Olivia Lee, Her World Young Woman Achiever 2018. 

Industrial designer Olivia Lee was trekking in Cinque Terre, Italy in April after ending an intense showcase at the Milan Fair when she got the call bearing news that she had won the Her World Young Woman Achiever award 2018. Stunned, she thought it was a nomination, but the 33-year-old was told, ‘No, you’ve won!’

The Young Woman Achiever award by monthly women’s magazine Her World has been presented since 1999 as recognition of young women whose achievements have surpassed existing boundaries, and have inspired those around her and paved the way for others in the future. Past recipients include filmmaker Kirsten Tan (2017), funeral services managing director Jenny Tay (2016) and fashion designer Priscilla Shunmugam (2015).

As one of Singapore’s up-and-coming creatives, Olivia has been making a name for herself overseas, with showcases in Milan, Berlin and Tokyo. Her debut collection at the SaloneSatellite in Milan last year earned her the acclaim of “most promising” designer by Dezeen, the online architecture, interior and design magazine.

The Athena Collection. 

Vanity table of The Athena Collection. 

The 10-piece Athena Collection, which includes a vanity table and textured rug, is an analogue furniture ensemble designed to accommodate tech devices and tech user behaviour in our modern era. “The collection itself has no electronic components, which was deliberate because I was trying to bridge the gap between the analogue nature of furniture, and the very technological lifestyle that we live in”, says Olivia.

The Central Saint Martins alumnus comes from a family of creatives whom she credits for shaping the woman and designer she is today. Her parents are commercial artists who met in Baharuddin Vocational Institute, Singapore’s first tertiary school dedicated to the visual arts. Remembering the smell of cow gum, ronsonol and spray mount that her parents used whilst she was growing up, Olivia got a first-hand whiff of the unglamorous side of being a working creative.

The award is laden with meaning for the young designer, but most of all validation. “I feel very privileged,” she says, “and I hope that my story inspires other little girls and aspiring creatives everywhere to make their their own game and play by their own rules. Hold on to your passions, as obscure and unconventional as they are.”