International Womxn’s Day: 100 womxn and non-binary creatives to be inspired by
This year we’re celebrating International Womxn’s Day by finding out who some of our favourite women and non-binary creatives’ very own favourites are, collated together in a list of 100 brilliant creatives to be inspired by.
For the past few years, we have celebrated International Womxn’s Day by dedicating It’s Nice That to championing womxn working in the creative industries and the incredible breadth of work that they produce. In the process, we’ve investigated crossing the gender divide in textiles, discussed why there’s a lack of womxn in animation and heard from several new mums returning to work after maternity leave. We’ve also chatted to the likes of Anne Lund, Nadia Lee Cohen, Malika Favre, Natasha Jen, Tea Uglow and Joana Choumali, and Yumna Al-Arashi.
However, this year we decided to focus all our efforts into championing as many voices as possible in one place, collating 100 womxn and non-binary creatives to be inspired by this International Womxn’s Day and beyond.
To do this, we got in touch with ten creatives whose work, process and outlook we admire in order to find out which womxn and non-binary creatives working today keep them inspired. The following list is a mix of illustrators, stylists, comedians, activists, photographers and designers, each of whom represents what it means to be a womxn in the creative industry today: nuanced, empowering, hilarious, smart, ridiculously talented, and everything in between.
Next time you’re looking for a creative to commission, a speaker at your conference or someone to interview, we hope this list will be a valuable resource and will stop our industry falling on the usual names – let’s not forget that the UK creative industry alone remains 60 per cent male and 90 per cent white. We have discovered so many new names through this process and hope you do too.
Aries MorossCreative powerhouse Aries is an illustrator, designer and founder of Studio Moross. Notably working with numerous music clients, Aries’ previous projects include working with MTV, Lovebox and All Points East festival.
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1. Jillian Adel
2. Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley
3. Jillian Adel
Aries Moross is one of the most powerful voices in the creative industry. A graphic designer, illustrator, director, artist and founder of Studio Moross, they have worked with the likes of the Spice Girls (omg), Nickelodeon and Nike, art-directed stage and broadcast designs for MTV EMAs, and numerous Lovebox and Parklife identities. Not only is Aries’ vibrant aesthetic unmistakable, but they are also using their platform and community of fans for championing change in the industry.
Unsurprisingly, Aries’ list of creative womxn is equally pioneering, and spans disciplines from styling, photography and tattoo art to illustration, art direction and graphic design, including artist and animator Danielle Brathewaite-Shirley: “I saw their performance at the BBZ BLK BK graduate show in 2019 and it moved me deeply,” Aries says. “Their work centres around the black trans experience and archives their stories, ‘those that are living, those that have passed and those that have been forgotten.’ Their sound design, use of technology and gaming engines are completely spellbinding and must be experienced.”
Also among Aries’ covetable top ten is designer, illustrator, and artist Jillian Adel, who they say “inspires me daily”. The work, Aries describes, is “not driven by aesthetics but by emotion, story and thought. The work she does online as an activist is as powerful as the work she does on paper. Drawing letters is more than just alphabets, it’s about what you write and Jilian is a perfect example of that in action.”
Aries’ list in full:
- Photographer and art director Christina Poku
- Illustrator Wednesday Holmes
- Artist and animator Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley
- Art director and graphic designer Anna Czuz
- Illustrator Genie Espinosa
- Tattoo artist Emily Malice
- Photographer and photo editor Poppy Marriott
- Designer and illustrator Jesse Julien
- Stylist and boss at Fem Zine Mia Maxwell
- Illustrator Jillian Adel
Anny WangSwedish spatial and furniture designer Anny Wang is a co-founder of art and design practice Wang & Söderström.
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1. Audrey Large
2. Inés Longevial
3. Jenny Nordberg
4. Nadia Tehran
Anny Wang is a spatial and furniture designer, now focusing on digital and physical explorations within her partnership practice alongside Tim Söderström. Operating a highly unique studio in Copenhagen, Wang and Söderström’s long list of clients includes The New York Times, Apartamento, the Nobel Prize Organisation and Burberry, tapped up for their ability to reimagine objects and spaces.
With such a wide ranging practice utilising many mediums, we were fascinated to see the broad list of creatives Anny looks to for inspiration. For instance, the work of computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, who has taught Anny “about injustices and bias in technology, it has also made me understand how important it is for creatives to continue to influence and challenge digital tools in their practices,” Anny tells us. Also reiterating how it is necessary “to broaden the representation in a field that for too long has been occupied by one specific group or gender.”
Elsewhere it’s photographer Maya Fuhr who Anny admires from afar, “another genius woman”, she says. “Her photos are very relatable but still very magical and aesthetically wise on top! I like how she can capture the mundane but evoke imagination.” Closer to home is Anny’s friend Nadia Tehran an artist and musician who she describes as “with great bravery has built up her own artistic world. The way she takes her own commands, speaks her mind and cares for all details with great ambition is so inspiring.”
Anny’s list in full:
- Artist and sculptor Hannah Levy
- Computer scientist and poet of code Joy Buolamwini
- Illustrator and graphic designer Linnéa Puranen
- Designer and artist Audrey Large
- Artist Kate Cooper
- Musician and artist Nadia Tehran
- Designer Jenny Nordberg
- Artist and food designer Laila Gohar
- Photographer Maya Fuhr
- Artist Inès Longevial
Stephanie SpechtBelgian graphic designer Stephanie Specht runs Studio Specht, a design practice with a focus on brand identity, illustration and book design.
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1. Sigrid Calon
2. Crystal Zapata
3. Ine Meganck
4. Ines Cox
Working as a graphic designer to much acclaim over the past decade is Stephanie Specht, a Belgian designer with an art direction eye we absolutely adore. Rich and varied in her use of colour, typography and playful layouts, each project of Stephanie’s is somehow even better than the last – all because of her unique creative intuition.
Choosing her fellow graphic design peers as her creative womxn picks, the first is Crystal Zapata, a designer based in Chicago who, despite having only met her once, “I liked her a lot,” she says. “She was passing by Antwerp and since we only knew each other through Instagram, we thought it’d be great to meet up in person. We had a coffee and a super nice talk.” Ever since Stephanie has watched Crystal grow as a designer in style, admiring from afar: “She’s so free in her work,” she continues, “something I also really find important: to be able to renew, reinvent yourself all the time. Not an easy thing these days as a designer, but she’s good at it and it inspires me!”
Another designer is Sara De Bondt, who Stephanie has always admired and “even though I don’t know her personally that well, Sara played a big role in my life,” she tells It’s Nice That. Back in 2016 Sara advised Kali Nikitas, the chair of communication arts and founding chair of the MFA graphic design program at Otis College of Art, to visit Stephanie’s studio. “After that, Kali invited me twice to come to Otis for a residency, where I met some of the other female designers on my list: Tanya Rubbak, All the Way To Paris and Hezin O. I’m grateful for all these beautiful connections!”
Stephanie’s list in full:
- Graphic designer Crystal Zapata
- Antwerp neighbour and designer Ines Cox
- Design educator Kali Nikitas
- Designer Tanya Rubbak
- Tanja and Petra from design studio All the Way to Paris
- Designer Sigrid Calon
- Designer Sara De Bondt
- Type designer Charlotte Rohde
- Her colleague and designer Ine Meganck
- Designer Hezin O
Nadine RedlichGerman illustrator and veritable genius Nadine has had her work published in several magazines and published her own books: Paniktotem, Ambient Comics and I Hate You – You Just Don’t Know It Yet.
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1. Anna Haifisch
2. Tove Jansson
3. Lala Albert
4. Sarah Louise Barbett
For many years we have wondered what flies around the mind of German illustrator Nadine Redlich. A unique voice in cartooning, Nadine’s blobs, rocks and red nosed little characters have audiences around the world in stitches – whether they’re reading Die Zeit or hungover and scrolling through Instagram.
Finally offered the chance to ask the illustrator who feeds her inspiration, Nadine of course came back with a vast list of characters, jumping between illustration, comedy and some absolute heroes too. Within illustration it was a whole host of newer names to us that Nadine recommended, noting the work of Lala Albert and her “beautiful and unsettling comics”, the hilarious mind of Sarah Louise Barbett and her “weird close-ups and dog drawings” and another “mother of dogs” Dorothée de Monfried.
Elsewhere in her list illustration continues as a common thread, with Nadine pinpointing the work of Tove Jansson – no need to introduce, queen of Moomin Kingdom – as well as artist Stefani Glauber and illustrator Margot Ferrick’s work with it’s ability to create “unique drawings that break my heart,” says Nadine. Humour wise the illustrator also includes her favourite comedian Maria Bamford, but also the work of Lisa Simpson, a fictional character but still valid, particularly pinpointing this quote of Lisa’s “Mom, romance is dead. It was acquired by Hallmark and Disney in a hostile takeover, homogenised and sold off piece by piece,” as to why she’s deserving of a spot. Finally, closer to Nadine personally is “the artist herself” Anna Hafisich, but also her publisher, Rita Fürstenau, the “nicest boss on earth, who also makes cool animal drawings”.
Nadine’s list in full:
Gem FletcherArt and photo director Gem Fletcher has a wide-ranging career as the photo director of Riposte magazine, an arts and culture writer, consultant and podcast host.
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1. Michelle Groskopf
2. Ruby Wight
3. Devyn Galindo
4. Holly Blakey
Gem Fletcher is a photography and art director, writer and more recently a podcaster, having launched The Messy Truth, a series exploring the future of visual culture and what it means to be a photographer today. She is photo director of Riposte magazine, has written for The Guardian, British Journal of Photography and It’s Nice That, and has consulted for the likes of Nowness, Ted and WeTransfer, sharing experience and lessons learned from over ten years working with photographers and filmmakers around the world.
Drawing from this eclectic and far-reaching pool of knowledge, her list features a make-up artist, set designer, cinematographer and choreographer, as well as curator and writer Kimberly Drew. “‘When you walk into a room, think about who’s not there and why? What have you done to create opportunity for someone else? What is your timeline for creating change in your community?’ These are just some of the powerful questions Kimberly Drew asks us to think about,” Gem says. “She’s made a commitment to holding space for others, focusing on accessibility and equity in the art world. She’s creating a new world order built on optimism and the small gestures that have lasting impact.”
Of course there’s also photographers, including Michelle Groskopf. “The street is both her muse and her spiritual home,” Gem describes of her work. “It’s a space for her to connect with all kinds of people and truly celebrate the beauty in our flawed existence. Photography for Michelle is a higher practice – a privilege to be a chronicler of our times. What I love about both her and her work is the infectious energy; she cultivates joy in everything she does. She’s also not afraid to show her vulnerability, putting herself out there day after day chasing shots and picking herself up after the bad experiences that are just a reality of the job. Street photography is tough – but Groskopf meets it with love.”
Gem's list in full:
- Curator and writer Kimberly Drew
- Photographer Michelle Groskopf
- Photographer Prarthna Singh
- Digital art director Ruby Wight
- Set designer Amy Friend
- Make-up artist Raisa Flowers
- Photographer and director Devyn Galindo
- Podcaster and journalist Kara Swisher
- Cinematographer Beatriz Sastre
- Choreographer Holly Blakey
Muslim SisterhoodBased in London, Muslim Sisterhood is an artistic collective working within photography, publishing and events, creating an “inclusive creative community centring Muslims”.
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1. Sondra Perry
2. Maria Mahfooz
3. Hawa Arsala
4. Maria Mahfooz
5. Bernice Mulenga
A collective based in London, Muslim Sisterhood was founded by photographer Lamisa Khan, and artists Zeinab Saleh and Sara Gulamali. Primarily functioning on Instagram, the trio has a clear mission and has been working hard to achieve it since the project’s inception: represent normal Muslim women who aren’t bloggers, fashionistas or Bake Off winners.
What began as a photography project has expanded into something much more, and today, through their online platform, zine and events – including self defence and belly dancing classes – Lamisa, Zeinab and Sara have fostered a genuine and invaluable community. It’s for this exact reason that we reached out to find out which womxn Muslim Sisterhood would want to shout out, and they certainly delivered.
Profiling and introducing us to a host of incredibly talented names, spanning everything from political activists, creative strategists, fitness instructors and journalists. Manara, a DJ based in London is someone the trio “have to stan” for the way she “blends house, grime, a lot of Mariah and Bollywood samples so beautifully.” Manara has monthly radio shows on Rinse FM, BBC Asian Network and NTS. “Her warmth radiates any space she’s in, Manara is shaking the table and we’re shaking a leg,” Muslim Sisterhood says.
Journalist and editor in chef of XXY Magazine Tahmina Begum, on the other hand, made it into their list for the way her writing “empathetically explores, politics, race, religion in an educating and empowering way… Her hard work and kindness is an inspiration and we admire the way that she champions voices in her community and shares her platforms to create space for important conversations.”
Muslim Sisterhood's list in full:
- DJ Manara
- Journalist Tahmina Begum
- Women's rights activist and certified sexual health educator Angelica Lindsey-Ali
- Fitness instructor Kelechi Okafor
- Artist Maria Mahfooz
- Artist Bernice Mulenga
- Creative and strategist Hawa Arsala
- Artist Sondra Perry
- Political activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
- Illustrator Nourie Flayhan
Rose PilkingtonLondon-based digital and motion designer Rose has a long list of exciting clients (and fans) including XL Recordings, Stella McCartney, Burberry and It's Nice That too.
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1. Christabel MacGreevy
2. Ellie Kathryn
3. Elyse Graham
4. Marguerite Humeau
A firm fave over here at It’s Nice That, London-based digital artist Rose Pilkington’s hyperrealistic works merge patterns and colours from the natural world with the textures of the digital. Over the years, the artist has solidified herself within the creative scene, lending her signature aesthetic to brands including Converse, Nike and Burberry as well as collaborating with artists like Jamie XX and publications Lady Beard.
Rose is an artist willing to push her practice further. For example, when we worked with Rose as part of our Ways of Seeing campaign, we asked her provide an alternative look at the Turner Contemporary in Margate. Not content to play it safe, she used the opportunity to try out 3D tracking on live footage for the first time. Clearly someone with a big ambitions and the skill to back it up, we were eager to know which creatives Rose admires, and her list features a range of disciplines from photography and illustration to art.
Polly Morgan, for example, is an artist Rose has been following since the early days of her career – “she has always come across to me as such a strong long-standing female figure in the art world,” Rose says. “I absolutely loved the recent reinvigoration of her latest work – she has always made taxidermy contemporary and turned it on its head, but her recent works are bizarre, playful and don’t take themselves too seriously. She’s also a real babe and seeing a handsome woman like her butcher meat is a juxtaposition I like to see.”
On the photography side of things, Lea Columbo’s work stood out to Rose for its bold and primary use of colour, a kind of imagery which always speaks to her. “Ive noticed the way she processes her photographs manually with chemicals has some kind of strange and beautiful reaction which affects the colour and makes them particularly vivid,” Rose describes. “She seems to be a woman making strides in the industry and doing very much what she wants to do, which is always brilliant to see.”
Rose's list in full:
Daiana RuizKnown for her fearless portraits of women, Bueno Aires-based illustrator Daiana Ruiz's use of shape and pattern represents the fascinatingly multifaceted female form.
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1. Honey and Prue
2. Els Woldhek
3. Maria Luque
4. Lilian Martinez
Daiana Ruiz is no stranger to It’s Nice That. The Buenos Aires-based illustrator’s figurative and abstract creations are not only beautifully captivating, but they also have an important message, too – that being how women are commonly both underrepresented and misrepresented in mainstream media.
Combatting these issues, Daiana chooses to depict the varying and powerful female form in its entirely. That’s why she was a must when it came down to our final selection for our International Women’s Day feature; her optimistic, positive and empowering portfolio depicts the modern woman in all its different shapes and forms.
As for the ten creatives that inspire her work, Daiana has chosen a selection that’s equally as powerful and diverse as herself, as well as those featured in her illustrations. First, there’s Liniker Barros, a vocalist, artist and trans black woman who’s “existence and resistance” is what influences her the most, particularly in terms of her support and sense of community that she brings through her music. Then there’s artist duo Honey Long and Prue Stent whose work is so infatuating that it basically sends an “impulse” for Daiana to create.
Daiana's list in full:
- Photographer Carlota Guerrero
- Creative and art director Jamie-Maree Shipton
- Photographer and director Renell Medrano
- Fashion designer Iris van Herpen
- Visual artist John Yuyi
- Els Woldhek from design studio Odd Matter Studio
- Lilian Martinez from art brand BFGF
- Photography duo Honey and Prue Stent
- Vocalist and artist Liniker
- Illustrator Maria Luque
Jiye KimBased in Seoul illustrator Jiye Kim has gathered a captive audience since graduating from Kingston School of Art in 2017. A highly delicate illustrator, Jiye draws the details of everyday life.
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1. Jee-ook Choi
2. Margaret Calvert
3. Tara Booth
4. Kim Hee Eun
We first met Jiye Kim back in the summer of 2017 when the budding young illustrator applied for our annual regular, The Graduates. Just graduated from Kingston University’s illustration and animation programme, Jiye’s uplifting work caught our attentions for its minimal strokes with maximum impact. Catching flickers of movement or gestures on paper, her observational doodles showed a prowess far beyond her years. It’s a visual expression she has continued to push since then, experimenting with different, more pared back styles of illustration as you can see here, or here for instance.
So when we asked the Seoul-based illustrator to take part in this mega feature for International Womxn’s Day, we were eager to see what kinds of creatives she would pull out of the bag. As expected, it’s a varied bunch. From an illustrator she met while on her Foundation course at Kingston, to the iconic Margaret Calvert and a Korean costume designer designing for film and soap operas, Jiye’s list is eclectic to say the least. She says of past classmate Hanna Klinthage, whose work has allowed Jiye to realise the value of originality: “Both artistically and personally, she was a huge inspiration to me and she’s still one of my favourite illustrators. I’ll never get bored with the witty characters, they are just adorable!”
Elsewhere on her list, she cites another It’s Nice That favourite, Tara Booth, for the “pure joy of drawing” that shines through the page. Elsewhere still, she mentions legendary graphic designer Margaret Calvert, for her “thought provoking and refreshingly positive” outlook on the design industry as a woman. In an interview with It’s Nice That’s editor, Margaret, who’s best known for her work on road signs throughout the UK, said: “Whenever I get invited to contribute to books on women designers, I always turn them down. Because you should be judged by your own work, not your gender. I don’t want to be hived off in a women’s group. I’ve arrived where I’m at now with collaboration and help, mainly from men. That’s how it is with me. But in the 1950s, women were brought up to be, in a way, subservient to men, to find a husband before you’re 21, have babies and support him in his opinion. Well, I never went down that path at all. But you always have to hold your own, and I could be put down in a meeting by a remark like, “She was very aggressive.” Well, I wasn’t – I simply had a point of view and women weren’t expected to have a point of view.”
Jiye's list in full:
Flo NgalaNew York-based Flo is a photographer and photojournalist notably known for her work for The New York Times – landing her first cover in 2019.
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1. Stacey Abrams
2. Ronami Ogulu (for Crack magazine)
3. Flo Ngala
4. Dyymond Whipper-Young
Is there anything more joyous than seeing a community enjoying themselves together during carnival, or a group of talented young ice skaters loving what they do? It’s series documenting events such as these which made us fall for the work of photographer Flo Ngala. Based in New York, Flo has a passion for authentic storytelling and photojournalism and she cemented her position as one of the best with a New York Times cover photo documenting young black figure skaters from her hometown at a club which she had previously attended while growing up.
That’s not to say that Flo’s new to the game, however, as she’s been the personal photographer for artists including Cardi B who she documented for two years. As someone who perfectly straddles the worlds of commercial, documentary and photojournalism and as someone who has wide-ranging interests, we wanted to know who Flo has had her eye on recently.
Ronami Ogulu, Burna Boy’s sister and stylist was someone she had to include: “Her vibe is like one of those girls you see in school that people want to be friends with cause she exudes this awesome energy when she walks into a room,” Flo tells us. “I really admire and respect her for her taste and opinion, the way she carries herself is something I aspire to borrow and integrate into my everyday life.”
Stacey Abrams is a politician and comedian and someone Flo worked with for the upcoming March issue of Rolling Stone. “Her humility and youthful energy, especially being a politician, gave such context to her rise to popularity. It just makes so much sense she’s not only a brilliant woman but she understands how to connect with people, as a photographer that’s something I personally am trying to do everyday,” Flo elaborates. Someone else Flo has previously worked with is Dyymond, a painter. The pair met after they both competed in an advertising competition for a job. “We’ve had a handful of experiences since then as she lives in Philly and me in NYC but I can honestly say she’s one of these people that I hang around who make me wish I had 20 more friends just like her,” Flo remarks. “To make things even better, she’s super sharp and super cool AND super talented… She’s just the bomb, I literally am a fan.”
Flo's list in full:
- Executive producer Tahira White
- Stylist Christine Nicholson
- Designer and photographer Wendy Ngala
- Stylist Ronami Ogulu
- Politician Stacey Abrams
- Make-up artist Erika La Pearl
- Artist Dyymond Whipper-Young
- Creative marketing director at Netflix Marissa Calhoun
- Photo editor at The New York Times Eve Lyons
- Creative director Valentina Muntoni