French architect and furniture designer Charlotte Perriand was a pioneer for females in the world of architecture and a true revolutionary, regardless of gender. Born in Paris in 1903, Perriand began studying furniture design at the Ecole de L’Union Centrale de Arts Decoratifs at the age of 17.
When she applied to work for famed French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier in 1927, he turned her down, saying, “We don’t embroider cushions here.”
Perriand persisted, inviting Le Corbusier to an exhibit of her furniture designs later that year. When critics began praising her Bar Sous le Toit, a recreation of a bar Perriand created for her own apartment, Le Corbusier finally gave her the respect she deserved and offered her a job at his firm.
Perriand went on to work for Le Corbusier for ten years, creating what are, to this day, many of the firm's most iconic pieces of furniture. Put in charge of furniture and interior fittings, she worked in a style that was equal parts minimal and industrial: spare details and thoughtful use of materials defined her work, and she utilized leather, wood, and steel in a way that was modern and timeless.
In 1937, Perriand went on to work for another well-known French designer, Jean Prouvé. In her new role, Perriand designed military barracks and furnishings for temporary housing during the war, but the team disbanded in 1940 when France surrendered. She traveled to Japan to work for their Department of Trade Promotion later that year, helping to import Japanese furniture and products to the West. Her time in Japan had a great influence on Perriand's later work, when she began to use materials such as wood and bamboo and took a softer, more natural approach to design.
After returning to Paris, Perriand continued to work alongside both Le Corbusier and Prouvé for the rest of her life. Her career spanned nearly 60 years, and she went on to design buildings, furniture, interiors, and decorative objects for countries all over the world. While her male counterparts often get the credit for many of her most iconic furniture designs, in recent years, Perriand has started to get the recognition she so rightfully deserves.
(Images: Louis Vuitton Foundation, ADAGP/Gaston Karquel/AChP)