat on its face. And that’s why all designers have their strengths and styles, and I wouldn’t want to try and do or be someone I am not. In the end I know what I can do and what I am good at, and that is important.
Ever inspired by her great grandmother’s stash of vintage ornaments at her parents English countryside home, Joanna Buchanan’s jewel encrusted collection is that added dash of glamour every home needs.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain…this is on a card that my husband Brad gave to me early on, I keep it on my desk to remind myself that this is what I chose, and to enjoy the ride!
With a passion for African fabrics and prints, Eva Sonaike created colouful homeware peices to delivery vibrancy to people's homes. with a focus on hand finishing, distinct designs and high quality manufacturing, these UK made designs will make your interior pop.
Who or what inspires you most?
Oh, that’s a tricky question. There is so much inspiration on this planet that I find it difficult to narrow this down. But the people who inspired me the most are my Mum and Dad, who are extremely hard working and both build their own successful businesses from scratch. Both in different industries (my Mum is a pediatrician and my Dad an art historian), but from an early age, I was surrounded by people who had an immense love for their family and a passion for work and combined both with ease. They also both have a love for interior and design, which I grew up with, so they were very supportive and understanding when I launched my company. In terms of my designs, I am very much inspired by my travels around West Africa, which is reflected in all my designs. The colors, patterns, nature, architecture and everyday life in West Africa are so inspiring that I always come back with new ideas from my travels.