6 Design Mavens Who Are Creating a Better World

With their vision, talent, and commitment, these design personalities have made our world a beautiful place.

Gert Voorjans

The master of mixing, as proclaimed by the Wall Street Journal, Belgian interior designer Gert Voorjans is as skillful as they come, and then some. renowned for his work with fellow Antwerp-based fashion designer Dries van Noten on his retail boutiques and shop-in-shops around the globe, along with high-profile residential projects that include the homes of Mick Jagger and Nina Garcia, it is his innate ability to simultaneously layer and balance textures, cultures, and eras in spaces large or small that makes him one of the most fascinating and sought-after interior and architectural professionals of his generation. A graduate of the college of Architecture in Hasselt, he worked with Axel Vervoordt before setting up his own design practice.

As the designer of the highly anticipated manila House, a members-only club scheduled to open its doors Bonifacio Global city later this year, Gert is excited to be creating an inspired bespoke space that will serve as a “meeting point for both senior and junior entrepreneurs and dynamic citizens.” using words like “bohemian” and “eclectic” to describe his vision for this project, he aims to bring together a unique sense of time and place that will marry his own aesthetic—one of a seasoned collector of all that is filled with wit, whimsy, and soul—with Filipino sensibilities and style. “Filipino culture will be mirrored with international and continental eclectic styles,” he shares. “the overall approach of manila House will be conceived as a grand English country house, with a grand hall and various salons decorated in different spirits which gives the visitor the feel of travel around the continents, with typical characteristics of the Philippine islands. Lots of nature, lots of green.”


Kifu Augousti

After two years of college at Sarah Lawrence in New York, Kifu decided to head back to Paris to start her own line of furnishings and accessories. It was a big move that has paid off. Since Kifu Paris’ launch at the Maison & Objet in Paris last September, objects from its inaugural collection have made their way to upscale shops all over the world, such as Fred Segal in Los Angeles, L’Objet in the Hamptons, Flair in New York and Florence, and Nathalie Schuterman in Stockholm.

The collection is manufactured in Cebu with materials that are mostly sourced from the area. Kifu Paris displays notable qualities—a polished aesthetic, impeccable handwork, and a cohesive conceptual vision. what is equally remarkable is the fact that Kifu is just 21. “Age is just a number,” she says. Her sophistication and grit come from many things, being the only child of high-style purveyors Youri and Ria Augousti. Kifu recalls the countless times her parents pulled her out of school to take her to exotic places, describing them as “the best education I could ever have.” the guests at the Augoustis’ Paris apartment—a steady stream of art, fashion, and design personalities—engaged the young Kifu in conversations that delved on a broad spectrum. “We talked about Jean Cocteau, the architect Andre Putnam, the latest haute couture collections,” Kifu says. Her internship at Harper’s Bazaar in New York, under the tutelage of esteemed editor Glenda Bailey, proved an invaluable experience. Kifu’s attendance at private collection previews was like a master class, with designers explaining their creative processes.

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Gino Gonzales

Gino Gonzales’ recent project holds greater significance to him than any of the 100-plus theater and stage sets he’s designed in Manila, New York, Singapore, and Japan over the two decades he has been a production designer: co-curating a retrospective exhibit on his mentor national Artist for theater Design Salvador Bernal’s exalted career. After all, it was Badong who convinced and helped him pursue further studies and finish his MFA in theater Design at New York university’s Tisch School of the Arts, and it is from Badong’s that he patterned his own design process, regarded by many in the field as exemplary, immensely thorough, and usually beyond expectations. He flinches at hearing the word “peg” (loosely used in the creative industry as a synonym for “inspiration boards”), much more when he gets handed one. “the value of hard work and research is essential in production design, especially in theater. In these days of ‘pegs,’ it seems pretty normal to execute the easy way, whereas in true research, you essentially need to go back to history and the most original source you can find and cull your ideas from there,” he says. Doing so is not only fulfilling for Gino, it also allows him to think out of the box and create the spectacular work for which he is known.


While Gino has also delved into film, television, and event set designing, he likes working with theater companies, where he gets to contribute various points of view. “Established theater companies that are known for staging classics and staid plays need a shot of post-modernity. In the same way, these struggling young companies need a dose of good old classical theater aesthetics, which they have forgotten to embrace. when I come into the picture, I try to add on an aspect, which might make their very inbred gene pool more interesting,” he shares.

Gino’s interests are a lot like his work—in touch with all kinds of art, eclectic, identifiable. “I think this is one of the reasons why I click with the likes of Virgie Ramos and Gilda Cordero-Fernando,” he says. “there’s a genuine appreciation for elegance and for the bakya. I can sit through a concert of Shostakovich’s String Quartet no.8 in C minor and enjoy every minute of it. But I can also get genuinely excited by an AlDub production number on Eat Bulaga.”

Tania Lichauco

Warm, effervescent, and stylish, Tania Lichauco unconsciously invites admiration from her peers. that her taste in clothing and design is held in high esteem is actually what set Tania’s path as an interior decorator and lifestyle consultant in motion, with several of her closest friends tapping her to design their homes.

Having grown up around such creative personalities as her mother, Baby Girl Fricke, an interior designer who operated a flower shop, a restaurant, and an antique store, and relatives national Artist Arturo Luz and architect Alfredo Luz, Tania developed a flair for style early on—but it wasn’t until later in life that her knack for rearranging spaces took a lucrative turn. “When I turned 40, my best friend told me, ‘you know, you’re so good at this. You should just do it professionally.’ Then she asked me to start with her house,” Tania says, laughing. Soon, acquaintances began calling in to ask Tania to decorate their newly built homes despite her lack of design schooling. “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re given that chance to shine,” she says.

These days Tania runs mostly a one-woman show, juggling lifestyle projects that include everything from interior decorating and event styling to training staff how to entertain at home. Citing designers Axel Vervoordt, Nina Campbell, Jonathan Adler, and Elsie de Wolfe as her influences, Tania likes to start with a palette of neutrals before injecting her own brand of eclecticism, often mixing high and low pieces to convey the same nonchalant sophistication Tania herself is known for. “Something that I try to keep in mind is that less is more. I don’t like cluttering a space,” she says. “But at the end of the day, they’re my clients’ homes. they have to be happy and their homes have to reflect who they are.”


Gabby Lichauco

The sole Filipino at the Triennale International Exhibition in Milan, themed “21st century: Design After Design,” Gabby Lichauco is the latest designer to bring pride to local craftsmanship and represent the Philippines on the global stage. Gabby’s Pescador capiz pendant lights are on display at the Triennale’s ongoing special exhibit on Asian talent, alongside 11 other exhibitors invited by Japanese curator Yoichi Nakamura. while Philippine design has steadily gained exposure in recent years, the landscape was quite different in the early years of Gabby’s career. “Growing up, there was always that liking for drawing and looking at different objects,” he says. “But design wasn’t really a known industry. It was difficult to place yourself—you were neither here nor there, whether as a graphic designer or as an architect.” After graduating with a degree in industrial design in the mid-1990s, he bode his time in various fields, from animation to finance, before he decided to commit to pursuing his passion—for better or for worse. Buoyed by his resolve, he headed to Milan to earn a master’s degree from the Scuola Politecnico di Design. When he came home, he found an industry that was more progressive than what he had left, and he established his firm, Open Studio, in 2005.

It has given rise to multiple collaborations with architects and fellow designers, including Open House, a boutique that purveys furniture, art, and home accessories by local talents such as Lilianna Manahan, Rita Nazareno, and Gabby himself. much like the world of design, Gabby says his aesthetic is in a state of flux and continues to take shape with every new project, partnership, and exhibition. “Even I myself am still trying to figure that out,” Gabby says. “As a designer, it’s a given that you will evolve. you have to.”

In Memoriam: Zaha Hadid


“I’m an architect, not just a woman architect,” Hadid once said in an interview with CNN—and although Hadid had resisted the idea of becoming a role model because of her gender, the Iraqi-British architect paved the way for many of the women in her field. When Hadid passed away in March at the age of 65, her loss was felt throughout the world of architecture, resonating with many female architects who had seen Hadid as an inspiration and a vision of their own success in a male-dominated field.

Born in Baghdad, Hadid arrived in London in 1972. She studied at the Architectural Association in London, a center for experimental design, where professors such as Elia Zenghelis and Rem Koolhaas “taught me to trust even my strangest intuitions.” This was advice Hadid took to heart. Her sources of inspiration ranged from nature and history to the avant-garde influences from Russian constructivist design. Hadid went on to become a respected mentor holding various prestigious professorships.

Soon she founded Zaha Hadid Architects together with Patrik Schumacher. Often called a “diva” by the media due to her intense focus, Hadid’s talent and ambition led her to become the first woman to receive the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. She never let her work be categorized by her gender or her background, once confessing, “I am non European, I don’t do conventional work and I am a woman. On the one hand all of these things together make it easier, but on the other hand it is very difficult.”

Hadid’s brilliant legacy lies in the complex curving forms and the monumental structures that she created. Her first major work was a 1994 fire station on the campus of the furniture manufacturer Vitra in Weil am Rhein, Germany. In 2003 she completed the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, revered by the New York Times as “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War.” Her MAXXI Art Museum (2009) in Rome drew much praise, as did the Guangzhou Opera House (2010) in China—despite complaints of shoddy labor due to the use of unskilled migrant workers. Drawing inspiration from “the fluid geometry of water in motion” the London Aquatics Center (2011) was originally built for the 2012 Olympics, and has since become a landmark neighborhood attraction. In 2013, the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan was completed. A cultural center where every roof and ceiling panel is unique. Her unfinished projects at the time of her death include the Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar and a luxury apartment building along the High Line in New York City.

Despite the focus on her gender, which certainly will fade away, Hadid was a pioneer for architecture, for women—for anyone—who dreamed big, and worked and lived life in their own way.

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