Catch a glimpse of the ingenious minds behind the superior designs that were honoured with DOTY 2021’s Women Empowering Designer Award.
The Women Empowering Designer Award (WEDA) recognises women’s dedication to excellence and leadership in innovation within the traditionally male-dominated design industry. Established to boost female designers along with their impressive array of talents and achievements, this special award is presented to the powerful women cementing their legacy with every move made in this field. Receiving this invaluable accolade under the Designer of the Year Awards (DOTY) 2021, an illustrious event organised by ACG Media, are eight of the following female designers who have surpassed societal barriers and stamped their own mark across the Malaysian landscape with their uniquely noteworthy designs.
Remember to check out the interview sessions with all the recipients of this award category, available on the QCTV (Quick Chat TV) Youtube channel.
Lau Yee Yin
MDNS Studio Sdn Bhd
Initially intending to pursue the fashion design route, Lau Yee Yin decided to deviate to the equally intriguing realm of interior design. The founder of MDNS Studio Sdn Bhd wholeheartedly believes that people and how they live should always be at the epicentre of design as humans are always in search of a good mood and good environment – preferably going hand in hand.
Yee Yin knows that women can do far more than what others expect them to, having to prove this misconception time and time again in order to be respected as an equal.
The toughest challenge faced so far was dealing with the financial aspect of the business during the pandemic as well as the start-up stage when she began without any connections at her disposal. Nevertheless, owning her own business was a dream come true, following the footsteps of her father who also took the same path to independence. “If my father can do it, I can do it,” the designer confidently proclaims.
As a strong advocate for a work/life balance, Yee Yin even had a ‘BALANCE’ tattoo done recently as a constant reminder of this philosophy. “Stay determined. Be independent. You need to be mentally very tough. Always tell yourself, you can be more than what you expect”, she advises.
Chloe Shee Mon Ying
Shepherdgate Concept (M) Sdn Bhd
As a firm believer in the classic principle of “less is more”, Chloe Shee Mon Ying is a faithful admirer of the muji and minimalist styles. Considering the 21st century lifestyle is fraught with stress, the founder of Shepherdgate Concept (M) Sdn Bhd maintains that the residential space needs to be clutter-free in order to soothe its occupants. It should go without saying that neutrals tend to be her go-to colour palette to achieve this.
At the thought of working in a traditionally male-dominated industry, the designer is filled with pride as she learned to be tougher, deal with all kinds of individuals and empower herself to solve any issues. She quickly dispelled the false notion that female designers can only draw in the office by always aiming to do it on site in front of the construction workers, demonstrating her strong capabilities. On a side note, she invokes her know-how as a music writer during her design process, visualising colours and images of interiors upon listening to the tunes.
Chloe discovered her advantage as a female designer by being able to easily step into the shoes of her female clients, understanding their perspectives to then cater to their specific needs. Moreover, her natural tenderness as a woman helped her to communicate and solve site issues. She encourages emerging female designers to “not be afraid of hard work and do not give up on your original intention.”
Nur Syazwani Wagiman
Always keen to implement clean, neat lines into every project as long as it is aligned with the client’s brief is the Design Director of Kort Studio, Nur Syazwani Wagiman. Often going by the moniker of ‘Wani’, the aficionado of minimalism considers design to be an art as much as it is a science. To her, the details implemented in design is the design itself, so it is best to make it simple but significant.
In order to break the pattern of being questioned on every move she made as a female designer, Wani decided to assimilate and bend her ways in certain situations while ensuring she remained gentle yet tough to achieve her goals. When standing as the only female in the room, she actually finds it easier to express her voice and have it heard. She is glad that the industry is evolving for females, not just in having many ID firms being owned by women but in recognising their achievements too.
While marking the establishment of Kort Studio as her greatest achievement on every level, Wani acknowledges the tough obstacles that arose in the process such as the lack of industry connections. “Brace yourself, learn as much as you can and be tough because it’s a roller coaster ride. All your hard work, sweat and tears will pay off in the end”, she advises.
Joyce Ng Sue Chi
Matt Design Sdn Bhd
Upon entering the working world, Joyce Ng Sue Chi found most people – especially contractors – assuming that women are not so suitable for this industry, expecting females to be more fussy, too delicate to work on-site and holding unreasonably high expectations. In turn, they became reluctant to listen to her comments, follow her instructions and compromise.
Fortunately, this changed over time with the demonstration of her capabilities in solving issues on site with detailed oriented, creative thinking. Speaking of which, the Creative Director of Matt Design Sdn Bhd says, “Design is a creative solution to enhance people’s lifestyles and bring convenience to them.” Understandably, she tends to gravitate towards the simple, clean and peaceful ambience evoked by the ever so popular Scandinavian and minimalist trends.
For the freelancer-turned-business owner, the most demanding challenges faced occurred during and after her pregnancy when she had to first work from home and later the confinement centre. Despite the physical presence of the site supervisor and employed designers, Joyce remained active via electronic gadgetry to ensure every project ran smoothly. In a way, motherhood more or less prepared her for working life during the pandemic. She encourages other aspiring female designers to always “be yourself, do your best and be proud of all your achievements, whether big or small.”
Mieux Design Sdn Bhd
As a lucky anomaly, Sheila Chang has managed to escape the restrictive confines of sexism commonly experienced by young female designers. She attributes this to her position as the founder of her own company, Mieux Design Sdn Bhd, as well as established friendships with most of the contractors, making it easier to converse and problem-solve with them. She believes that since today’s era affords equal exposure to knowledge and opportunities for both genders, the experiences faced ultimately boils down to an individual’s attitude and determination towards their career path. Nevertheless, she finds that site workers may be more willing to teach female designers a thing or two when asked.
Taking a creative segue, Sheila views great design to be a form of storytelling which connects people and spaces. Fair to say, she is enraptured with classic designs that include cherished vintage or antique pieces – including those that stretch all the way back to the 16th century.
Apart from being able to support her family, achieving the exposure and appreciation for her work from the public has been Sheila’s greatest achievement. With that said, she encourages others to visualise what they want to achieve in their career and never give up on the journey to attaining it, citing the successes of many great women throughout history.
Janice Yong Zhi Yi
(Co-Founder and General Manager)
LINE2PIXELS Studio Sdn Bhd
Upon leaving the banking line behind in search of more flexibility and family time, Janice Yong Zhi Yi co-founded LINE2PIXELS Studio Sdn Bhd with a trusted partner from an interior design background not too long ago in 2018. Having already harnessed a great interest in the industry prior to switching, this bold move may not have been viewed as completely out of the blue. Having said that, the fan of the wabi-sabi trend emphasises on a balance between function and aesthetic.
Fortunately, Janice’s clients have not succumbed to any sort of gender bias, judging solely on one’s professionalism. However, she admits that female designers need to take on a more assertive but not pushy persona when communicating with the construction workers. The General Manager of the company with an approximate 80% female staff recalls overcoming this challenge with great patience and quick adaptability.
Aside from managing to retain the whole team without any pay cuts during the pandemic, her proudest achievements include successfully learning new information and skills for a different industry at a later age. “Don’t let your gender be the showstopper. If you really have passion for something that you like, work very hard to achieve it,” she urges up-and-comers
WHT Design Studio
Believing in the magnetic power of emotion, Jessica Cheah declares that interior design should reflect and materialise the client’s personality, character and lifestyle. Talking about ‘magnetic’, the founder of the recently established WHT Design Studio is drawn towards masculine vibes and dark hues when it comes to her own personal style of design, courtesy of their collectively commanding essence.
To the surprise of none who know her well, Jessica enjoys working in a customarily male-dominated environment as she finds men to be more straightforward and helpful. The designer notes a balance in the treatment given to both genders in this industry, except for the typical disadvantage for the female counterpart during site visits. Henceforth, confidence is a must or else external doubts regarding your abilities will creep in.
Learning to adapt to people’s expectations and desires which evolve over time was the toughest challenge for her. Having found the passion and love for her profession, not to mention receiving the gracious gratitude for her work from clients, has been some of her greatest achievements. Therefore, she would like to encourage other female designers to be bold, determined and find joy in what they do.
Sharon Loh Wei Tieng
GDY Design & Construction Sdn Bhd
Upon her travels to Hong Kong, Sharon Loh Wei Tieng discovered the acronym of ‘GDY’ of which its meaning in Cantonese translates simply to “Live With Style” in English. Lending itself as the inspiration behind the name of her own company founded 15 years ago, it is also connected to her most favoured style of design: modern oriental.
Coming from a background in architecture, she later ventured into the exhilarating world of interior design which allowed her to witness the final outcome of her endeavours a lot sooner. Despite today’s more gender-accepting climate, Sharon believes that women must still show that they’re willing to do what men can’t or refuse to do. For example, she – as the only woman present too – was the only one eager to show up on site to handle a leakage problem for a hotel refurbishment project, after all the male contractors and consultants were initially reluctant to follow suit.
The designer deems flexibility to be most essential in dealing with the challenge that is human management, equating it to playing with kites by knowing exactly when to give leeway and when to institute a firm hand. De-stressing through her obsession with underwater diving, the freediving principle of owning courage to unlock all of one’s capabilities is applied into her work life. Citing financial independence as one of her greatest achievements, she advises others to “Believe in yourself and do what you like. Stand your ground and tell them you can do it.”
Before diving in, do remember to keep your eyes peeled for interview sessions with all the recipients of this award category, available on the QCTV (Quick Chat TV) Youtube channel which will be released in September-October.
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