SUITSUIT recently visited the exhibition Here We Are! | Women in Design: 1900 - TODAY, at the Kunsthal. We will take you with us in this ode to female designers throughout time. We admire their endless willpower and creativity that contributes to women empowerment in the design world to this day.
Throughout history, women designers have often been overlooked. However, with a collection of over 100 designers, no one can ignore this exhibition. From well-known frontrunners and today’s artists to women who were previously not 'labelled' as designers. They are honoured in the thoughtfully designed spaces at Kunsthal Rotterdam.
The voice - and fight - of women in design
A walk through the exhibition gives an insight into both the creativeness and perseverance of women. As a visitor, you immediately walk into a world full of posters designed by women fighting for women's right to vote. The well-known 'Suffragettes' - an English women's movement fighting for voting rights - spread their message from 1908 in eye-catching posters full of women from all classes. The meaningful designs caused a growing attention to the women's movement. By starting the exhibition with these posters, the Kunsthal is making a clear statement for the importance of women in design - from 1900, to today.
Design as an expression of identity
You might think of design as being about the most expensive chairs, tables, and sculptures you can't easily afford yourself - but this exhibition shows that design is even more about the story behind it and the way in which they reflect our identity and sometimes homeland as well. Think of a designer like Hella Jongerius, who designed the asymmetric 'Polder Sofa', for example, based on the Dutch landscape and its polders, the lowlands that were once part of the sea. Or Kalkidan Hoex who creates a 'cultural crossover' in her own jewellery designs as a tribute to her Ethiopian roots.
Female leadership in new experiments
Also featured is work by Gűnta Stolz, who was the first woman to be in charge of a department at the Bauhaus. Her work in the textile department was a source of income for the school. What was striking about the beautiful works she created, was the use of colour and her unusual weaving techniques.
Apart from the famous Bauhaus, there was the Loheland Schule in Fulda, Germany: a school where only women were allowed to attend. Artist László Moholy-Nagy used the photographic experiments as inspiration for his photograms. One of those photographic experiments, is the image of four jumping women, which appears on the exhibition poster as well as in the exhibition itself.
Pioneers drawn out of the shadowsCharlotte Perriand's artistic designs also get the credit they deserve at the museum. She once applied to - the most well-known architect at the time - Le Corbusier, who waved her off with " just go and embroider elsewhere". Determined as Perriand was, she did not allow herself to be discouraged and worked for Le Corbusier for ten years. One of her designs, the reddish-brown swivel chair that’s also on display in the exhibition, was considered Corbusier's work for many years. However, Perriand made a name for herself as a designer and her later works also show how she adds her uniquely feminine touch in the use of soft - versus primary colours.
As SUITSUIT, the bag designed by Jeanne Toussaint caught our eye immediately. This artistic director of Cartier was an important pioneer in the jewellery collection. Louis Cartier was so impressed by her imaginative talents that she received an invitation to work for the Maison. As a result, Jeanne designed handbags, beauty cases, and all kinds of accessories during her career.
She is making a difference
From the most exceptional furniture and textile designs, jewellery by Cartier, to posters of the activist art movement Guerilla Girls and the futuristic designs of Pauline van Dongen - there is more than enough to admire. For example, van Dongen made 'Zonnestof', a solar-powered fabric into which dark strips have been woven. These strips generate energy when exposed to sunlight and consist of a special kind of fibre that conducts electricity. Van Dongen has visionary ideas about steps towards sustainability: think of people who don't want solar panels but do want curtains made of solar fabric.
Also on show is Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, who uses a 3D printer to create unique shapes of fabrics and new blends of materials. It is amazing to see how she manages to transform modern technology and almost futuristic designs into such organic forms.
There is an endless number of stories to tell about Here We Are! | Women in Design - 1900 to now - and a visit made us wonder: who were the female pioneers standing behind this exhibition? We will soon get the answers to this burning question. For we will talk to Charlotte Martens, Senior Curator at the Kunsthal, and ask her in-depth questions about - and her own views on - the exhibition. Stay tuned!
The exhibition can be seen at the Kunsthal Rotterdam until October 30th.