Women Who Inspire


 In our second episode, Janne Villadsen, Programme and Development Director of Heartland and cultural connoisseur, invites us into her home in Copenhagen. We discuss the meaning of culture and community, the power of clothes, hopes for a sustainable future, and Janne's thoughts and experiences on what it means to be a woman.


Talent – Janne Villadsen
Interview – Sophie Axon
Photos – Sophie Foden-Pattinson
Styling – Heidi Hofmann and Emilie Axters
Hair and make-up – Emilie Preskou


Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

1. How did you end up becoming who you are?

Many different facets of life have shaped who I am today. Through a combination of my upbringing, dreaming, coincidence, ambitions and striving. I take inspiration from the people I admire, the political landscape and the culture that has so often touched me. 

With that said, I always had quite a clear plan of what I wanted to do. It has changed a few times over the years, sometimes into a more blurry version, other times to a brighter one, but the overall aim has always been the same; I wanted to do something that could possibly create change, to bring people together through culture and stories. 

When I think about what has shaped me the most, it's time. Getting older and the process of age has without a doubt had its biggest impact on who I am today and what I do. For as long as I can remember, I have always admired people who were older than me, for the knowledge they possess and the calmness that surrounds them. When I was younger, I was very eager to get ahead in this world and, in hindsight, I didn’t pay enough attention to the lessons I learned while doing so. So every day as I get older, it’s my goal to appreciate how I learn a bit more about becoming better; as a colleague, leader, friend, citizens, partner, bonus-mother and mother. 

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

2.  What piqued your interest in art and culture? e.g. can you recall your first memory of art, what your favourite piece of art/gallery/museum? 

My interest in the cultural world centres around how it makes me feel; it touched me. Art, more specifically, mid century painting, was the first culture form that really affected me emotionally. I remember seeing an Asger Jorn painting at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art when I was around 12 years old and thinking it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. It was a large-scale abstract painting in black and white, several metres high, with deep structures from the print-brushes. You could disappear for hours, immersing into the many details. If I remember correctly, I even told my mother that if I ever got married, I wanted that painting as a present. I still have that to come, but I’m not counting on it. 

So when somehow, during my time at university, I realised I could actually work within culture - first writing about it and later producing it - it was as if I had seen the light. I feel very lucky that I can combine my interests and work life into a symbiosis of passion. 

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

3. Creativity and culture - what do they mean to you?

For me, creativity means a drive for change. Culture means community and collaboration. I believe both are ground pillars if we wish to develop and maintain a sustainable world, where both people and our planet can thrive.

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

4. At Hofmann Copenhagen, we strive to dismantle, push and merge boundaries, expectations and stereotypes for women and fashion, in dedication to the modern woman.
 What does being a woman mean to you?

Being a woman means being who I am. I don’t do anything consciously differently because of that, which I’m very aware of.

Over the years, I have been provoked about often being the only woman in boards and management and also found it very unfair that I have experienced being shamed for my love life, just because I was a woman and not a man. But despite that, I always try to act how I believe is right, not giving my gender too much thought - whether it’s creating more gender balance or standing up for myself.

I will (soon) be mother and bonus-mother to two daughters who I will bring up -  and I aspire to be a strong role model for them as my mother was to me. My mother led the way in a very male dominated world which I’m sure is one of the reasons I never thought much of my gender in my upbringing. Now we live in a different age with a completely different way of living, thinking and understanding gender - finally. My hope is that I will be the woman - and the person - to show my daughters that they can be exactly who they want to be regardless of their gender.  

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

5. What are the biggest lessons you've learnt so far?

The biggest lesson I have learnt so far is to be myself and not to try and be somebody else. I was given this piece of advice 8 years ago by a close friend of mine who is 20 years my age. Ever since, the biggest lessons in life at work, in love, in life and in friendship takes its turn from that.  

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

6. What are your hopes for the future? e.g. cultural world, work, personal.

Now, as well as in the future, I hope that everybody will take the responsibility needed to make a sustainable and long-lasting world. Myself included, as I’m not the perfect example; I could also do more. 

The world is experiencing one crisis after another which sometimes makes us blind to what's going on around us - we shouldn't give up. My hopes and aspirations are that we all take the necessary steps to do what is needed. Creating a sense of responsibility within everybody is, as I see it, the biggest challenge of our time. 

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen

Janne Villadsen | Hofmann Copenhagen


 Introducing Women Who Inspire, a new monthly series of talks and photo stories where we celebrate those who inspire us, to share their voices and stories with our community.


Talent – Aram Ostadian-Binai
Photos – Sophie Foden-Pattinson
Interview – Sophie Axon
Styling – Heidi Hofmann and Emilie Axters
Hair and make-up – Emilie Preskou

In our first episode, Aram Ostadian-Binai, Founder of The Soulfuls, award-winning social entrepreneur, DEI advocate and branding consultant, invites us into her home in Copenhagen. We discuss the meaning of culture and community, the power of clothes, what it means to be a woman, and Aram's experience and thoughts on life as an Iranian woman, exploring her dedicated work towards absolute rights in all facets of life and freedom, amongst other topics.

1. How did you end up becoming who you are?

I’ve always been drawn to the creative industry. I remember writing poetry and being interested in creative expression from a young age, which was often a topic of discussion when I was a young girl living in Iran. My parents were very entrepreneurial; my mother, for example, established her very own tailoring studio in our home when I was around 6 years old.

Not only was I placed in the heart of a creative space, I particularly loved hearing the dialogue between my mother and her customers. I remember listening in on women being self-critical and watching my mother intervene to boost their confidence. There was always room for improvement and creativity, with the aim to make women feel confident, empowered and beautiful from within. That's why I love the creative industry - it’s an amazing tool for self-expression. Especially in this case, living in Iran. The world my mother created inside our home was completely different and liberating reality to public life. You had to dress and act differently as soon as you stepped outside. My mother owned many magazines that were forbidden, and I remember flicking through them feeling inspired.

At age 14, I moved to Denmark. There was so much complexity about being a woman in Iran so there were a lot of adjustments when we relocated. The lack of equality and human rights was something I questioned from a young age, and then when I moved to Denmark, I saw a land of freedom but also learned that the colour of my skin and gender is still - and will be - limiting. Realising the reality of these restrictions, I felt inspired to encourage and liberate other women to feel free of these restrictions, to have the rights they should be - and are - entitled to. This really fueled a passion within me.

I took this passion and began a career in fashion, media and marketing. I felt - in a way - that I wasn’t moving forward, so I moved to London to study and enhance my skills. When I returned to Denmark, I decided to fit the puzzle pieces together and build a bridge between those inside the creative industry and those on the border, to put their dreams into action. I have a desire to inspire hope and create more room for representation. I’m a big believer in that what we see can impact our beliefs and opinions. By rewriting narratives, we can rewrite our society. Creativity really can open doors.

Something I’ll always remember from my school days at the asylum centre is an art project where we had to draw our past, present and future. I painted a blue canvas with a caged bird to represent my past. For the present,

I drew an open cage with a bird inside. Then I painted a free-flying bird with a graduation hat, to represent the future. In Denmark you don’t actually get the graduation hat, but because I ended up graduating in London, I ended up wearing the hat and becoming a manifestation of that very drawing. The power of sight and imagination; what we see shapes our beliefs, emotions and view of people. The power of signs and imagination are amazing! Pictures speak so much faster than text too – it's a source of imagination.


2. What inspired you to found The Soulfuls – an inclusive platform for all women?

I founded The Soulfuls to rewrite the narrative for the women of our future. Since 2018, we have been working on creating fair representation and fair opportunities in creative & fashion industries by cultivating the next gen of women from all backgrounds through our mentorship programs, events, and workshops.

We have been helping brands to think more inclusively and providing young women with a platform to know that they can achieve success; regardless of their background, ethnicity or education.

It was not until, when I moved back from London after 4 years, that I realised the bias in hiring and media coverage. With my education from London College of Fashion, and Harvard Business School, as well as my professional experience for more than 10 years in both Denmark and globally in media, fashion and tech as digital editor, content creator and marketing executive, it was almost impossible to get a call-in for a job interview. Aram in London was interesting for different roles in Denmark, yet Aram in Denmark not so much. There is a systematic bias that makes hiring diverse talents from the UK, US or France more attractive, and yet local talents remain untapped.

A lot has happened since we first launched The Soulfulsyou now see more stories in the media of successful women and even those who look like me. There’s an imbalance in terms of who gets a foot in the door, and most of the time it comes down to who you know, where you are from, how you look - more than what your skills and education are. The Soulfuls mission is to tackle this challenge, by creating awareness and bridge between young women and their dream.

3. Culture and community - what do these words mean to you?

In my eyes, community is a place that should respectfully embrace cultural diversity; a society that broadens our views. The world is filled with people who have different beliefs, religions, traditions, and ways of living. It is within our differences that we can find beauty. Culture should be complimentary of society; they should go hand in hand. Similarly, when clothes are designed you have no control over who buys the garment. Therefore, you have the power to create a culturally diverse community. When these forces are tied together, it’s beautiful.

Today, fashion, creative and media industries might shape culture, but they don't reflect our cultural diversity. Cultural diversity has to be embraced at the top for it to be embraced throughout the rank and file.

A truly sustainable industry is one made up of different people of varied backgrounds where there is transparency into that representation all along the value chain and up and down the org chart.

4. At Hofmann Copenhagen, we strive to dismantle, push and merge boundaries, expectations and stereotypes for women and fashion, in dedication to the modern woman. What does being a woman mean to you?

Fashion can provide a visual currency for change. To make a change for modern women, the future of our young girls, we need to start investing in the world we are leaving behind today.

Being a woman for me means endless love, sacrifice, bravery and community-building. I didn't realise the unparalleled power of womanhood until I gave birth. As women, we create and give life. Even more than that, as mothers, we raise the people of this world; the future of our planet. We create communities.

We should demand and create the change we want to see. From basic human rights, and equality for women, to our climate that is suffering. I think it's about time women were in the control seats of our world. Like the brave women-led revolution in Iran, when we lead, the rest will follow.

Mother earth needs our attention equally, and so there is a young woman like Greta, leading that movement. Design for both today and future female leaders.


5. What are the biggest lessons you've learnt so far?

It might be cliche, but the biggest lesson I’ve learnt so far is to trust my gut instinct. Listening to my inner voice as a guideline ensures me that making mistakes is okay and human. It makes me more humbled and accepting of others. When seeking or giving advice, encouraging others to find the answer through their own gut instinct is the most powerful tool. We all have the ability to use our own guidance to find answers from within. It’s a valuable and beautiful lesson, and something we encourage at The Soulfuls.

6. What are your hopes for the future?

I hope for absolute freedom for women; in dressing, education, loving, creating their lives and work. I really hope that if you give freedom to women, those who are giving birth to humans and breathing life into our world, we have the power and potential for an equal future.


 In our second episode, Janne Villadsen, Programme and Development Director of Heartland and cultural connoisseur, invites us into her home in Copenhagen. We discuss the meaning of culture and community, the power of clothes, hopes for a sustainable future, and Janne's thoughts and experiences on what it means to be a woman.