Dezeen Magazine

New York's female designers

All-women design shows are "snowballing" in New York following Trump inauguration

Multiple female-only design exhibitions have opened in New York as designers and curators aim to highlight the "inequities that still exist" in the industry.

During this month's NYCxDesign festival, two major shows are featuring only female designers. Egg Collective's Designing Women includes work by 15 New York-based individuals and studios, while Chamber's A Room With Its Own Rules brings together items by women from around the world.

On top of this, design store The Future Perfect is displaying furniture by all-female studio Rooms, while Lindsey Adelman and Bec Brittain have put on their own shows.

This follows a surge of women-only design exhibitions elsewhere in the world, many of which were spurred by the inauguration of President Trump earlier this year, and subsequent wave of global protests and "women's marches".

Egg Collective
Egg Collective founders Hillary Petrie, Crystal Ellis and Stephanie Beamer organised the Designing Women exhibition, on show in New York this month. Photograph by Hatnim Lee

The trio opened its first Designing Women exhibition at the beginning of May, with the aim to bring together and support New York's female designers, as well as raise money for a local girls charity.

They invited women they knew in the industry to participate, and received and "overwhelmingly positive response". Since opening, feedback from others in the community and show attendance have also been affirming.

"That's what felt like we made the right decision, and were striking the right tone at the right time," Beamer told Dezeen. "It's been snowballing ever since."

Designing Women exhibition
Designing Women brings together 15 of New York's female designers and studios, and is raising money for a local girls charity

The current political climate was a major impetus for Designing Women. Following last year's US election campaigns and Trump's victory, the group realised that attitudes towards women had not moved on as much as they had previously thought.

"We've been sitting back on our haunches, feeling like we're moving in the right direction," said Beamer. "But since the election, people have really realised that maybe we aren't."

In response, they chose this month's design festival to highlight and celebrate the work of their female peers.

"That's what people are wanting in this climate – to make positive moves and consolidate with their community, and look for ways to make the best of what's happening, and finally change what has been unequal forever," added Hillary Petrie, another of Egg Collective's founders.

A Room With Its Own Rules exhibition at Chamber
Matylda Krzykowski selected only women designers for her A Room With Its Own Rules exhibition at Chamber

The same week, Chelsea gallery Chamber also opened an exhibition of work exclusively by female designers. Curator Matylda Krzykowski used the fourth and final show in her domestic-themed series for the gallery to spotlight women working across art, architecture and design around the world.

"I did three shows, and during the whole process, I realised that there are so many fantastic women that are under represented," Krzykowski told Dezeen. "I had plenty of women in the other shows, but it's different if you put them all together."

Some of the work in the A Room With Its Own Rules exhibition is also politically charged. Johanna Grawunder has designed a glowing-pink lighting installation titled Pussy Grabs Back, in reaction to Trump's now-infamous taped comments about women in 2005.

"I believe that we have to focus on thriving, and really think about the possibility that we will soon arrive in this post-patriarchal context that society has been longing for a long time, but it hasn't happened," said Krzykowski.

A Room With Its Own Rules exhibition at Chamber
A Room With Its Own Rules features some politically motivated work, including Johanna Grawunder's glowing-pink lighting installation titled Pussy Grabs Back

Lindsey Adelman, a figurehead in New York's design community, has contributed pieces for both Designing Women and A Room With Its Own Rules.

"Right now it's really amazing, there's this force of momentum with all-women design shows happening right now," she told Dezeen.

The designer echoed Egg Collective's view that there had perhaps been a complacency around gender parity up until last year, but that recent political events have spurred a renewed push for equality.

"Since the election, since the marches, it's probably happening in every industry that women are feeling like 'oh so much happened in the 60s and 70s for women's rights', and then we got maybe a little complacent," Adelman continued. "Now it's time to say 'oh no we actually have to get out there again and be heard, and give our energy and time and attention to this event'."

Lindsey Adelman's Afterglow exhibition
Lindsey Adelman has organised her own show, Afterglow, to coincide with this month's NYCxDesign

She does, however, believe that the situation for female designers has improved since setting up her studio in 2006, and that now is a better time than ever for women in design.

"What's happening more than ever is that it's not as if doors were closed," said Adelman. "I've never found that doors were closed, but I did notice that I had to open the doors, because nobody's opening them for you."

"But now I think those doors have been opened, so it's a lot easier and more comfortable for women."

Recent developments for women in the creative industries include a new publicly editable directory that can be used by conference organisers to source female speakers for panel discussions, and the launch of an initiative called JustDesign.US that certifies architecture firms actively practising diversity and equality.

Rooms exhibition at The Future Perfect
The Future Perfect is hosting a display of furniture by Rooms – an all-female studio based in Tbilisi. Photograph by Lauren Coleman

The New York designers and curators all believe that their efforts this month are helping to make progress with gender parity, but know there is still much more work to be done.

Some design brands still have many more male designers on their books then female. And the first Dezeen Hot List – a guide to the most talked-about names in the industry, determined by search data – was lacking considerably in women.

"We haven't gone past patriarchy yet – far away from it," said Krzykowski. "We just need to look at the power in a lot of institutions. In the design context, it's usually men."

"Look at Capellini, who basically worked only with men. Vitra, who has Hella Jongerius between a whole range of men. So even when you walk into the offices, you see a huge big picture with a lot of men," she added.

"We are not at the tipping point yet – we are on the stage before."

Egg Collective's Designing Women is on show at 304 Hudson Street until 26 May 2017, and Chamber's A Room With Its Own Rules can be seen at 15 West 23rd Street until 15 July 2017.

The Future Perfect is hosting furniture by Rooms through July 2017, and Lindsey Adelman's Afterglow exhibition is on view at 1 Great Jones Street until the end of May 2017.