ELLE Decoration Editors around the world tackle the challenges for women in design

For International Women’s Day we asked our inspiring ELLE Decoration international Editors to share their thoughts on the issues in their respective countries, and to tell us about the women who have been sources of inspiration across their career

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From Vietnam to Sweden, India to Germany, the ELLE Decoration International family has many talented female Editors-in-Chief striving not only for more stylish homes, but also for positive representation in the industry. We caught up with 11 of those inspiring leaders to get their unique perspectives on the issues in their countries – as well as the steps that are being taken to continue the momentum for change worldwide…

EUNMI CHAE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ELLE DÉCOR KOREA

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
In terms of architecture/interior design, young female architects who are just rising seem to be starting to move in a different way than before. Rather than being recognised as ‘disciples’ by working for a long time in the apprenticeship system and at the major architect agencies, they tend to start independent studios from early on.

There is a group called SOFA (Society of Feminist Architects) that shares stories about how they are treated, and about the reality of female architects. They also publish a journal with the same name. With women breaking away from poor routes and pioneering their own paths, the challenge seems to be to unite more with each other and secure their fields/rights to stand in.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
Charlotte Perriand. Le Corbusier’s furniture design and kitchen module system actually stemmed from her sense and sensibility, and I think she is a first-generation female designer who is respected all over the world.

In that sense, architectural lighting designer Ko Ki-young and landscape designer Jung Young-sun, are also role models. @chaesojang @elledecorkorea

THUY DUONG. NGUYEN PHAN, MANAGING EDITOR OF ELLE DECORATION VIETNAM

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
The overall landscape in my country’s design world is that there are still only a few female architects and interior designers working in comparison to their male colleagues.

The pressure coming from traditional and social perceptions of a woman’s responsibilities to her family, as well as the fact that working in a developing design economy like Vietnam, means you need to socialise in a male-dominated environment. It takes time and a lot of getting used to the existing male codes in order to communicate efficiently and effectively.

I think by initiating open platforms and working formats for young female designers to learn how to wisely and effectively communicate within Vietnamese cultural context, a media like ELLE Decoration can take part in making the changes that need to be made, for a better future for everyone.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
It’s been Frida Kahlo all along. It’s the exceptional aesthetic and raw visual language that I’m attracted to, also her inner strength and her tireless creativity. @lonesloth @elledecorationvn

FRANZISKA FROSCH, MANAGING EDITOR, ELLE DECORATION GERMANY

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
I think the challenge for women in Germany is similar, regardless of the field in which they work. And that is to live up to the demand for perfection in themselves. I would wish for us women that we could finally let go of the idea of having to do everything on our own and join forces more. I also have the feeling that young women today are already much better at this.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
I have been inspired by many women. Not so much superstars, but the women around me. Friends, business partners, entrepreneurs I’ve met. I am inspired by women who are passionate about what they do. And they are everywhere. @elledecorationgermany

NAZ GÜRLEK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ELLE DECORATION TURKEY

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
Turkey is still among the countries with gender inequalities. However, we have very successful female designers in the fields of fashion, jewellery and craftsmanship. We can say that the proportion of women in the field of industrial design is almost equal with men. But, unfortunately, the representation of women in the fields of engineering and technology-related design is quite low.

It was with sociological studies on the behaviour of women in the 1970s that design products targeted consumers according to gender. However, the stereotype of kitchen products reserved for women, like the technological devices reserved for men, should change with the advent of a more open society today and where precisely this kind of stereotype could gradually disappear.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
There are many women who have inspired me in my career! First of all, Arzu Karamani Pekin – Ex-Editor in Chief of Marie Claire Maison magazine – is the woman who inspired me the most to make my first step in this profession. She guided me with her strong character, inquiring mind, high energy and general awareness.

Interior designer Aslı Günşiray showed me the way with her multicultural and elegant choices to create a brilliant aesthetic setup. Ceramic designer Nuray Ada is my best example of dedication to work. She makes me see the pure beauty of simple details. @mygardenmysoul @elledecorationtr

CECILIA VON MENTZER, MANAGING EDITOR, ELLE DECORATION SWEDEN

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
In fact, we have many female designers in Sweden who are widely known in the world, such as Front design and Monica Förster. What I want to highlight is that things are worse with the representation. The design world is very white. We need to lift people with different backgrounds.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
Even though I am no longer a news journalist, I have always been inspired by Barbro Alving, who covered both the Spanish Civil War and World War II. She was at the forefront of female journalism. And it is impossible not to mention Astrid Lindgren as a source of inspiration. Her wisdom and warmth are needed more than ever. @cillavm @elledecorationse

JUDIT OSVÁRT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, ELLE DECORATION HUNGARY

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
The biggest problem in Hungary is systemic and not primarily gender-related: there are very few local furniture, textile, lighting factories etc. where designers can find jobs and work as employees. As a result, most designers, whether male or female, are forced to create their own company and/or brand, and use only their own resources in each phase of its production.

This means that the same person who creates the designs issues all invoices, manages the communication, negotiates with partners, does the legwork in terms of sales… Unfortunately, once you have children, all this becomes un-manageable for the same single person, especially if it is a woman, which means that most of them leave the trade and there are entire design fields where there are almost zero female designers nowadays.

Of course, two of the most typical differences between men and women are also very common in our country: firstly, that certain professions are still considered to be very ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ (interior design in the former case, textile design in the latter), and secondly, that men are taken more seriously in this field (and therefore earn much more money).

Nevertheless, being a designer is still subject to a certain gentle smirking in Hungary – it’s still considered a bit like artists in our country, and society does not really regard them as serious and important professionals.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
For me, Ilse Crawford is definitely the role model. She started her career as an editor (she was the founding editor-in-chief of ELLE Decoration in the UK and made it a massive success), she has a huge lexical knowledge, and revolutionised the world of interior design magazines. For the last twenty years she has been working more as an interior designer and she became an unquestionable trendsetter in this field, too.

Her philosophy is that we use objects and spaces with all our senses, so it’s not enough for something to be beautiful – it’s also important that it feels good to the touch, that it’s made of natural materials, that we can relax in its presence. Home-making should be much more about senses, experiences and sensations rather than trends, style or fashion, she says, and I absolutely agree with that. I also find the modesty and humility with which she works to this day exemplary. @osvartjuci @elledecorationhu

MRUDUL PATHAK KUNDU EDITOR, ELLE DECOR INDIA

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
Like in any other industry, women in general find it challenging to juggle professional and personal life. The co-operation and equal participation of other family members is the only way out of this struggle. While we have started raising our daughters to be more independent, we have to ensure that our boys are sensitive towards gender and an evolving world.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
If we look back in time to the mid-18th-century, there is one lady who is unjustifiably understated — Ahilyabai Holkar, Queen of Maratha Malwa kingdom, India. She is an inspiration who constantly swam against the tide of her time to become not only a true leader of her people.

She was instrumental in creating a variety of cottage industries that are still up and running. She had created numerous robust infrastructures which have stood the test of time. When it comes to religious and architectural heritage her footprints are still present way beyond her territories from the foot of the Himalayas to the shores of the Indian Ocean. @mrudul.pathak @elledecorindia

EVELIEN REICH, EDITOR IN CHIEF ELLE DECORATION NETHERLANDS

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
There is a veritable mountain of female talent and still so many international brands choose to work primarily with male designers. This isn’t about the quality, as some claim, it’s about being comfortable with a status quo. In other branches quotas have been introduced and this has had a positive impact. To gain a different point of view, you also gain insight in a different demographic. I think we, as media, have to keep driving the message home that incorporating the female perspective is essential.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
The list of female creatives that inspire me is virtually endless and I discover new names literally every day. If I had to name one from the past, whose work continues to inspire me it would be Charlotte Perriand. At first dismissed by Le Corbusier, she persisted and showed that she was in fact very much his equal. @evelien.reich @elledecoration_nl

MARTA RIOPEREZ, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ELLE DECORATION SPAIN

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
I just see the need to stop collectivising gender as a reference to an activity: titles such as ‘women designers’ or ‘women architects’ should be eradicated so that they are not seen as an exception, just as we do not mention the word ‘men’ when referring to a profession.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
Patricia Urquiola is a living force, for her ability, her talent, her dynamism and her generosity. @martarioperez @elledecoration_es

MALGORZATA SZCZEPANSKA, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ELLE DECORATION POLAND

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
The ideologies and social norms prevailing in a given country have always affected the success and perception of women artists and designers. The main limitations that women in Poland (and therefore also designers) are still experiencing are related directly to the cultural conditions, upbringing, economic situation and, last but not least, Polish mentality, which still primarily ascribes to women the roles of wives and mothers.

As a result, we often give up our career and personal development for the benefit of our family or a partner’s career. Nevertheless, despite these limitations and a male-dominated design market, Polish women designers prove that they are as gifted and talented as men, achieving still greater successes in Poland and internationally.

Recent events in our country have also shown the strength of women, their determination to fight for themselves and their rights in every area of life. The first step to change is raising children based not on gender, but on individual needs and sensitivities, and emphasising equality of all human beings.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
I have always been inspired by women artists. Their stories have made me understand that I cannot live without creating. This is why my professional path was and is related to creating: painting, fashion styling, interior design, creating magazines. In both my professional and private life I have crossed paths with many fascinating and successful women.

And although for each of them that success looked different, those meetings, talks and interviews were often a driving force for me, leading to sometimes unexpected and unintended changes. Among the many wise words that I have heard and read, those are the ones that I sometimes quote: ‘always try to listen carefully’ and as Lucienne Day – the designer with whom I share the love of silk painting said ‘good design should improve the quality of life.’ These words still ring true for me. @margeritasz @elle_decoration_polska

CÉLINE TREMBLAY, EDITOR IN CHIEF, ELLE DECORATION QUEBEC/CANADA

What are the challenges for women in the design world in your country today and what do you think is needed to make things change?
Challenges: lack of time, more difficult access to funding (proven), and under representation in leadership positions, despite often superior education. A lingering sense of imposter syndrome at the heart of success. The solution? Education, education, education.

Is there a woman that you’ve considered as a role model or a source of inspiration through your career, and why?
Pascale Girardin, the ceramist. I have tremendous respect for her. As an artist, she has developed, enriched and refined her creative trajectory throughout her life. Her work is monumental, profound and spiritual. She has transformed large spaces into pure poetry. Her signature is precise, her approach philosophical. She lives well from her art, which in itself is a feat. I appreciate her immense curiosity, her integrity, her perseverance, and her audacity. @ellequebec @ellecanada

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