Some of the most recognisable designs of the 20th century – from patterns to furniture, posters to sculpture – have been thought up by female designers. Here are some of our favourites.
Lucienne Day was not one to hang off the coat-tails of her husband, renowned furniture designer Robin Day. After her ‘Calyx’ pattern (which she is pictured with, above) caught the eye of tastemakers at the 1951 Festival of Britain, it became the go-to fabric for interior designers of the 1950s and ’60s. She went on to become the first female Master of the elite Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry and her textiles can still be bought from Classic Textiles for £75 per m.
Herry Perry (also known as Heather Perry) was the most famous of a roster of female designers that London Transport cultivated during the 1920s and ’30s. She trained at the London School of Arts and Crafts and her designs, which are often seen on postcards and posters, were originally used to promote day trips out to the London suburbs. The first ever recorded poster designed for London Transport by a woman dates from 1910.
Image: Eames ‘RAR’ chair in white, £442, The Conran Shop
Ray’s creative designs along with those of her husband Charles were a tour de force in 20th century design. Ray was already blazing a trail in abstract art before she met Charles and they began their collaboration on designs that led to pioneering work on fibreglass furniture and using plastic resin. You can find a wealth of their designs at The Conran Shop in both full-scale and miniature versions.
Brought up in the early 1900s by a father who believed in giving all his children the same level of education regardless of gender, Hepworth went on to become one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century.
Her only real precursors in the field of abstract sculpture were Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and she also pioneered techniques of working directly with the material rather than sending off casts to master craftsman, as had been done historically. Discover more about her and the three exhibitions celebrating her work this year in our May issue, out 2nd April. You can buy prints of her work from Tate Shop from £25.
Due to her tragic early death at the age of 44, Lana Mackinnon has not had the recognition she deserves. A textile artist whose work featured in both the V&A’s 1946 Britain Can Make It exhibition and the Festival of Britain in 1951, she was heavily influenced by her travels in Paris and Scandinavia, making her designs appear as fresh today as they did then. Her family have spent many years researching her archive and have recently remastered her best-loved designs. You can buy them from Surface View from £60 per m.
You’ll possibly have already seen some of Florence Knoll’s glossy and understated furniture designs in stylish offices, department stores and hotels, or indeed in the house of an on-trend friend. Though perhaps you didn’t quite recognise them as the mid-century design classics that they are, as they look just as fashionable today as they did in 1940s America. You can buy Florence Knoll furniture from The Conran Shop.