Our 2020 lineup of inspiring and visionary women from our community’s creative pool are not only breaking down barriers and forging new paths but some are reshaping the very nature of the worlds they work in. These women—from hospitality, photography, graphic design, and music—are driving change and making us look forward to the future.
Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia
Designers, Tbilisi, Georgia
Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia have put contemporary Georgian design on the map. Their unique mix of European and Asian design honed to handcrafted perfection give Rooms Hotels a warm and distinctly Georgian feel. It’s the same with their furniture, which “uses natural and basic materials that bring us back to the ‘state of emergence’ or state of beginning. That’s why, we always go back to simplicity. It is more honest and human and that is very important to us.” More than just eye-catching, their designs provoke memory, dialogue, and reflection as is the case with In Circulation Bus Stop Benches—inspired by the scratched school desks and public benches of their childhood in Soviet Georgia—where visitors were invited to return to their rebellious school days by vandalizing the wooden benches.
Designer, Eindhoven, The Netherland
Lead designer of a multidisciplinary agency in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, Annemoon Geurts has long been a proponent of local creative industries, starting with the Eat, Drink, Design event, which took place during the Dutch Design Week 2006, and was a pop-up restaurant where guests dined among, on, and with various design works. Her latest project, Kazerne, celebrates the impact of design by immersing guests in an environment where they eat, drink, meet, and sleep surrounded by the recent works of world-class design talent. “Our mission was and is to change what design means to the public,” says Guerts of the project. “Yes, design creates mood and feeling. But it is so much more than a nice chair. Designers depict new ways of living together. Their concepts and their experiments with materials and products contribute to the quality of private and public spaces.”
Monica Steffenson and Alona Vibe
Photographers, Copenhagen, Denmark
What strikes you when you look at the work of Monica Steffensen and Alona Vibe is their ability to cull emotion from architectural spaces devoid of the human element. They do this by capturing the light as it falls on various objects in the room, animating the materials and textures in turn. The duo—who’ve worked for Danish and international media outlets such as Conde Nast Traveller, VICE, Cereal, and The Guardian—are passionate storytellers both in visual and written form. “What’s so wild about photography is that it’s the only thing that can transcend time and place by capturing a moment, allowing us to be present in a time that has already passed,” says Vibe. The duo’s modern approach to visual narration can be seen in The Design Hotels Book 2020 where they shot Blique by Nobis and Kazerne.
Experimental vocalist, London, UK
London-based Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit is a self-taught singer-songwriter. Her otherworldly, transcendent music unites “Gagaku,” Japanese classical music, with opera and Gregorian chants, intertwined with avant-garde and pop musical influences as well as ambient self-gathered field recordings. She has collaborated with NYX Electronic Drone Choir, Björk-collaborators Matmos and Kevin Martin aka The Bug, while David Lynch invited her to perform at Manchester International Festival. Noit is a big believer in the power of collective consciousness: “I strongly feel the connection between the artist and the audience and space. The music is not my property alone, because together we are creating a moment in the space. I almost subconsciously feel the audience’s emotion or mood in that space. That’s very important for me.”
Illustrator, Florida, USA
Rebecca Clarke’s wonderful watery illustrations can be seen in The New York Times, Refinery29, Vogue, Zeit Magazin, and most recently in the 2020 edition of Directions. Her work focusses on expression and human experience, heightened with powerful color punches and attention to lines and texture. Clarke, who studied art in France and The Netherlands, says of her process: “I sketch small at first, then once my client has chosen a direction, I make the sketch more detailed, so all I have to do is paint. I use a lightbox and paint over my sketch with gouache and colored pencils.” The Key West resident finds inspiration people-watching from a street cafe, on the subway, and surrounding herself with beauty so “beauty comes out as well”.
Agapi & Costantza Sbokou
Hoteliers, Crete, Greece
“When you are in this business and you want to be an innovator, you think: How can you create change?” says Agapi Sbokou about the sisters’ approach to the new Cretan Malia Park. “Costantza and I feel that luxury and travel are now being redefined. People want to be part of things, to give rather than take, to return home feeling changed and inspired.” This guiding principle led Agapi and Costantza Sbokou to take the family hotel business into a new direction. Indeed, their hotel is redefining Cretan luxury through a distinctly sustainable lens with a holistic approach to wellbeing and a focus on slow-paced living. “The shift to an ecohotel initiates our vision for sustainable tourism,” adds Costantza. “To that end, we also invest in our own people. Many of our employees have their own land. So, we educate them on organic farming and then we buy their products for Cretan Malia Park. In this way, our staff feels part of the new vision.”
Architect, Shanghai, China
Rossana Hu is founding partner of Neri&Hu. In a career spanning 16 years, Hu, along with partner Lyndon Neri, has helped the Shanghai-based studio make a name for itself thanks to their uncanny ability to read into the soul of a project—a process that begins categorically with thorough research into the context of the site in order to identify its cultural traditions. Projects such as Tsingpu Yangzhou Retreat, nicknamed The Walled thanks to its series of distinct courtyards, is a brilliant showcase of adaptive reuse. “I think spaces are not neutral, they always include feelings. The feelings are deep, whether they are good or bad, happy or sad. If they are deep, I like it,” she says. The Princeton graduate was inducted into the US Interior Design Hall of Fame and named EDIDA Designers of the Year 2017 and Interior Designers of the Year of ICONIC Awards 2017 by German Design Council.