Celebrate International Women’s Day with these influential female designers

To celebrate International Women's Day, we pay homage to some of the most influential female designers of the 20th century

A black and white portrait of Lucienne Day

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.

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1

Lucienne Day

A picture of Lucienne Day holding her 'Calyx' pattern
Image: Courtesy of Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation

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.

2

Herry Perry

The 'Country Joys' poster by Henry Perry
Image: ‘Country Joys’ by Herry Perry, £69.95, London Transport Museum shop

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.

3

Ray Eames

A rocking chair designed by Ray Eames
Image: Eames ‘RAR’ chair in white, £442, The Conran Shop

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.

4

Barbara Hepworth

A picture of Barbara Hepworth at Trewyn studio
Barbara Hepworth at Trewyn Studio, 1961, by Rosemary Mathews, courtesy Bowness, Hepworth Estate

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.

Barbra Hepworth Porthmeor custom print, from £25, available at Tate Shop
Barbra Hepworth Porthmeor custom print, from £25, Tate Shop
https://shop.tate.org.uk/hepworth-porthmeor/barhep1505.html?cgid=barbara-hepworth
5

Lana Mackinnon

Image: 'Mermaid, Cherub and Chair' in fushcia wall mural, £60 per sq m, Surface View
Image: ‘Mermaid, Cherub and Chair’ in fushcia wall mural, £60 per sq m, Surface View

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.

6

Florence Knoll

Celebrate the life of Florence Knoll
Florence Knoll
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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.

Florence Knoll red 2 seat Cato sofa, £8,220, The Conran Shop
Florence Knoll 2 seat Cato sofa, £8,220, The Conran Shop