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Good People

Five Trailblazers Shaping the Design Landscape

Celebrating the creative voices that have inspired us in 2021

Featuring Lian Benoit, Monai Nailah McCullough, Florence Provencher-Proulx, Vanessa Yuan, Oumou Sy

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Monai Nailah McCullough by Birgit Loit

As we round out 2021, we are thrilled to highlight the stories of inspiring pioneers, innovators, and lifelong learners from around the world who are changing the field of design. 

Here, five members of the Goodee community kindly share their experiences of creating impact while remaining true to themselves, and reflect on how they use their work to connect with others.

Lian Benoit - Montreal
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Lian Benoit by Xavier Cyr and Lian herself

Multi-hyphenate artist, photographer, creative director and graphic designer

How I evolve in the design world has everything to do with how I’ve survived in this society at large. As a transracial adoptee, I’ve unconsciously mastered the skill of adaptation. I’ve had to learn how to do so, without compromising my aesthetic nor my principles. I am still finding my voice as an artist, a creative director, a photographer, a BIPOC woman, a human, but I think it’s becoming stronger every day.

Monai Nailah McCullough - NYC—Amsterdam
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Monai Nailah McCullough by Chris Dijksterhuis

Horticulturist and founder of Planthood

As a Black femme (fyi my pronouns are she/her, but I do not identify as a woman 😊), creative, and entrepreneur, I can only show up as myself and that alone is disrupting and creating a new narrative in the horticultural design industry.

Florence Provencher-Proulx - Montreal

Florence Provencher-Proulx of Bruises Gallery by Mathieu Fortin

Designer and Bruises Gallery co-founder

Mon approche comme décoratrice est très intuitive, plus proche d'une démarche artistique que d'un travail de design. Étant autodidacte, je ne tiens pas compte des codes et je crois que de les ignorer permet de mieux défier le statu quo, de proposer des alternatives. Ce sont mes goûts personnels sans compromis et c'est extrêmement libérateur.

My approach as a decorator is very intuitive, more closely akin to an artistic process than a design process. Being self-taught, I don’t take codes into account and I think ignoring them allows me to better defy the status quo, to propose alternatives. These are my uncompromising personal tastes and that is extremely liberating.

Vanessa Yuan - Antwerp

Vanessa Yuan by Kris Van Exel

ecoBirdy co-founder

My mission in the design world is to prove that innovation and inclusivity can be found in beautiful products. Every aspect of my designs is meaningful and thoughtful, to inspire people to have a sustainable lifestyle.

Oumou Sy - Dakar

Oumou Sy

Haute couture designer, entrepreneur and founder of Metissacana

Je n’ai pas été enseignée, je n’ai pas fait d’études. Je suis née à Podor, au nord du Sénégal. Je suis très métissée—mes grand-parents maternelles sont venus des pays arabes et mon papa est de la famille Sy. C’est la religion en fait qui s’impose là. Moi je ne devais pas toucher à l’art—c’était interdit—alors que moi je réfute les interdits. Parce que j’étais propre à aller me marier et pas pour être ni créatrice, ni être responsable d’un atelier ou d’une société. Alors il fallait que je m’en sorte toute seule et que j’aille moi même, à l'âge de cinq ans, après la mort de mon père, essayer d’empêcher le mariage qu’on devait m’imposer à l'âge de neuf ans. Ça c’était un combat très dur en tant que petite fille désarmée, sans défenses, mais plein de caractère. Le caractère et la détermination ça aide beaucoup. Je n’avais pas le choix, je voulais avoir un métier pour m’en sortir, pour être indépendante des gens, pour ne pas dépendre d’un homme.

Les gens qui sont en dehors de ta famille, de ton entourage, ils ne t’appartiennent pas. Ce sont des gens qui sont très loin de toi, mais il faut travailler pour qu’eux puissent vraiment te respecter à travers ton travail. Parce que la personne que tu connais déjà, te connais, mais travail pour la personne qui ne te connaît pas. Je travaille pour la personne qui ne sait pas où je suis et cette personne là, à travers mon travail, va reconnaître ma personne, ma personnalité et ma façon d’être. Il faut étonner son public.

I was never taught, nor did I complete any studies. I was born in Podor, in the north of Sénégal. I am of mixed racial background—my maternal grandparents came from Arab countries and my father is of the Sy family. It was, in fact, religion that imposed itself. I was not meant to touch art—it was forbidden—though I defy taboos. I was fit to be married, not to be a creator, nor someone responsible for an atelier or company. After my father’s passing when I was five, I had to find a way out on my own in order to prevent the marriage that was to be imposed on me at the age of nine. This was a very difficult battle for a young, helpless girl without defenses, but full of character. Character and determination help a great deal. I didn’t have a choice, I wanted to work in order to get out, to be independent of others, to not depend on a man.

The people who are outside of your family, of your entourage, they don’t belong to you. These people are very far from you, but you need to work so they can truly respect you through your work. The person you already know, knows you. But you must work for the person who does not know you. I work for the person who does not know where I am. That person—through my creations—will recognize my person, my personality and my way of being. You need to surprise your audience.

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