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Taking flight: The Wing comes to London

As women-focused coworking space and community The Wing bring their trademark exuberance to UK shores, we explore the first international offering.

19/02/2020 4 min read

Project Team

  • Architects

    David Miller Architects

  • Interior Designer

    The Wing

  • Furniture

    The Wing Custom Furniture, TON, Munna

  • Lighting

    Sabrina Landini, Matilda Goad

  • Surface Suppliers

    Solus, Soane Britain

Blink and you could miss the small branded door just off Oxford Street. From colour coded books (from female authors), shelving filled with hand-picked objects from Parisian flea market, Clignacourt, to a floral-drenched beauty room stocked with woman-owned brands, first impressions of The Wing’s first UK space are that of a feminine utopia. A mix of contemporary and vintage inspiration is clear and, as we walk up the stairs of the five-storey townhouse, it seems like we’re in an airy, calm pastel-upholstered haven, sheltered from the chaotic high street outside.

The first Wing opened in New York in 2016, and is quickly becoming the biggest (and certainly the most talked about) coworking space and social club aimed specifically at women – partially due, as The Guardian aptly described last year, to the fact that the brand was founded upon a paradox: the brand emphasises feminist values such as emancipation, empowerment and equality, while the business is based upon the elite institution of a private members’ club. Originally set to be called Refresh, founders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan wanted to create a space for women to network, freelance and socialise, and were inspired by womens’ clubs of the early 20th century. Since then, eight locations have opened across the US and now the UK.

Library and coworking space

Niche coworking has, of course, seen a huge uplift in popularity as operators find new ways to differentiate themselves from the increasingly crowded coworking market. With the total number of coworking users set to reach 5.1 million people by 2022, the competition is tough. But is the appeal too generally focused? The audience for the majority of coworking spaces isn’t tailored enough to be significant to anyone – and, with that, niche coworking takes to the stage. By offering bespoke services to their community, these spaces are growing in number and don’t seem to be slowing down.

‘What really differentiates us from other workspaces is our community – and so while we have many members who use our space to work and run their businesses, we have just as many members who work traditional 9-to-5 jobs, and join The Wing to be part of our community and programming,’ says Yasmin Shahida, The Wing’s Communications Manager. ‘The Wing is defined through the lens of the member experience, which can be both coworking and community.’

Heavily influenced by European and British design, each floor of the 12,000 sq ft property has a unique character and aesthetic – as is the case with all of the business’s locations. Designed by The Wing’s in-house interiors team, led by designer Leatitia Gorra, the space features a café and tearoom, as well as plenty of workspace and private meeting rooms, each of which is named after a famous fictional British character. The palette throughout is soothing, bright and fun, with plush padded furniture and eclectic, clashing fabrics used throughout to create a relaxed and informal vibe. Plants and soft seating are abundant, and what really stands out here is how thoughtfully designed the space is. The majority of furniture is customised and created with shorter legs to better suit the female body. It’s these touches that truly make The Wing one of a kind.

First and foremost, we are designing specifically for women. This means everything – from the way the furniture is built, to the temperature in our spaces, to the nursing rooms and childcare facilities.

‘What we’ve created at The Wing is answering to a very specific need, and one we’ve seen many women interested in,’ says Yasmin. ‘First and foremost, we are designing specifically for women. This means everything – from the way the furniture is built, to the temperature in our spaces, to the nursing rooms and childcare facilities  – is unique to The Wing.’

Outside, the rooftop terrace features chequerboard grass and carries through the interior theme with a mix of soft seating and tables in coordinating soft tones, ready for better weather. The beauty room features a nursing room, and was designed in collaboration with Soane Fabrics.

The in-house Perch Café, which debuts in London and uses produce from women-owned bakeries, restaurants, wine makers and farmers, is inspired by architect Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo building in Barcelona. The flooring is the main star here, with bespoke flower tiles from Solus complementing rattan chairs and scalloped lampshades from designer de rigueur, Matilda Goad. Further bespoke tiles feature alongside green trellis walls in The Dashwood Tea Room, which is also unique to London.

So, what makes The Wing so successful? It’s about female empowerment, not entitlement, according to Yasmin. The spaces offer an incredibly diverse array of programming, hosting over 80 events a week throughout the entire Wing portfolio, ranging from support circles to celebrity panels. ‘We are creating an economic ecosystem for women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses, whether it’s by empowering women to start businesses, hire each other or supporting other women-owned and -led companies. The combination of all these elements and the way the space is designed has created an incredibly unique environment that ultimately sets us apart.’

Rooftop terrace

Initially launched as an exclusive space for women, The Wing recently changed their no-men policy after a series of complaints and a legal investigation into whether this gender specific rule violated various laws. Since, the membership policy has changed (albeit controversially) to accept members with any gender-identity – as long as they align to the company’s mission.

Founding members include a flurry of equally hip London socialites, including Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne, through to writer Scarlett Curtis – author of the aptly named Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies). Everything about this space screams female empowerment and progressive thinking, including a pin button we’re offered on exit, with a choice of preferred pronoun.

Above all, this space spells out FUN in capital letters. Use of colours, textures and thoughtful accessories make us feel like we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole into some sort of millennial wonderland. Where do we sign up?

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