Women in Design – Part 1

Part 1: Women in Design

Laura Pomponi

Laura Pomponi

Historically, vessels were captained and crewed by men, and the hangover from the male-oriented days of yesteryear stretches into the present. Times are rapidly changing, however. In the next instalment of our Women in Yachting series, we speak to female yacht designers Laura Pomponi, Adriana Monk, Sabrina Monteleone-Øeino and Daniela Zulli. They shed light on what makes them tick as designers, and how being underrepresented in the sector has affected their careers.

Women in Design – Laura Pomponi is the heart and soul of Luxury Projects, a talented team of architects, designers and engineers pioneering in elegant spaces. For Laura, “luxury is in the details”, but she also draws inspiration from the words of the godfather of Italian aesthetics, Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

One of the things that most draws Laura to superyacht design is the unbelievable creative opportunities that come with working in the luxury sector. She qualifies this, however, with the reflection that “the sky is never the limit”. Beyond the exhilaration of being privy to a luxury wonderland, the satisfaction that Laura derives from her work is “the relationships that you build with the clients”. It is clear that the unique combination of technical and human challenges is what drives Luxury Projects: “We put our heart and soul into what we do, and when this is rewarded with true friendship we are so pleased.”

Adriana Monk, Founder of Monk Design, spent 10 years working her way up the echelons of the automotive sector before making the shift to the nautical world. According to her, car and yacht design possess the common denominator of “a thorough appreciation of practical luxury” – both are forms that take into account both beauty and functionality. “The relevance between automobiles and boats is intrinsic,” Adriana explains, “For example, designing the interior concept of the sumptuous Rolls Royce Phantom is comparable to the comforts of superyachts.”

Adriana cites “dealing with clients who are fulfilling their dreams” as being one of the biggest perks of her job. However, all designers must walk the line between creative vision and client specification, and she concedes that “the most rewarding projects are the ones where owners allow the designers the freedom to express ambition.” Adriana’s dream client would give the green light to ecological materials and innovative construction techniques; a reflection of her desire for “a more sustainable future with an environmental approach that respects craftsmen but also integrates new technologies.”

Sabrina Monteleone-Øeino’s professional lifeblood, aside from “getting to meet people of very different tastes, backgrounds and personalities”, is the pursuit of beauty. She is enamoured with aesthetics, echoing Elsie de Wolfe’s famous pledge to “make everything around me beautiful”. “What I love doing most is making spaces interesting to look at,” says Sabrina, “This is achieved with great colours, delicate fabrics, special pieces and sumptuous materials.”

The founder of interior design firm Sabrina Monte-Carlo cites the differences from project to project as the thing that most excites her about her work: “We completely change styles – and often countries!” Like Adriana, Sabrina has a dual background in design, specialising in both residential properties and yachts. This two-pronged approach can be credited with the professional diversity that she so enjoys: “Whilst I love a beautiful contemporary yacht project in Monaco, doing luxurious classic Belle Epoque villas on the Côte d’Azur is also a lot of fun.”

Daniela Zulli considers herself “extremely lucky” to be working in the sector that she is. Currently Business Director at design tycoon Terence Disdale, Daniela is deeply invested in the creative side of things, however she is also devoted to the practical nitty-gritty of her day-to-day: “I still have to focus on the schedules, the deadlines, the meetings, the client liaisons, the technical requirements, the contractual commitments and the problem solving.” It is clear that Daniela is a creative with a head for business, yet she ultimately affirms that she is a designer at heart: “The result is tangible and long-lasting, and I love it.”

It is apparent that Laura, Adriana, Sabrina and Daniela are astute businesswomen whose passions for functional beauty have led them to create their own businesses. In part 2, they reveal how they feel their gender has impacted them in this pursuit.