In 2016, Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan came together to create a co-working space with an unusual mission. Inspired by the women’s clubs that flourished in early 20th century New York, they imagined a space that would cater exclusively to women. Thus was born The Wing, an organization that is part co-working space, part social club, and all female. Their first location, in NYC’s Flatiron District, launched that year, and they recently opened a new, and much larger, location in SoHo. At a time when the media—and all of us—are consumed with instances of harassment in the workplace, the Wing, and the community it’s creating in the wake of the #MeToo moment, is more important than ever.
From the clientele to the employees to the authors of the books in the library, the Wing is a distinctly female space. The original Flatiron location, and the new space in SoHo, are both a bit of a departure from your typical co-working space. They feel less like an office and more like a fancy hotel lobby, or maybe a chic living room—intimate, personal, and even luxurious.
Besides co-working space, the Wing also offers a range of amenities: there are showers, and lockers, and a beauty room for primping (how many times have you needed a space like this for going between the office and an important event?). The cafe offers pastries, coffee, and wine, and in the evenings the spaces host a variety of events, from film screenings to flower arranging to a discussion about women’s rights with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Its recently launched magazine, “No Man’s Land”, celebrates the accomplishments of women in general and Wing members in particular.
New locations are set to open in Brooklyn and D.C. in 2018, so the Wing is definitely taking off. Recently, they raised 32 million in Series B funding, with the biggest investor being co-working giant WeWork.
We paid a visit to the SoHo iteration of the Wing on a Monday morning, right before the Thanksgiving holiday. The space was bright and open and full of early-morning light, like an aerie perched above Mercer Street. As time passed, women began to saunter in and take their places at desks and couches, but the feeling of calm persisted. A lone male visitor, who was there to work on one of the mechanical systems, seemed out of place and even a little bit lost. At the Wing, women rule.
In addition to our visit, founder Audrey Gelman was kind enough to answer some questions about the inspiration for the Wing, its design, and her vision for its future.
AT: What inspired you to create a women-only co-working space?
AG: In our previous careers, we were constantly searching for a place to recharge and refresh in between meetings when there wasn’t time to go all the way home. This gave us the idea to create a space that would make women’s lives more convenient. The concept for the Wing also stemmed from our shared belief that there is a magic that happens when women come together. We wanted to create a women’s only space that offered the flexibility of co-working spaces and the community of social clubs.
When you sat down with the designers for the first time, how did you describe the kind of space you had in mind to create?
We wanted the space to feel indigenous to the SoHo neighborhood with regards to design. Our vision here was to create the quintessential SoHo loft, preserving the bones of the space but updating it to feel modern by pushing the envelope with colors, fabrics, lighting, and overall use of space. We really wanted the boldness of the decor to be reflective of the women who would fill these rooms.
How does the SoHo space differ from the Flatiron one? Did you want it to have a different feel, design-wise, or serve as an extension of the original?
To start, although the Wing SoHo is about three times the size of the Flatiron location, it feels even larger. I think a part of that has to do with the space being so full of light between the incredible skylights and windows looking out onto Broadway and Mercer. In terms of decor, the SoHo space feels a bit more elevated, more mature than our Flatiron location. We wanted the space to feel like the Wing, but also wanted it to feel unique to itself and the surrounding neighborhood.
How would you describe your vision for the kind of community the Wing is creating? How do you see the Wing expanding in the next 5 to 10 years?
The Wing community is made up of so many wonderfully unique women that typically wouldn’t meet outside of these walls. That’s really the most fun part for us—pairing all of these women together. It’s been amazing to see relationships form out of these introductions! We have members who have met and then gone on group trips, started new business ventures, have weekly pot luck dinners. As we continue to expand over the next few years, we’re most excited to see this community grow.
Currently, membership fees start at $215 a month, which could be a challenge for women who are freelancing or just starting their careers. Is there any kind of plan to keep the Wing accessible?
Inclusivity is at the core of our mission, and while we strive to create a premium experience for our members and offer competitive salaries for our employees, we understand that not everyone can afford our membership fees, and that not all applicants can join due to space constraints at our locations. We’re actively developing new membership tiers that make the Wing accessible to women at all stages of their careers.
Who are the female designers you most admire? Who would you love to work with on future Wing locations?
I’m very into Nathalie du Pasquier of Memphis, and I love Randi Mageli and Kelly Wearstler.
In light of recent events, the issue of women’s safety in the workplace is more important than ever before. How will creating a safe space for women in the workplace (and in the world) continue to be a part of the work that you do?
The Wing will continue to provide a safe space and community for women to discuss their own experiences, fears, and hopes for the future. We’ve hosted a number of discussions/events on the topic of sexual harassment and assault as a way to open the dialog between members. We can’t make a difference without sharing our stories and coming up with collaborative solutions together.