Supporting diversity in design is essential to fostering creativity by bringing a variety of perspectives and experiences to the field that deepen the conversation rather than maintain the status quo. To celebrate Women’s History Month, Be Original Americas spoke with three design entrepreneurs to get their take on the state of the industry, what they’ve learned in their careers, and what the future of authenticity has in store. Jaime Derringer (Design Milk), Sandy Chilewich (Chilewich), and Felicia Ferrone (fferrone) each offer their unique reflections:
What is most exciting to you about the design industry right now?
The growing appreciation of artisanal craftsmanship.
I love the design that’s happening in Mexico right now. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest is a rising star in the design world. There’s some great architecture going on in Canada. I love that we’re starting to see more pockets of great design in North American places beyond New York and LA.
The most exciting thing right now is that the traditional business of design is loosening up and that’s allowing people to shape their own destinies. It’s no longer only about traditional channels that are hard to break into, if not nearly impossible. Today you can create your own channel. It’s very exciting and limitless in terms of the possibilities.
Felicia, how has blurring boundaries created new possibilities in your work?
Felicia Ferrone: This blurring has allowed me to do a wide range of design work from architecture to exhibitions, to graphic identities to products in addition to being an educator and entrepreneur. I have been able to curate every aspect of my work from the designs themselves to the image of them and how they are portrayed to the intended use in a client’s home. While designing I am always considering the architecture in which they will reside. Each of these aspects support the design intent of an individual piece, like a stone thrown into water causing a ripple effect.
What do you wish you had known starting out?
Jaime Derringer: I don’t know! I suppose I wish I had more business training. Maybe there should be a mandatory business class for artists and designers in college that focuses on dealing with entrepreneurship, self-employment, startups, and social media.
Felicia Ferrone: That nothing is as it seems.
Sandy Chilewich: The importance of having an open mind to listen to well-meaning advice.
Sandy, in a career defined by exploration, has there been a touchstone that you find your work grounded by again and again?
Sandy Chilewich: I speak often about how while I am very artistic, I am not an artist. A true artist never considers their audience when they create their own work, there is no compromise. I am always on the thin line between my own aesthetic and what people actually need and want… but this is where I like to hover. This is sometimes painful, but full of satisfaction and rewards.
What new opportunities do you see for women in design?
Felicia Ferrone: There is a growing awareness of women in design which is fantastic for everyone, and not just women. I think with the opening up of channels, women can create their own opportunities that might not otherwise be there.
Jaime Derringer: I’ve noticed more dialogue happening around women in the design world and I’d like to see more women recognized for their contributions. I would like to see more outreach toward young women to go into the field of design and architecture. There isn’t enough knowledge or information about the educational or job opportunities in this industry.
Jaime, as someone with established careers in both art & design and design media, how do you think the two industries could better support each other to foster creativity?
Jamie Derringer: I think women can do a better job of supporting each other, drawing attention to other women who are doing great things and sharing their work. We’re all fighting the same fight, so let’s remember what team we’re on and embrace a community spirit. In addition, I am a big fan of collaboration. So, celebration, collaboration, and community.
How do you stay original?
Sandy Chilewich: When I look back at the 3 product categories that became the foundation of my businesses [shoes, legwear, textiles] I realize that with all three I was compelled to wake up a tired category. If something isn’t really new, then I’m not interested in making it.
Jaime Derringer: I keep one eye on what everyone else is doing, but keep my other eye and the rest of me focused on how I can stay fresh and ahead of the game. I appreciate trends, but prefer to spend more of my energy focused on what sets me apart. I look at everything and ask, how can I be different?
Felicia Ferrone: I can find inspiration in just about anything – from a manhole cover to an old fence – and it is that awareness and curiosity that keeps my work original. In questioning all assumptions about the function, form, and our interaction with the object or system, new designs develop. One last thought about “staying original”: It’s a choice! It’s a choice to get out of bed that morning and create something new.
About the Contributors:
Felicia Ferrone graduated with a degree in architecture from Miami University, Ohio, after which she moved to Milan. Her international namesake brand fferrone was founded in 2010 and is based in Chicago. Along with producing and distributing her own design work under her brand, she also has created designs for Boffi and The Macallan. Ferrone’s expansive reach is informed by her early experience as an architect in Milan, where she was first taught to “blur boundaries.” Her award winning work is included in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, is a recipient of a GOOD DESIGN Award, and is widely exhibited and published internationally. She is the Director of Graduate Studies in Industrial Design and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. www.fferronedesign.com
Jaime Derringer is Founder and Executive Editor of modern design blog Design Milk, which quickly became the “go-to” site for unique modern interiors, home furnishings, art & architecture and is now one of the most popular design blogs reaching millions of readers across the globe. Inspired by her love for dogs, Jaime founded modern design blog Dog Milk to expose dog lovers to pet design that fits their uniquely modern sense of style. Her most recent venture, Adorn Milk, is an online shop devoted to architectural and statement jewelry. In addition, Jaime has been noted as an expert on design trends, speaks on design, blogging and social media, and offers consulting. www.jaimederringer.com
The New York based designer Sandy Chilewich is founder and creative director of Chilewich | Sultan LLC, a company managed with her partner and husband Joe Sultan. For the last three decades and with two distinct businesses, Chilewich has reinterpreted underutilized and overlooked manufacturing practices. Since 2000, Chilewich has designed innovative textiles for numerous applications. Sandy launched placemats and floormats with her original signature textiles in 2000. Her designs have transformed the way tables are dressed in homes and in restaurants around the world. Her floormats provided a clean modern alternative underfoot. www.chilewich.com