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Women In Design

Design has always reflected the events and traditions of our society. We have seen how artists and designers of each generation led the ideas of change and rebirth to move away from the traditions and the manners and methods of the past. A few of these movements are the Renaissance of the 14th century, the Modern Architecture Movement of the 20th Century, the Avant-Garde Art and the Zero Art Movement that we recently discussed in one of our articles.

Throughout the history, women and men around the world have contributed to the formation and progression of design. In this article, we honor 3 women who shaped the world around them with their unique and innovative designs in different areas of architecture, product design and fashion.


photo by Sebastian Boettcher

"There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?"


Zaha Hadid was born in Iraq in 1950 and moved to London when she was 22 to study architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Hadid opened her architecture firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, in 1980. In the early days of practicing architecture, most of Hadid's work was beautiful and detailed hand drawing proposals of buildings for projects like the Hong Kong Peak Club. She got international exposure when her drawings and paintings were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art exhibition "Deconstrutivism in Architecture".

Legacy- Architecture:

Hadid's style of architecture was about staying true to a central idea while adjusting elements to fit the needs of the clients and other structural and site limitations of the projects. In an interview with Oxford Union discussing the relationship of structure to site, Hadid explained her design for the Maxxi Museum in Rome as a response to the site. As Hadid described, the Maxxi building mimics and interprets the surroundings as it adjusts to every angle on the site and every corner of the building responds to an existing geometry of the site. The result is an architectural space that is new but also contextual.

Photo from ArchDaily

Known as queen of curve, Hadid embraced curved corners and shapes in her designs. One of her professors at the Architectural Association School, Koolhaas, described her as the innovator of the 89 degrees as nothing was at a 90-degree angle. We can see this clearly in all her designs but most definitely in her Heydar Aliyev design in Azerbaijan.


- First woman to receive Pritzker Architecture Prize- 2004

- UK Stirling Prize - 2010

- UK Stirling Prize- 2011

- Royal Gold Medal- Royal Institute of British Architects (the first woman to have achieved this award)


“What works is better than what looks good. The looks good can change, but what works, works.”


Ray Kaiser Eames was born in California in 1912 and moved to New York after graduating from college and became greatly involved in New York art scene during this time. At the MoMA's "organic design in home furnishings" competition, Ray assisted Charles Eames on a group of molded plywood furniture designs which ended up winning the competition.

Legacy- Modern Product Design:

Ray and Charles Eames have significantly influenced modern architecture and furniture design and made modern design accessible to public. From early days, their designs focused on practical and affordable furniture for a modern and yet accessible domestic lifestyle.

Utilizing the technology and materials available from the US Navy during the WWII, the couple was requested to build leg splints made from plywood for the officers of the war. This led to a strong contribution to the war effort but also built the foundation for their furniture design later on and the popular Eames Chair Wood, with curves to support human body, which to this date is a strong and stable piece in all modern households. The Eames had a huge impact on all areas of design and modern living including art, product design, architecture (their family home in California post war utilizing industrial materials), textile and even films.


photo by Eve Arnold
"For me it is just the same to work with fabric or stone."


Germaine Émilie Krebs, known as Alix Barton and Madame Gres, was born in Paris France and studied painting and sculpting to become a sculptor however she ended up going into fashion and clothing design as her parents did not support sculpting. Gres applied her learning from studying and making sculptures to clothes making which made her land a job at Maison Premet and start her career in haute couture and design. This role helped her develop and define her signature minimalist and timeless drapery dresses.

Legacy- Fashion & Couture

Alix opened her first fashion studio Alix (even though she changed the name and partners a couple of times) and her drapery and elegant compositions of her dresses became her signature style. After marrying a Russian painter, Alix designed the Madame Gres label, derived from her husband's name. Gres stayed true to her vision of beautiful and elegant couture even during the WWII when ordered by German forces to design utilitarian clothing. Her persistence against this order caused her the closing of her couture house ordered by the German forces in early 1940s.

Gown by Madame Gres- Henry Clarke/Galliera

After a couple of years Madame Gres started her second fashion house the "Madame Gres" which led to one of her most popular designs, the draped Grecian goddess gowns, perfected by over 300 hours of hand labor each and shaped perfectly to human body.

Madame Gres had a significant influence in the history of fashion and haute couture design. Her attention to details, strive for perfection and stubborn belief in herself and her vision are among a few things to remember and honor about Madame Gres. Her designs showcase a sense of simplicity and modern minimalism of art and sculptures while celebrating female body.

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