Story By: Lilly Patterson
This October, a new kind of clubhouse opened on New York’s East 20th Street. The space offers up a cafe and comfortable workspaces; a meticulously curated library; a locker room (more aptly named a ‘beauty room’) that defies its sweat and grime-ridden namesake; and most important, the buzzing of women intent on redefining the world both around and far beyond them.
The Wing – co-founded by former PR powerhouse Audrey Gelman and business development maven Lauren Kassan – provides a home base for women on the up-and-up to collaborate, communicate, and forge friendships and alliances. Members include actress and writer Lena Dunham, rapper Remy Ma, J.Crew president Jenna Lyons, and Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine, among many other notables. Though the concept is inspired by women’s clubs of the early 1900s, it’s clear there is nothing antiquated about the necessity of this sort of female coalition to combat the male-centric world outside its doors. Here I pose a few questions to Audrey and artistically-inclined member, Edith Young. We discussed their college-to-real-world trajectory, what membership and leadership at The Wing means to them, and their advice for all young women, no matter the path they’re on.
How would you describe your college self? Beyond your personhood, what what your social space like, and how did you approach academia?
Audrey: I had two friends at college and stayed to myself a lot. I worked in Mudd Library at Oberlin and liked renting movies from the video store and watching them alone. I was a Political Science major and attended every Office Hours by Professor Paul Dawson, who taught American Government and the Presidency seminar.
Edith: My experiences before college at a co-ed boarding school taught me the importance of carving out time and space for only women to occupy. When my friends and I were in our dorm, where no boys were allowed, there was a sense of liberation. Everyone could be themselves… meaning they could be a little weird and more vocal in conversation. College was wildly different, after I took a gap year and chose to go to the sleepless Rhode Island School of Design. Embracing the idea that work makes work, I invested most of my time into my academics and studios, and considered my social space a second priority. I formed my most meaningful relationships in college while living with women at RISD and Brown.
What’s something you would tell your 20 year-old self?
A: Trust your gut and stay true to your value system. Be the person you needed when you were older.
E: Keep sending those cold pitches!
To Edith: How would you describe yourself as a career woman?
E: I work on Editorial & Content at Outdoor Voices, and I’m always looking for ways to do what I love – photography and writing – and get better at them on a daily basis. Recently, this has materialized while writing for publications like Cherry Bombe, Teen Vogue and Man Repeller, and photographing women for Into The Gloss, Intern Magazine and this new platform for women in the arts called Constellation. I’m diving deeper into ways to work as a tandem photographer-writer, shooting and writing stories.
How would you describe The Wing, both as a space and a concept?
A: The Wing is a work space and social club for women inspired by the women’s club movement of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
E: From a member’s perspective, The Wing is the most apt response to a society that instructs women not to take up space. It creates room for women to form and bolster offline relationships, to collaborate, and to focus. It’s the party you throw where you invite all of your friends from different walks of life and somehow the chemistry is better than it is any other night.
To Edith: What is your current relationship to The Wing as an artist and pilot member?
E: I’ve been photographing for The Wing. I document events, gatherings and pivotal moments, like the social club’s opening day, the third presidential debate, the first speaker panel with Tina Brown, and Election Night.
(On a related note, Gelman has said that to combat what might present too hefty a financial commitment for some, The Wing offers exchanges with artists and other creatives. In ‘paying’ with their work, these women can participate in this collective, arguably in the most holistic sense of the word.)
What’s your favorite feature of the physical space?
A: Our extensive, color-coded library, curated by librarian R.H. Lossin, which is entirely made up of women authors.
E: Fawning over the pastel palette and immaculate interior design comes naturally, though there are small details that make the space even more of a woman’s dream penthouse. Details like the stack of George Magazines on the bookshelf reminds me that this social club/workspace is founded by intellectual women with a real cultural awareness that acknowledges both the past and the future. I also admire the way female artists have been showcased in The Wing, with paintings by Leanne Shapton both commanding a room and punctuating the Phone Booth, and the Beauty Room wallpapered with illustrations by genius Joana Avillez and produced by Payton Turner of Flat Vernacular.
What’s your favorite intangible quality about The Wing? Perhaps touching upon what personally drew you to join this collective.
A: The quiet hum of hundreds of women taking care of business.
E: I had always admired Audrey’s work from afar, so when I caught wind of this as her next project, I immediately knew that I wanted to get involved. The concept of The Wing as a place for women to hatch plans together really resonates with me, and empowers me to get cracking on projects of a grander scale. Americans need art and journalism now more than ever.
To Audrey: Do you have any regrets about The Wing or the process of creating this collective?
To Edith: As a member, what’s one way you would like to see The Wing grow/evolve going forward?
E: I’d like to see it become the shining example of a site that encourages and fosters female mentorship.
What’s one way college women can embrace the spirit of The Wing in their current space?
A: Create Wing Clubs on campus – spaces where you can study, plot world domination and help each other with projects independently from men!
E: Carving out time and space that can only be occupied by female friends. It can be as simple as dedicating time every Sunday night to be spent, sans men, in the dorm with takeout.
If you had to pick a song that embodies you, what would it be?
A: Bitch by Meredith Brooks, a classic. Maybe Witchy Woman by The Eagles, although (duh) I hate the Eagles.
E: She’s A Rainbow – The Rolling Stones.
For more info, visit https://www.the-wing.com/