Dubai Design Week to boost UAE’s design industry

Set to open next month, Dubai Design Week is an umbrella initiative set to unite the interests of local and regional designers.

From left, Riem Ibrahim, Hala Al Ani and Hadeyeh Badri – curators of Abwab’s UAE pavilion. Courtesy Dubai Design Week
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Dubai Design Week looks set to change the face of the design industry in the region, when the inaugural event begins next month.

Operating in much the same way as Dubai Art Week, which takes place in March, the idea behind the event is to group a range of design-related events and exhibitions under a single banner at a centralised venue – in this case it is the newly inaugurated Dubai Design District (d3).

At the heart of the event will be Downtown Design, a bespoke trade fair where professionals in the region can discover original, high-quality designs from all over the world. However, just as Art Week pivots around Art Dubai, the fair is simply considered the starting point of the new event.

Among the other components is an initiative called Abwab, which will offer a chance for emerging and established designers from six countries in the region – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the UAE – to display their works.

Six 50-square-metre pavilions have been designed by the UAE firm Loci Architecture + Design, to house a curated exhibition from each of the countries. They will be integrated into the existing walkways and open areas of d3, and each curator has been invited to reflect on a theme which this year is Games: The Element of Play in Culture.

Hadeyeh Badri, Hala Al Ani and Riem Ibrahim, the trio of designers behind Mobius Studios, are the curators of Abwab’s UAE pavilion. “This is especially exciting since we believe that design, in the wider sense of the word – process, practice, profession – is relatively young in the region,” they said.

“We see Dubai Design Week, and Abwab specifically, as being about opening windows of opportunity for those who want to engage and invest themselves in questioning the world through a designer’s eye. It is also a chance to reach out to the intrigued and curious and to experience what design could be about. The prospect of such exchange excites us enormously.” As part of the main fair, a series of locally based designers have produced site-specific pieces, as well as installations in an attempt to give them a platform to showcase their work.

Aljoud Lootah – an Emirati furniture designer who launched her eponymous design studio at this year's Design Days Dubai, and whose collection garnered her much regional and international attention – has created an installation called Yaroof, a geometric installation inspired by a type of traditional shore fishing.

The installation consists of four octagonal frames, each with patterns created using nylon ropes to depict the shape and structure of a fishing net. “The patterns are inspired by complex Arabesque motifs, and similar to the form of these motifs, the curves found in the designs are created entirely with straight lines,” she explains.

Lootah also says that the introduction of the event will help to “open the region’s eyes” more to design. “Just as there is a crucial need for engineers and doctors, the demand for the arts is also expanding,” she says. “The city is rounding itself more and more, and as a result, expanding its fields further.”

Also, as part of the week-long event, the Global Grad Show exhibition will present a selection of the best 50 postgraduate projects from the world's foremost design universities. This includes work from students at Tsinghua University, Beijing; Keio University, Tokyo; Royal College of Art, London; Imperial College, London; Berkley University, San Francisco; and MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Young design brands from six other fledgling design-week cities around the world will also be on show.

Outside of d3, Emirati designer Khalid Shafar is hosting a showcase of local designers at his studio in Ras Al Khor. Nadine Kanso, a jewellery designer; Tarek Al Zaharna, an architect; Khulood Thani, a fashion designer; and Shafar will unite their talents for an exhibition called Design Ras Al Khor, which will be open to the public throughout the week.

Dubai Design Week is held in collaboration with the Dubai Design and Fashion Council and is under the patronage of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority.

• Dubai Design Week runs from October 26 to 31. Visit