Italy, Art, and a Feminist Movement: The Design Inspiration Behind the Wing

For interior designer Chiara de Rege, a modern workspace for women channels femininity, sophistication, and the spirit of a city.

Italy, Art, and a Feminist Movement: The Design Inspiration Behind the Wing

The San Francisco outpost of the Wing, which opened in October 2018, is the company’s first West Coast foray.

Photo by Tory Williams

Picture the hill towns of Italy’s Cinque Terre, the buildings overlooking the sea a cluster of earthy pastels: dusty rose, warm peach, fir-tree green, butter yellow. When you step inside a Wing space, one of the coworking clubs for women that are expanding throughout the world, you see a similar palette.


Wing interior designer Chiara de Rege designed The Wing’s space with femininity and sophistication in mind.

Photo by Nicole Franzen

The Wing’s designer, Chiara de Rege, grew up in New York City, but spent every summer in an antique-filled, 7th-century family home in Italy’s Piedmont region. Those summers instilled in her an appreciation for velvets and florals and washed-out patinas. It wasn’t until this past summer, however, that de Rege realized how much her heritage had influenced her approach to the Wing. “We were on a boat on the Riviera, and I looked up and saw the coastline and Liguria,” she says. “There were all these pastels, and they were literally the Wing’s colors. I was like, ‘Oh my god, those colors have been part of my life forever. They’ve clearly gone deep in me.’ ”


The Wing in New York’s Dumbo district occupies a former paper factory overlooking the East River.

Photo by Nicole Franzen

Yet the Wing feels anything but ancient. Inspired by the women’s clubs of the 19th and early 20th centuries founders Lauren Kassan and Audrey Gelman launched the company in 2016 with a vision for a coworking space where women could, yes, work, but also trade stories, found companies, network, and even campaign. (The Wing hosted events to support female candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.) It’s an ambitious vision, and one that required equally ambitious design. Kassan, Gelman, and de Rege wanted the Wing to be a women’s club that would be feminine without being girly, sophisticated but nothing like the leather-and-billiards men’s clubs of yore. What the trio settled on for the first Wing, located in New York’s Flatiron District, became an instant Instagram obsession. The wingback chairs. The elegant pink-accented powder room. The floor-to-ceiling bookshelves organized by color and stocked with books from a range of women and nonbinary writers. And, of course, that pastel palette, layered with rich jewel tones. Membership applications flowed in. So many women applied within the first six months that it became apparent the company needed to expand—and fast.


The Wing’s spaces include beauty rooms stocked with products.

Photo by Tory Williams

As of January 2019—nearly 2.5 years after the first Wing launched—the group had six locations, each with that distinctive aesthetic. But de Rege has taken care to ensure that each space also reflects its surroundings. Take, for example, the company’s Washington, D.C., club, which opened in April 2018 in the Georgetown neighborhood. De Rege drew on the building’s history: In the 1950s, the row house was occupied by the city’s first all-female architecture firm, run by the trailblazing architect Chloethiel Woodard Smith. “I thought it was so cool that there was this history of a woman ahead of her time running an architecture studio and now [the Wing] is in that location,” she says. De Rege preserved the building’s brick-walled and lofted interior, and at Gelman’s request, added conference rooms named for influential female politicians and installed a plaque near the front entrance with a quote from Smith.

The Wing’s offerings have grown along with the company’s reach and funding. (In 2018, the Wing received a $75 million round of Series C funding from investors including WeWork and Airbnb.) Women can now opt for a membership that allows them access to any club around the world. In the new San Francisco location, a conference room is named after Bay Area resident Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and culinary and beverage director Dani Dillon sources ingredients from more than 60 women-owned local businesses; another newcomer, the Los Angeles Wing, includes a screening room and a large rooftop deck.


Each Wing offers books by women and nonbinary writers, all organized by color.

Photo by Tory Williams

Art is a critical unifying thread. Each Wing doubles as a gallery, featuring work by female and nonbinary artists, all selected by the Wing’s curator, Lolita Cros. It’s a way for de Rege to infuse each club with its own identity while maintaining visual unity and actualizing the Wing’s mission to advance women’s lives through building community. A photo collage by conceptual artist Nydia Blas hangs in the Wing in Brooklyn’s Dumbo district. A photograph from artist and critic Lorraine O’Grady is on display in the D.C. space. In San Francisco, a reception area welcomes visitors with an abstract acrylic by Bay Area artist Rebekah Goldstein. “The connection to local artists is really important,” de Rege says. “They give each location that moment of soul, [saying], ‘We belong to the city.’ ”

How to Join the Wing: The Wing has six locations in four cities, with more on the way in Seattle, Boston, Toronto, and London. A membership to a single club costs $215 per month or $2,350 per year; a membership to all current and future Wings costs $250 per month or $2,700 per year. Here’s how to apply.

>>Next: These Talented London Artisans Are Keeping the City’s Craft Tradition Alive

Aislyn is a deputy editor at AFAR, where she edits long-form narratives for the magazine and hosts AFAR’s Travel Tales podcast. She lives on a houseboat in Sausalito.
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