In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March — a day for honouring the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women — we’re highlighting trailblazing young women in design and other creative industries. These female designers, DJs, architects and film directors have earned notable achievements, paving the way for those to come.
American graphic designer, art director, illustrator and educator Jessica Walsh is the owner and founder of &Walsh, one of the 0,1% of creative agencies owned by women in the USA. After earning her Fine Arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008, Walsh interned under Paula Scher, the first female principal at design firm Pentagram, before becoming partners with Austrian-born, New York-based graphic designer and typographer Stefan Sagmeister, and ultimately starting her own company.
Lungelihle Zwane, known as Uncle Waffles, shot to fame after a video of her performing a DJ set in October 2021 went viral. The Swaziland-born 23-year-old amapiano DJ and producer went on to tour internationally, release her debut album and snag a residency at BBC Radio 1 as she spreads the South African genre around the globe. She will be performing at the iconic Coachella Music Festival in California in April.
Charlotte Wells is a Scottish director, writer and producer who shot to fame for her feature film debut, Aftersun, which premiered in 2022. The 35-year-old New York-based director studied dual Fine Arts and Business Administration degrees, during which time she created three short films. Aftersun debuted at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim, and has since earned the director a BAFTA.
Albanian-born Nensi Dojaka established her eponymous fashion label shortly after graduating from Central Saint Martins art school in London in 2019. The womenswear designer, whose signature cut-out designs have quickly become favourites among celebrities like actor Zendaya, and singers Dua Lipa and Rihanna, was awarded the prestigious LVMH Prize for Young Designers in 2021.
Sumayya Vally has already chalked up enough remarkable achievements for a lifetime and shows no signs of slowing down. The 33-year-old co-founder of Johannesburg-based architecture firm Counterspace was the youngest architect ever to win the prestigious Serpentine Pavilion commission in 2020, was included in the Time100 Next 2021 list of emerging global leaders, and was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2022. In 2023 alone, Vally was named an honorary professor in the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London, and served as the artistic director of the inaugural Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah.
Product designer Renata Souza graduated from New York’s Parsons School of Design in 2017, the same year that her thesis project, Thumy, an insulin kit for children with diabetes, was selected as a national finalist for the James Dyson Award. The following year the young Mexican-American designer presented at the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town. She has gone on to develop Thumy into a market-ready product, while also working as a furniture and product designer.
Liberian centre celebrates women
Photographs: Nensi Dojaka, Jessica Walsh, Uncle Waffles, Iwan Baan, Charlotte Wells, Renata Souza.