Inspirational Women: Kate Mitchell

Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day 2023 and have chosen to highlight a wonderful selection of truly inspirational women who are vital members of the commercial interiors sector, each playing a different role. We spoke with Kate Mitchell about being an inspiration to others, the women she celebrates, the advice she gives as a mentor and the potential impact of greater gender equality on her work.

Please could you introduce yourself and your role?

I’m incredibly lucky to be part of the team of unique designers and manufacturers of fabric and wallpaper, Timorous Beasties – also known as the pattern disrupters! I am currently London and Projects Manager, which allows me to work closely with the amazing A&D community, many of which I consider to be friends. However, Timorous Beasties is growing and my role is becoming more strategic so will soon be moving to the position of Commercial Lead to assist our CEO and Creative Director expand our unique brand. We have a global reach, but in reality our TB team is 16 people, which is spread over our Glasgow Design and Print Studio and showroom and our London and Berlin Showrooms. Being part of a small and close team, means that it’s often all hands on deck when preparing for trade shows, collection launches or client events so we all muck in together.

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

I’ve been in this industry for almost 25 years, initially designing carpets with great companies such as Ulster Carpets and laterally in a more project management role with Timorous Beasties. The excitement of sitting down with a designer to start working on a project has never left me. To study mood boards and discuss the inspiration behind a designers scheme, work together to resolve challenges and to realise the end result is thrilling. It’s fabulous to have the opportunity to work in this way and be included in some notable projects. Collaborating closely and bouncing ideas around fuels inspiration between both supplier and designer, especially when creating bespoke artwork and designs for project specific briefs.

Which inspirational women do you celebrate?

I know and have worked with so many amazing women from their early entry into this sector who now own leading design practices or run hugely successful interior products companies. It’s so affirming to have worked with and  watched these women flourish to become key players in our field and go on to inspire their teams. However, if I have to celebrate one particular woman, I move away from our sector and must mention Dame Sarah Gilbert. She was key in the development of the Covid 19 vaccine and I was blown away after watching the Richard Dimbleby lecture she gave on BBC One in December 2021. An unbelievably calm delivery of knowledge, intellect and passion, without notes and utterly inspiring – I urge you to watch and be inspired.

What are three pieces of advice you give to the women you mentor?

I don’t feel that I mentor anyone, but in London our team of three women work closely together and the advice I give myself, I would offer them…….

  • Be truthful! In our industry, problems can arise with production, design, lead times and supply, and of course human error can cause these things to occur. If this happens, and it’s your fault, admit the mistake from the outset and set about resolving it quickly. You gain more trust and respect if you’re truthful and you will probably solve the problem more quickly
  • Trust your instincts and gut feeling as they will inevitably help you make the right decision – if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t
  • Take advise and accept challenges from people you respect. If you are given an opportunity that you feel is out with your comfort zone, don’t dismiss it as often others see talent or possibilities within us that we aren’t ready to see, or don’t realise we have….

Would greater gender equality create a more sustainable future for our sector and what would that entail?

Gender equality should always be on our radar and I think that our sector offers a good platform for women to make a difference and hold key positions. Having said that, I noted in a CIUK Council Meeting I attended recently, I was the only woman out of seven people round the table! Going forward, as an industry, we must continue to strive, not only for gender equality, but also be more inclusive and ensure that platform has plenty of room for diversity. It would be wonderful to reach a future where we don’t even think about gender or diversity and that we are all just who we are and are equal


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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