Celebrating International Women’s Day: #InspireInclusion Through Conversations with Inspirational Women in Commercial Interiors – Toni Black

This International Women’s Day, Design Insider is proud to embrace the 2024 campaign theme: #InspireInclusion. We are delighted to present a series of interviews with some of the most inspirational women in the commercial interiors community—each playing a pivotal role in shaping the industry.

Inclusion is a pathway to innovation, creativity, and empowerment. When we inspire inclusion, we not only celebrate diversity but also harness the rich perspectives and ideas that drive our industry forward. This year, we’re highlighting the voices of Inspirational Women who aren’t just participating in the commercial interiors sector but are actively shaping its future to be more inclusive, vibrant, and dynamic.

Toni Black, Interior Design Director and Partner at Blacksheep, is one of our Inspirational Women. In our conversation, we delve into how Toni interprets #InspireInclusion within the context of her work and the broader commercial interiors sector. We explore her personal experiences, the success stories that have marked her journey, and the collective strides we can make toward a more inclusive industry. Moreover, we discover the women who have inspired her and how she, in turn, serves as a beacon of inspiration for others.

Join us as we celebrate Toni’s achievements, insights, and stories, and let’s continue to #InspireInclusion every day in every way.

Toni Black, Interior Design Director and Partner at Blacksheep

Please could you introduce yourself and your role? 

I am Toni Black, Interior Design Director and Partner at Blacksheep, a multidisciplinary creative design studio specialising in transforming hospitality spaces around the world. My role entails leading and inspiring the interior design team that work across our luxury hotel and lifestyle projects. In addition to managing multiple projects and teams, I am also a partner of the business and work alongside the senior management team to continuously develop our creative output and purpose as an international design studio.  

How do you interpret #inspireinclusion and what needs to happen to achieve this within the commercial interiors sector?  

My idea of inclusion is not only about colour or race, but also about including different walks of life, cultures and backgrounds within our design community. At Blacksheep, I really champion inclusivity within our team dynamic and want to ensure that we create, represent, and inspire a truly inclusive industry that welcomes everyone.  

I feel design studios could always do better and be more open to sponsoring talent to come over from over countries if they can, providing opportunities to others that do not come from a traditional design background. Of course, I always welcome home-grown talent within my team but also feel that talent is everywhere and sometimes this can be unconsciously overlooked within our industry.  

Are there any success stories of inclusion you would like to highlight? 

In the past I have taken on designers who have not gone down the conventional path of studying at university at the typical ages of 19-21. When interviewing them they were so self-conscious that their age would impact their career progression, especially those with families – which of course should never be the case. Design and creativity comes from all generations and as leaders we need to show more flexibility and understanding. It is about working with the individual and being a little more accommodating to build their confidence up, helping them flourish and nurture their own design talent.      

What does it feel like to be inspired by, and inspire, people around you? 

I am truly humbled to be seen as an inspiration to others. As a young designer, I did not have or ever meet a representation of myself within this country. It is now so wonderful to see how things have shifted and how so many different races and ethnicities are now joining the industry. I often have young women reaching out to me on Instagram and LinkedIn to say how inspiring it is to them to see a woman of colour in my role. It is always so lovely to hear about their own individual journeys and to share support and advice of how to develop their own careers within the design world.  

Which inspirational women do you celebrate? 

The novelist and poet Maya Angelou is my ultimate hero, inspiration, and muse. I first read her autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ at age 13 and it really resonated with me. Maya’s determination and ability to look forward and strive despite all of her life struggles inspired me not only within my childhood years but with adult life when struggles and obstacles were thrown at me. She has a particular poem that always rings in my head, it celebrates the woman, and is unapologetic of who we are not only as woman of colour but all women.

One of my favourite lines has to be “I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s me” 

Thank you for reading this conversation. Discover more empowering stories from Inspirational Women in commercial interiors by clicking HERE to continue our #InspireInclusion series.

Join us in celebrating and learning from these influential voices!


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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