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March 8th is International Women’s Day – an event that is very close to my heart. It is a day that’s dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Importantly, this day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. I have long been a champion of supporting women to enable each and every one to fulfil their potential, wherever it may lie. I think it’s vital to celebrate our achievements, whenever and wherever they happen. In the luxury bathrooms industry so much progress has been made already, which of course is hugely encouraging. But there is still so much more to do.

There is no shortage of super-talented female designers, or retail business owners. However, women remain under-represented within manufacturing and product development. And I feel that the industry in general is poorer, creatively, as a result. Women perceive the world differently – and this is a strength, not a weakness! I do not believe that the road to equality is paved with replication. Rather, we should celebrate and capitalise on what makes us different. We do not have to think or act like men, or simply try to copy what they do, in order to be successful. We need, instead, to embrace our unique talents, insights and approach to work. Only then can we become a powerful force for change, and meaningfully shape the future of our industry.

Spreading the word

In support of International Women’s Day, I was recently invited to write an article for leading trade title kbb review magazine. The subject – celebrating the achievements of women within our industry – was a privilege to consider. It is absolutely fitting to praise how far women have progressed. And it is certainly uplifting to look forward to the exciting opportunities the future undoubtedly holds.

One of the many things that women do well, I believe, is to unite form and function. As I wrote in kbb review, I would like to see more products designed and manufactured by women-led teams. This would result in more products that are fit for purpose, sustainably produced and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Looking ahead, these will be the credentials for the most successful products. Because it’s clear that consumers will become more, not less, demanding. And only products (and businesses) that fulfil their multiple demands will survive and thrive.

International Women's Day young designer at work in studioUniting function and form is one of the many skills women excel at – and which is likely to become even more important as the industry evolves

The kbb review Awards

I fully believe that ‘if you can see it, you can be it’. That’s why mentoring, and showing support and solidarity, are such important elements of International Women’s Day. Successful women need to be visible – and vice-versa. That’s why I was so honoured to be asked to be a judge at the 2020 kbbreview Awards. Naturally, I was especially thrilled that the New Bathroom Retailer category was won by a female-led business last year. In my privileged position as a judge, I picked Rouse Bathrooms, which was founded by Claire Algar, who’s worked in the bathroom industry for 20 years. I hope that we see many more female winners at these awards in the years to come. It’s impossible to underestimate how much such high-profile female achievers can inspire the next generation.

Clare Algar Rouse Bathrooms
Blazing a trail for women in the industry: Rouse Bathrooms founder Claire Algar has been instrumental in building the success of the company, which won New Bathroom Retailer at the 2020 kbbreview Awards

Inspiration and the art of extraordinary

On a related note, I am often asked what, and who, inspires me! Many elements and female fashion creatives have influenced my designs. Over the years, my style has changed with the times. However, I would say that elegance, with striking shapes and colours – plus a touch of individuality – remain key themes.

Grand Deco mirror 60 by 90 cm

Art Deco is my favourite era for design: it exudes glamour and luxury. I adore the rich colours, striking geometry and attention to detail. These themes certainly manifest themselves in my work, for example, in the Grand Deco Mirror and Porterhouse collection I personally designed.

Porterhouse rectangular 120 mirror 120 by 70cm

I must mention Valentino Garavani, known for his glamorous yet flamboyant designs. Choosing a man might seem strange when we are highlighting International Women’s Day, but I love his attention to the feminine form. (And I also think we need to move away from the idea of man v woman. There is no right or wrong. Successful companies foster a diverse workforce at all levels.) Both in fashion and design, I look for symmetry and attention to detail with a touch of flair. I suppose I always look for that certain something which elevates a product from ordinary to extraordinary.

Mental health matters

After the events of 2020, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of wellbeing and mental health. This isn’t just a topic for International Women’s Day. This is a topic for every day. Wellness is not a new buzzword, and we should certainly not used it as an empty marketing phrase. I think it’s fair to say that women have always been very open to conversations around mental wellbeing. And they have always understood how our environment can influence it. Bathrooms are not just about ‘wash and go’. Far from it! Women appreciate that our industry is related to self-care, relaxation, calm and escape. And they understand very well how to translate that using elements such as biophilic design principles.

the importance of wellness for International Women's DayThe right bathroom design can enhance elements of wellness and self-care – something women in our industry have always understood

The way ahead

While celebrating the achievements of women is always important, it’s vital to encourage the achievers of the future. But how do we do this? The key theme of International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. This year’s message is that, collectively, we can all help to create an inclusive world.

Sofia Charalambous celebrating International Women's Day

I will always support career-driven women in our industry – together, let’s share our journeys to the top

I was very fortunate to experience relatively few barriers growing up. There was certainly no shortage of very strong female role models in my immediate family! So this idea of working “in a man’s world” was never an issue for me. But I realise that not everyone is this lucky. And ambition and confidence must be carefully nurtured, which is why mentoring is so important. It’s imperative that successful women (in this and other industries) seek out their talented, ambitious peers who are at an earlier stage in their careers. Guidance, motivation, contacts and emotional support from women who have ‘been there and done it’ are absolutely invaluable. And this sisterhood should work both ways. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to female role models in your industry. Ask them to advise and guide you. Only by sharing our journeys to the top, can we keep our progress going.


At Origins Living, we’ve been transforming bathrooms for more than 25 years. If you’d like more advice about how to incorporate biophilic design principles into your latest bathroom project, call 020 8599 8080 or email: