Cecilia Dupire is an interior architect and designer, originally from Sweden. The co-designer of the interactive furniture brand, Zig by Cezign, and Principal of Cezign, she is currently at work on many residential and commercial projects around the world, including a very prominent one on La Jeune Rue in Paris, adapting two large buildings in Paris into a multi-use commercial and residential space.
Presently living and working from New York City and Southampton, New York, Cecilia comes from a very international background, having attended school in Stockholm, Vienna and London. She has worked with the design companies Mackenzie and Rupert Gardner, as well as with her mentor and inspiration, Philip Michael Wolfson, for many years a Senior Designer for Zaha Hadid.
After refurbishing a medieval house on the French Riviera by hand, Cecilia came to New York, doing projects for the W Hotels, Equinox, and many private clients. Her work is cutting-edge in its attention focused on the future of how to adapt environments for multiple uses.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
A number of things. Challenges, successes, life and work experience. We learn to be more decisive, better listeners, and more observant. We become more organized, more sure of our focus, and this makes us into better leaders. We know what works for us, and have a better idea of how to get there, and then we can bring others along to see our vision.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Cezign?
I have learned so much. I have never been one to shy away from instruction or support, and in each of my employment experiences, I have been taught new things, inspired by different people, and taught to question myself in more sophisticated ways. I have learned, most importantly, that it takes teamwork often to achieve a goal. I have always taken complete advantage of learning from everybody I have come into contract along the way in my design career.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Cezign?
I have had a wonderful chance to work with so many different projects since I started my own company. There are always small bumps in the road in any project. Changes, delays, different visions. It helps to have a clear picture of what you think is right for the client, but you have to be flexible and willing to learn from the client if their vision is different. I love a chance to problem-solve, and I love the idea of taking on projects where I will have a chance to learn something new. It is imperative to always be learning and always be challenging yourself. It is what makes your vision evolve, as well as your strength. This is what opens the door to new opportunities.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Be confident in yourself and your work. Accept that not everybody will appreciate your direction, and while listening to those around you, you have to be focused and stay on track. Also, be flexible, and remember, what you accomplish has absolutely nothing to do with your gender and absolutely everything to do with your creativity and discipline. Most of all, just keep working at what you want to achieve, no matter how difficult it might sometimes seem, because if you want to get there badly enough, you will.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Being flexible. Trying to force any of your ideas on anybody never works in your favor. Be capable of listening to all viewpoints, distilling them into what you think the client wants, but also being smart and intuitive to know how you can present your opinion in a way that is strong and convincing without being too much. Give guidance, but also be willing to listen and compromise. I have learned that from being a Mother as well.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's not always easy. Any woman who says it is misleads all the young women out there trying to make it all work. Again, compromise is hugely important. Having a partner who is supportive helps enormously. Being great at organizing a schedule is wonderful, but mostly, you have to be prepared to feel torn in different directions some times, and you have to do what is most important to you. Learning to juggle and switch directions instantly!
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
It's tough out there, but never tougher than you can withstand. Work hard, strive for excellence, keep your focus, and never lose site of what you are trying to accomplish. Believe in yourself and your ability to reach your goals. That is the strongest thing you can do for yourself. If people treat you like you can't be as good or strong or smart because you are not a man, show them they are wrong by being the best. I have worked in many male-dominated places and on many projects, and if you have self-confidence , they will hopefully respect your opinions and work.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Yes in every way. My mentors have taught me to be more self-critical in a positive way and to grow beyond what I perceive as my own limitations. They have inspired me to achieve, be more creative, take more chances, think and believe that I can. My mentors are still very much involved in my life, continue to offer great support for my growth, and have great respect for my work. I am actually working on a project with one of my mentors now.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My mother is my role model and my inspiration. She was an economist, had her own company and was member of several industrial boards. And she was the leading light in our family. She was accomplished and compassionate. She still is.
What do you want Cezign to accomplish in the next year?
I want to create interiors beyond the fantasies of my clients. To accomplish more than I have ever done before, to grow and break creative boundaries. To excel at my work in a way that will make everybody excited for what comes next. To evolve to a whole new level in my creative process.