In 2019, I realised that I was completely disconnected from the design community in Moscow. I graduated from British Design School a couple of years before that and honestly, I disliked everything about the way the community operated back then. All the meetings they had, and all the parties they held were filled with painful achievements and comparisons, aggression and toxicity.
I was a young designer and felt a distinct lack of support. But the only advice I got was that I should quit immediately and get a job that would be more appropriate for a woman. No tears allowed, no emotions, no self-respect. Deep inside I was thinking that this is not right and I was making cautious attempts to find someone who would help me develop and feel more at ease in the design industry. When you have support that is genuine, and not masked bullying.
One day I stumbled upon a girls' community, Ladies, Wine & Design, hosted by Alena Alekhina, and attended one of their meetings. After five hours of very relaxed and gentle talk about design and life, I was thrilled and thought that every person should experience such acceptance in their career and personal life. I was so excited that I finally found someone who respected my values and approach to life.
At first, I was planning to attend every meeting as a guest. I know my tendency to organise everything, and I didn’t want it to ruin the feeling of freedom that comes with being just a guest. But soon Alena decided to focus on her projects and sought someone to take over the leadership of LWD Moscow — trembling I wrote to her that I want to do it. The three weeks that led to it were filled with doubts and fears. I’d never done this before, no one knew my name, they all were much better than me, and I thought of course that I would definitely fail. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go and look at what happened!
My first LWD meeting as a guest
This is how my three-year journey in LWD Moscow started
To say the first months were hard is to say nothing. I got a legacy of 300 people on Instagram, 145 people on Facebook, and a relapse of impostor syndrome for dessert. Girls were apprehensive about joining a female-only community. Right before our first meeting with me being a chapter leader pandemic hit and we started our first lockdown. And on top of it, I had no idea what I was doing. I was no one and all alone.
And if you don’t know what to do, you do one simple thing: research, research, research.
After calls with people who agreed to help me, 50 books and courses about building communities, working with volunteers, and constant self-loathing I got the idea. I decided to start from scratch.
So I made a plan
Everything seems easy with a plan, right?
The first step — is to collect interviews with girls. What community they would want to be a part of? I faced rejections and misunderstandings, tricky questions about feminism that I didn’t know how to answer, and mocking as another woman who is trying to change the world through feminism. I wanted to quit a thousand times, I was tired and lost, but I didn’t because above all I truly believed that the idea of supporting and empowering each other was something needed by many people. And I was right.
I ended up with 20 in-depth interviews 2 hours each with potential members of the community from different social and working statuses. I wanted to make a place where experienced designers and juniors may find something interesting and share their knowledge and energy. After millions of Google tables, I first got an understanding of what women need: safety, acceptance, and joint activities.
Then it was time to write my first post on Instagram, it already wasn’t just me, my voice became the voice of the whole community of people that I wanted to represent.
I thought it would be very useful for people to read women’s stories, quotes, and what projects they do. I saw this platform as a sort of role model for women where they could find inspiration for their future through women in history, in the world, and around them. I also wanted to host useful and practical events and later include more relaxed ones, where girls can share experiences, ask questions without judgment, and try themselves as speakers for the first time in their lives. I also was contacting influential female designers to be speakers on our social media or to tell about us to their audience.
Well, sometimes I won, and sometimes I learned
Creating a team of VOLUNTEERS
I started building a team
At first, I was doing everything by myself: texts, interviews, videos, podcasts, and events. But guess what? I had my own life and bills to pay. I very quickly released that I needed a team.
I was happy to provide a space if a girl wanted to test herself in a new direction, to try being an SMM manager, or editor-in-chief, or to write about women. I tried to give any volunteer we had an opportunity to develop herself and learn in a comfortable place. Many girls thanked me for my kind management and my ability to keep them motivated.
Our weekly check-ups
But how do you find people and more than that, how do you make them put in hours of work for free? You find people who share your values and believe in the same ideas. My values were: support, acceptance, empowerment, and ease. I wanted to create a space where female designers can have all of it and more. And it wasn’t just my personal wish it was something badly needed. So my team found me.
I build a strong editorial department, video production, event management, and of course design. At some point, our team consisted of 17 talented and passionate women who worked almost every day for the sake of our community. I still can hardly believe that.
One of my last calls as a chapter leader
So what have we achieved in the last 3 years?
It’s always hard to talk about your achievements, you think you could have always done more. However, it is important to value things that you’ve done well, and sometimes better than well.
First of all, it was a non-profit
So all the dreams I had, had to be realised through persuasion, inspiration, and shared values. And I was very ambitious about changing people’s lives. I wanted to showcase new names, create a safe space for women on different platforms, host our own women’s festival, and save the whole world. I also had to work and pay bills, and I had very limited time. So I learned how to build teams, contact potential advertisers, open doors with a smile, and promote Instagram without any additional money. Well, I think the result speaks for itself.
The second achievement is in publicity
In the beginning, no one knew about us. Three years later, we have a 5-star podcast, big corporations are inviting us to discuss important gender issues and to find the ways they could solve them within their companies. We help conferences in finding female speakers and we supervise those speakers from start to finish. In the beginning, I knock on every door, now people come to us.
Last but not least of my achievements is fighting misogyny
You can’t change the way people think in one day. I’m not able to change every person in the world, but I can help those who are near and ready to listen. I already see and feel that girls from LWD are much more tolerant, supportive, and kind to each other. That was the thing I was focusing on while moderating public events, chat talks, and our community meet-ups to create an atmosphere of safety and acceptance. Women looked at how I act and how I protect every person, so they learned to do the same. We also talked a lot about toxicity and were learning to break this link. While working with our team, I held 1-to-1 calls every six months to check how they feel, what problems they have, and how I can help them to adapt. It was important to find a way to motivate every team member, to make their time with LWD interesting and meaningful, so they would promote the same everywhere they go. It wasn’t easy, but I see the results, and this is very thrilling!
Numbers and Images
At first, we followed the style of the main chapter, but later I decided to make a new identity that could expand the topics I wanted to cover. We began by showcasing artwork and the stories of women worldwide, throughout history, and in Russia. This last point was particularly important because many talented women are hesitant to speak about their achievements. Initially, we searched for names online, but later we started conducting interviews with members of our community and sharing their stories. We also chose a monthly theme to guide our written pieces, events, and podcasts.
As the community grew, I realised that our Facebook and Instagram pages were not enough. We needed to create our own space that would provide comprehensive information about events, advertising, tickets, benefits, and, most importantly, my dream: a database of all community members, categorised as freelancers, speakers, and mentors. This would enable those seeking female specialists to locate them easily. Although the database is still a work in progress, I am hopeful that we will soon have it up and running.
This was the core of everything I did — our members should not be afraid to be themselves, to ask silly questions, or to look for help. Every event was moderated by me and I was looking after everyone, so everyone felt comfortable, engaged, and heard.
The second step was empowerment
At the events, I gave voice to girls who were ready to speak and helped many of them become speakers (on podcasts or at events) for the first time. I could sense the energy that they felt afterwards and saw that they were ready to live a better life. We also posted interviews to show that not only stars are making designs but regular women like you and me. I wanted to help them feel confident in their abilities and personalities. I wanted to demonstrate to the industry and, more importantly, to girls themselves, that they deserved reasonable fees for their work, that they could seek and receive help, and that they could spend time together without fear of judgment.
When we gained weight, we started to work with Design Festivals
It was challenging for them to find female speakers. Even if someone directly approached a potential speaker, she might be hesitant to speak in public. So, we decided to help festivals by finding and supervising female speakers. We assisted with creating a presentation and storytelling, conducted test presentations, and offered support so that they could clearly emphasise the important things that they had to say.
And finally, big corporations…
…who wanted to change the usual course, asked us for help in hosting events focused on feminism, empowering women, and what can be done to achieve these goals. They wanted us to help them figure out what can be done better for women in IT companies for example, and asked for our expertise. I was thrilled to speak and offer my assistance.
We met at picnics and bars, talked about feminism and work-life balance, discussed illustrator's copyrights, visited print offices, listened to history lectures, learned to promote ourselves and stop toxic approaches in and around us, weaved with beads, tried to survive the quarantine together, and drank Prosecco!
29videos and lectures
For many of the speakers, it was the first experience ever to speak publicly because I believe that to learn something new you need to listen to new people, and I’m glad that I was able to make it smooth.
36 000 listens
Ranked top 1 in Design
Despite the very high quality of our podcast, most of the episodes were recorded like this
For three years we had our own section on one of the biggest Deign Festivals in Moscow. We supervised speakers from the community and provided juries to dilute the same names coming at every festival.
Ladies, Wine & Design section on G8
at Design Festivals
Women in History
211 community chat members
333 channel members
2700 Instagram followers
249 community members
Three years passed
I was stubborn enough to fall and then stand up. And now, looking back, I’m happy to see the supportive community that is left after me, girls supporting girls, making projects together, giving kind and gentle feedback when asked, new speakers and educators, a new way of thinking actually. Today, I am proud to see new names emerging in public talks and a fresh way of thinking that centres on women supporting women in the face of life’s challenges. It won’t be possible without the great support of my team and all those who helped me on this path, those who supported my values and beliefs. Through this experience, I discovered my strengths in being a creative leader, managing teams, public speaking, and providing support and consultation.
So this is how I learned how to build a supportive and loving community. And this is how I did this.
*Many thanks to Anna Osprey for helping me to write this text!
What the girls from the community say
When I was working on this part I asked about the feedback from the girls about my involvement in the community life. I still can believe in so many kind words and every time I read them I’m ready to cry with happiness with great thanks to all those whom I met during my journey, my wonderful crew and finally for me, who didn’t give up in the middle.
I met Kate while working on the creative industries festival and invited her to become the curator of the female section of the G8 design unit.
For several years of working together, I was convinced that Kate is a precise and talented curator. I have never seen such sensitivity and attention to detail at the festival — it was shown in everything. The selection of speakers, the choice of topics, the timing complainant — everything was at the highest level.
Also, girls from the LW&D community regularly became members of the jury of the G8 Awards. And their talks at the festival have always been most profound and relevant, receiving the warmest response from the audience.
I want to thank Kate for the contribution she made to the development of the women’s design community in Russia, for the fight against stereotypes, for responsiveness, professionalism and friendship.
My first association with the phrase "Ladies, Wine and Design" is Kate Shashina. Thanks to her, I learned about the community and became part of it.
I was looking for my first design job during covid times and at the same time I accidentally stumbled upon the G8 festival. I was mostly touched by the lectures of the girls speaking on behalf of the community section and the care Kate surrounded them with. And the enthusiasm about LWD she talked about.
The community really turned out to be a place where you can ask for advice or feedback, discuss news from the design world or find a company for an exhibition. And all this in a friendly atmosphere of respect, without depreciation or condemnation.
Later, I found out about the vacancy and met Kate-the-manager. The first thing that caught my attention was the sincere atmosphere in the team and the way the girls support each other and are always ready to help. In addition, with any question, in any complex situation, you could write to Kate and get advice or support.
Every day, there is a tremendous amount of work going on within the community, and each member of the team is ready to spend time and effort working on the main idea. And all this would not be possible without Kate’s participation. I admire her involvement in the process, her willingness to help and her interest in maintaining a healthy atmosphere. Thanks to Kate and the girls, I learned what a real dream team is.
If you choose a contractor for your project, I strongly recommend Kate. She is a responsible, honest and open girl, with whom it’s easy to communicate, who loves her job very much and who is ready to invest everything in a project.
Graphic Designer, ex-Copywriter and Designer in LW&D Team
First of all, Kate showed me that it is possible to communicate with the leader equally, and in general, to discuss not only work but also a variety of different topics.
Kate also showed by her example that sometimes soft skills are almost more important than hard skills. No matter how great a professional you are, you won’t become a good leader if you don’t know how to communicate with a team, manage conflicts and find compromises.
And thanks to Kate, I realized that it is important to treat yourself and your work as a personal brand, to be able to take responsibility: for yourself, for your career path, for the money you ask for your work, for the people with whom you interact.
And finally, Kate was a great inspiration for me and, I think, for the whole team — showing how to work with full dedication, how to love your job and how to treat it as a personal project, not just a list of duties.
Editor in Chief in KB-12, ex-editor-in-chief in LW&D Team
When I was part of LWD, we made a podcast about designers' fears with Kate. It was a challenging experience because one of my fears is public speaking. But Kate made everything easy: her calm vibe, friendliness, warmth, and professionalism were extremely helpful to relax and just talk. We managed to speak about professional and personal fears, life goals, imposter syndrome, career start, and becoming full-time designers. After we released the podcast, I received many comments from beginners about how useful it was! Everything we talked about helped them to feel more confident and decisive.
Our goal was to make a healthy and supportive space for everyone who wants to start their design journey and I like to think that we came pretty close to it. Kate has a very rational view of things and at the same time, she keeps being super empathetic and understanding. I’m grateful to be part of this process and proud to be able to help others be a little more sure of their design choices.
Graphic web designer, art director, and founder of kott.studio, ex-Art Director in LW&D Team
In the years 2020—2021, I was lucky enough to work alongside Kate on the LW&D project as her partner and co-thinker. Having such a vibrant and proactive leader in the team was really inspiring, and I learned a lot. Kate possesses a tremendous amount of passion and love for structure and process organization, and that was a pleasure helping her reach community goals. I will always be grateful for the time we spent together working on LW&D. That work brought us together as friends and colleagues and I couldn’t wish for a better team leadership.
Art Director @Wunderdogs, ex-Chapter Leader Deputy
My name is Ksenia and I am a designer. In 2021, I was looking for communities of like-minded people and came across LWD, which was led by Kate at that moment, a person who did not know me at all, but who provided great support during my emotional burnout and gave excellent advice on organizing the workflow. With great joy, I reviewed all the podcasts on YouTube, the topics of the podcasts are very interesting and relevant for all of us. Thanks to the meetings organized by Kate, I met cool girls-designers to communicate, work, and travel from now on.
I still don’t know how to formulate it correctly, but at that moment Kate was like a caring mother to me, although I am older than she is.
I almost never met such cool specialists as Kate in the field of team management, versatile approach and creative thinking. Kate’s podcasts, LWD community, leadership, public talks and design projects are all very professional and top-notch. Thanks to the community, I reached a new level, found a company of like-minded people, and this is all thanks to Kate. She knows how to unite, inspire and lead. Kate is great
This is my 3rd year with LWD and it’s been a great time! Kate, as a community chapter leader, created great opportunities to attend very interesting events and unite creative girls, where I found my new friends and support, without toxicity and rivalry. I am very grateful to Kate and the community that I was able to visit Avito’s office for a tour and look at the life of a large company through the eyes of designers, and that every New Year we had meetings and Secret Santa, always gathered to chat comfortably and warmly. Kate is a super caring mother for LWD and for her family 🥰
Creative Director in IT
I first met Kate at a Ladies, Wine & Design meeting, where she was so warm and supportive to everyone. She is a superstar in communication and knows how to find the best approach for everyone. She also has strong leadership skills, allowing her to build a strong design community in Moscow. She is always looking for ways to empower and connect people, which is really inspiring for me ❤️
Product Design Lead, current Chapter leader of LW&D, Moscow
I’d say Kate is very good at podcast conversations, listening carefully and delicately. I remember that she made a cool space where it was easy to talk about some vulnerable moments in the profession and in life in general.
And our episode of a podcast spread very well among my audience — every fifth wrote that they listened to it in the car while working or even in the company of other people. They say it was just the right thing.
The podcast really turned out great, thank you for it!
Photographer, guest in LW&D Podcast
Thanks to Kate in LW&D, I found like-minded people with whom I can discuss not only work. The community breathed new life into my career: I found new clients in it because while listening to podcast episodes I made a new portfolio site and I got the opportunity to record a course and a podcast by myself. This would not have opened up to me without Kate. I am very grateful for her help and responsiveness.
Motion Designer, guest in LW&D Podcast
Kate Shash, an interesting person she is. This Kate is a highly qualified designer, creative director, and a real enthusiast in her field, constantly challenging herself, improving her skills and increasing her knowledge, even in the most difficult situations. I was impressed by this fragile girl, who takes complex and capacious tasks so bravely and resolutely, I was struck by her responsibility and ability to structure, plan, and figure everything out; to go through difficult moments decently, and maintain a good atmosphere and relations in the work team.
I met her a few years ago when Kate was a leader of the Moscow chapter of LW&D, and somehow she managed to record a podcast with me quite organically — I was impressed by her professional approach and talent as a speaker and organizer. And most importantly: Kate manages to create an atmosphere of reliability, convey a sense of confidence to the guest and that very feeling that "everything will be fine, everything is already working out great", and this is very inspiring!
I am grateful to Kate for her creative support and for human participation. I am always glad for her success in the field of design and highly appreciate her professional, social and public activities.
Creative director, artist, designer, CEO of production house Headmade.tv and guest in LW&D Podcast
The LWD team led by Kate created a strong design community where girls could exchange experiences, support each other and create new social connections.
The important thing is that in LWD you can not only receive information but also share it, and develop your speaking skills. Kate offered and supported the opportunities for girls to express and show themselves.
This was the first time I spoke to an offline audience, sharing my experience. In a supportive environment, it’s easier to do something for the first time. It was also very cool that LW&D did a collaboration with the G8 Design Festival where I was invited to be a member of the jury, and many girls from the community gave lectures to a large audience.
I want to thank Kate and the LW&D team for the great energy and enthusiasm with which they created the conditions for new knowledge, experience and networking🤍
Art-Director in branding agency LINII, speaker in LW&D
Let’s start with my first visit to an event in Lelya’s studio when we were making things from the beads. I was then invited by Jane Kott, and for a long time I doubted whether to go or not) the "female community" in general scared me because before that I have been working for 7 years in a male team and my experience with a female team before was … well, not a good one) …
In short — I was very surprised by the warm atmosphere and friendliness of all the girls, greetings and personal stories from everyone and at the end when I was about to leave, I remember that you said that if I have any questions, doubts, thoughts … then I can always contact you for a question/support ✨ I really remembered how sincere and warm these words were like never before (I had just then lost some of my 'girlfriends' and mentally it was not a very simple period of life). Probably, if there wasn’t our small talk then, maybe I wouldn’t really try to somehow join the community and the team later)
Thanks to the community, I had several projects with girls from there (for someone I did motion for the site/advertising/social networks) and some girls took part in my auction with paintings (helping the shelter). I would like to believe that this is just the beginning.
So thank you for creating such a great atmosphere within the team and community and for your support ✨ Hugs 🤗
Artist & Motion Designer, Motion Designer in LWD Team
I have only positive feelings about your curatorship in LW&D. You have great leadership qualities and people want to follow you. At the same time, you are very responsible, you know how to listen and cheer people up. When I started my journey in web design, I was inspired by podcasts and words that I heard in our face-to-face meetings. This supported me a lot. And, finally, in LW&D I met wonderful girls. With some of them, we go to design parties, on vacations, to cafes and museums. This communication has turned into friendship. And we miss you a lot ❤️
Thanks to Kate, I had the opportunity to join the Ladies, Wine & Design community, where I met many talented designers, art directors and other professionals from our industry. Thanks to her recommendations, I was chosen as a speaker at the G8 Design Festival, which was a great honour for me. In addition, I gained a lot of new knowledge and skills that helped me significantly improve my professional competence. This all was possible thanks to Kate’s participation in my life, and I am deeply grateful for this.
Graphic Designer, Art Director in Clever Publishing, speaker in LW&D
Kate Shashina, the chapter leader of the LW&D community, gave me an incredible chance in my life to speak publicly for the first time and be part of the G8 speakers team. Kate helped to highlight that very topic that is important and organic for me, which was and remains the main principle of my work. This is the role of a true creative leader, mentor and curator. I am very grateful for the opportunity, help, support and openness!
Client Service Director at LINII, the speaker in LW&D
I don’t remember how I found LW&D, maybe I looked through the general list on the main chapter website, applied, and went to the first event. Before that, I read about Kate on her own website or on the website of the Moscow LW&D block, and then I really got inspired and thought about how cool she is! When you look at people who have achieved great results in your professional field, it seems that it is difficult to get close to these people, that you are most likely a "nobody" to them. But what was my surprise, how simple, warm and easy the meeting I attended was! Kate led it very gently: each girl was given a voice to tell about herself, and each shared something personal and listened to others. I think her role in this is super strong — because comfort and atmosphere depend on the leader of the community. And even her attitude towards girls — friendliness and supportiveness, is what we lack in the design community in Russia! And of course — positiveness, she talked about important things very cheerfully and with humour, both at that meeting and when the community came to us in Avito 🤍
I also want to say thank you, Kate, for the podcast, in which I was lucky enough to take part last year! It was very comfortable to talk to you, you asked interesting questions, and it was a boost of energy and positivity for me (and for some time after a few people were coming to my blog from a podcast!) 🤍 In general, although I did not often take part in community events, I think that you had a huge role in this community, and you really brought a lot to it, thanks, Kate ❤️
Communication Designer, guest in LW&D Podcast
I want to share my thoughts about my work in the team.
There was a clear feeling of a leader, which is important, otherwise, everything merges together and processes stop
Process control. This format suits me when I clearly know what needs to be done by a certain deadline and when there is someone to talk to about difficulties and find the best solution
Atmosphere. Your jokes, charisma, and ability to tell simple things interestingly set the mood for every meeting
Openness. I came for my first event when I did not know anyone in Moscow. I got confused in finding the location, and you kindly told me where to turn)) and even went out to meet 😊