‘Existence, Experience and Representation: Women and Design in Post-War Italy’ is in reality a series of individual case studies of women designers’ experiences, objects and representation that seeks to combine a ‘women designers’ approach with alternative, inclusive approaches enabled by the feminist perspective adopted here. The focus is on professional women furniture designers who operated from the immediate post-war period to the mid-1970s, concentrating on those women who were part of the Milanese design scene. The dissertation has been divided into two parts, each preceded by a preface which examines the critical approaches adopted. The first part, ‘Existence and Experience’ asks why women were in a minority, looking at the gendered nature of furniture and the profession, their presence in design education, the educative and employment legislation and lastly what factors enabled women to enter the profession. It then examines their experiences as designers, noting the trend for male-female partnership and the consequences this had and the relations amongst women. The last section in the first part looks at alternative, ‘feminine’ aspects of post-war Italian design. Part two, ‘Representation’, examines women’s cultural representation. Focusing first on the contemporary design press and then on design history literature, and including recent developments in this field. Together, the chapters attempt to highlight the contribution of women furniture designers, explain the reasons behind their scarcity in both ‘reality’ and in terms of our knowledge, and also aim to show the continuing relevance and potential of feminist approaches to design history.
MA Design History and Material Culture
21 Dec 2015