J.J.'s Egypt Spirit Tour

Inspiring Design Sisters

In the spirit of sisterhood that emanates from La DoubleJ’s heart-center, we introduce our Women in Design portrait series. Lensed by the Australian talent Robyn Lea, we step into the worlds of our favorite female designers and collectors during Milan’s Salone del Mobile, exploring each woman’s latest creations and passions through the prism of individual style. From Milanese design royalty Nina Yashar to young color alchemist Tekla Severin (who just so happened to win this year’s Elle Decor’s International Design Award) we pay homage to the city’s design-world grand dames and shine a light on the magical work being churned out by the next generation of emerging wunderkinds. Creativity is the pulse that beats through everything we do here at La DoubleJ, so it is with joy that we present these remarkable women who foster sparkling originality, unbridled curiosity and extraordinary exploration in abundance.

Nina Yashar

Nina Yashar is often called Milan’s most glorious design goddess, and the exaltation is word perfect. She founded the Nilufar Gallery in Milan’s Via della Spiga in 1979, originally specialising in antique carpets - a passion inherited from her Iranian parents, which today brims with the city’s most exquisitely curated collection of mid-century furniture gems from Gio Ponti to Ettore Sostass and Carlo Molino. A great believer in design to tell stories, she has made it her life’s work to uncover some of today’s most celebrated young talents from all over the world, including Bethan Laura Wood and Martino Gamper, and thrust them into the spotlight. Her exhibition for Salone this season was no different, an entertaining and immersive experience displaying 17 new wunderkinds. While Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt’s lamps play with narrative and color, the Grecian creative whirlwind Anestis Michalis’s one-of-a-kind ceramics connect with cultures past and radiate with emotion.

Tekla Severin

An alchemist of color, Tekla is the interiors magician taking the design world by storm with her unique eye for playful palettes and experimental off-beat shades. Clashing brights and layering tones, this Swedish multi-hyphenate spirals between interior architecture and photography using color as a device to conjure a fresh, energetic and youthful mood. Put it this way: purple and brown never look chicer than when paired together on a Tekla moodboard. German AD recently named her as one of the most influential people in the design industry today - oh, and she’s an Instagram sensation too. Her Salone presentation revolves around the concept of slow living, with spaces designed to encourage passions and enjoy, naturally splashed with Tekla’s contemporary blend of feel-good color.

Patricia Urquiola

Patricia Urquiola is a world-renowned architect, product designer and queen of collaboration, with her seriously impressive roster of clients running the gamut from Louis Vuitton to BMW and the Mandarin Oriental. Setting her ethos apart is an interest in experimental materials which she filters through the creative approach of a Milanese master - picked up from her early years training under the legendary Achille Castiglioni. As a result, her pieces have been pedestalled in museums around the world, most notably, perhaps, her modernist Fjord armchair, inspired by a seashell broken and smoothed by the waves, which is now included in MoMA’s permanent collection. Alongside her own studio work, this Basque beauty is the art director of Cassina and presents their latest collection for this edition of Salone.

Bethan Laura Wood

Jewelry, furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics - the London designer Bethan Laura Wood is truly multidisciplinary, pushing her unfaltering energy for color into every corner of the design industry with unconventional beauty and complete creative wizardry. With maximalism in her roots - quite literally, her glorious rainbow hair is the ultimate in high-vibe style - she experiments with a riot of color, texture and detail to amplify the everyday, creating a dialogue between beauty and modern living. For Salone she cast her magic over the 1967 Superonda sofa with Terrazzo, a new fabric inspired by the tiles of Venice that imagines precious stones mined from a psychedelic landscape.

Laura Sartori Rimini

Laura Sartori Rimini is the doyenne of Milan’s design scene, no overstatement. The sought-after architect is one half of Studio Peregalli (the other half is the philosopher Roberto Peregalli), one of the last truly old-guard Milanese design firms that blends their respective worlds to create unique interiors with uncompromising Italian craft and beguiling old school charm. An LSR interior is instantly recognisable, lavishly brimming with antiques she sources from around the world, each arranged with all the opulence and romance of a 17th Century still life painting - a true antidote to the often sanitised sheen of hyper contemporary interior design. Her skill is breathing these ancient worlds to life, which she does with the help of her team of over a hundred craftsmen - who work in their Milanese studio, open for Salone and the rest of the year - to give their interiors a practical boost as well as an honest artisanal handmade touch.

Bethan Gray

Creative to her core, Bethan is the darling of the British design scene who has been quietly scooping up awards left, right and center, for her contemporary furniture infused with a distinctly earthy ease. Bethan’s signature is her ethereal handcraftsmanship. Her love of artisanal techniques and honest materials is innate, and she calls on her nomadic Rajasthani heritage and woodworking genes to create pieces that cross culture, place and time. Think: chic tables adorned with the inner-shell coating of pearlescent molluscs or magical side tables crafted in jade with discarded goose feathers deftly inlaid. Typically intrepid, her inspiration for Salone drew on the billowing movements of Dhow sails journeying from the Gulf of Oman to the Arabian Sea, which she translated into a large scale art piece with sweeping brush strokes and ultramarine ink. The resulting pattern swirls dramatically across her meticulously crafted Inky Dhow collection of vases, sofa and console tables, evoking a sensuality that feels feminine and totally unique.

Draga Obradovic

Cutting her teeth as a textile designer in London and Milano, Draga’s USP is super luxe fabrics so it makes sense that her shared design studio, Draga & Aurel, operates out of Como - Italy’s heart-centre for the highest quality silks and craft cottons. Draga’s years of experience orbiting various creative worlds as a model, painter and fashion designer, all synchronise in her talent for creating veritable works of abstract art, by painting directly onto the fabrics she finds. Draga & Aurel fuse these with bespoke vintage furniture, reinventing the cherished pieces into covetable contemporary that stand the test of time thanks to the pair’s flawless touch. The duo looked to the 1970s for Salone, filtering its exuberant creativity into upholstered beds and armchairs that are irresistibly tactile and bold.

Sara Ricciardi

Sounding the siren for a new generation of socially conscious makers, Sara has ignited the industry with her dynamic design ethos that doesn’t fit in a box. You name it, the 32-year-old has already turned her hand to it - product design, gallery installations, performances, interiors - each brief crafted with a poetic story to unravel that has now become a Ricciardi signature. It’s no surprise her Hypernova installation at Tortona Design Week was one of the week’s most talked about. Modelled in otherworldly panels, Sara crafted a space that was the stuff of Instagram dreams, doused with hyper saturated color and outfitted with sounds of the universe designed to lull visitors into a state of happy relaxation. Where do we sign up?

Ana Milena Hernandez

Dancing between the realms of art and design, Ana is the interiors maestro who makes up one half of the award-winning Spanish creative studio Masquespacio. Formed with her creative partner Christophe Penasse, the duo is driven by a shared rebellious streak to bring design to life in vivid color, whether through reimagining a Turin burger joint interior in an off-beat palette of olive, salmon and sky blue, or splashing 1,850 square feet of student housing in lavender and orange. The Masquespacio effect in three words? Total visual impact. For Salone, the duo put their lifestyle brand, Mas Creations, centre stage with a dreamy showcase of 3-D printed objets rendered in sculptural forms and - of course - a wild palette of hues in a complete masterclass for color devotees.

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