Nada Debs's furniture sits at the crossroads of two cultures



It would not be an overstatement to say that Nada Debs has revolutionised Middle Eastern design. Returning to Lebanon in 2000 after a 40-year absence, Debs discovered a dearth of contemporary Arabic furniture on the market, and steadily set about filling the gap.

She established East & East, which designs, manufactures and sells homeware items in two retail outlets in Beirut, and is represented in New York, Geneva, Cairo, Amman and Dubai. In the UAE, Debs's profile is set to grow even further when the local furniture retailer Aati begins stocking her products in its Dubai showroom later this month.

Much is made of Nada Debs's multicultural background - and rightly so. Her creations are a direct manifestation of her colourful journey or as she calls it, her "personal Silk Route", which has taken her from Lebanon, where she was born, to Japan, where she was raised, to the US, where she studied interior architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, and then on to the UK, where she lived and worked before coming full circle and returning to Lebanon.

Each of these experiences has left an indelible mark, and shapes her designs in unique ways, Debs says. "I realised that it is what I picked up in my subconscious throughout my upbringing that made me come up with my designs. The simplicity and the minimalist approach come from my upbringing in Japan; the fact that I design functional objects comes from the back-to-basics 'form and function' philosophy of design from the US; the appreciation of craft from the UK, and the use of ornament from the Middle East. All of these seem to apply to my work."

Debs produces two main furniture collections, featuring everything from tables, consoles and seats to beds, mirrors and lamps. The East & East line fuses the traditional craftsmanship of the Middle East with the minimalism of the Far East, striking a skilful balance between the "less is more" aesthetic of Asia and the "more is more" approach that is characteristic of this part of the world. Debs' other line, East & West, celebrates the simple lines of modernist design, blending elements of Arabesque and Western design. There is also a home accessories collection that is showcased in two Nada Debs Boutique outlets in Beirut.

Next on the agenda is a line called Vintage Meets Arabesque, Debs reveals. "I am inspired by midcentury furniture and incorporating craft into it. The look will be very different from what I have exposed before."

And beyond that? Debs says there are "lots and lots of things" that she would like to design but hasn't had a chance to, yet. Among them, a hotel. "A hotel using the East & East concept is one of my dreams," she says.

When it comes to the modernisation of Middle Eastern design, Debs focuses on two main features: the use of craft and the use of ornament. She looks closely at Islamic geometry, which "gives a sense of order and repetition, reflects the concept of infinity and gives us an emotional reaction", she explains.

"In terms of craft, the Middle East has been well-known for producing exquisite furniture and objects for the sultans in the Ottoman Empire but as time has passed, the style of production has not changed. I tried to introduce a different twist by showing the craftsmen that we can use the same craft using different materials and different forms."

Of course, changing such an established mindset comes with its own share of challenges. "Working in Lebanon or in the Arab world where the craft industry is still 'family-owned' has been a challenge," says Debs. "I have my own workshop now, which is expanding, and we hope to create a school to teach the craft. It is important for the craftsmen to feel that they are appreciated and I am challenged to professionalise the industry to work with larger quantities but with the same quality of work."

Some of the products that Debs is most proud of include her Arabian Nights mirror and other objects that combine mother-of-pearl inlay and resin. But her favourite is the Pebble Table, because "it has a mechanism for movement and I like the simplicity and the flexibility of the piece," she says. "It can go in classical homes and in modern homes and seems to be a popular piece as well."

Debs' designs are so intuitive, and the modern and the traditional sit together so comfortably, that one wonders why it took so long for someone to come up with them. Apparently, this was a common reaction when she was presenting her first pieces, she says. "It was a funny reaction, as most people would look at the designs and say, 'It was such a natural evolution, how come no one had done it before?'"

One reason it hadn't really been done before, she suspects, is that "the craft itself had become sacred for the craftsmen as well as for Arabs, so people were hesitant to change what was considered as classical Middle Eastern design."

Because of her multifaceted background, Debs was not held back by the same sentimentality. In fact, designing furniture became a way for her to explore her own identity as a modern expatriate Arab returning to the Middle East.

"Despite the fact that I am an Arab, I had come from a different background, being brought up in Japan, so I didn't feel I was breaking any rules when I took the craft and changed the form of the furniture. I feel that a lot of us Arabs who have lived abroad have come back to the Middle East searching for our identity and part of my answer was to create furniture that fit our lifestyle."

This quest for identity is a recurring theme with Debs, and a major driving force in her work. "I suppose that I was able to bridge the gap between our heritage and modern times and when I see that people of all ages are responding to this, it makes me want to create more," she says. "But what really drives me is that it is through my work that I am able to identify who I am. I am always in search of my identity."

Nada Debs products are available in the UAE from Bloomingdales, O'de Rose and, from this month, Aati, as well as through her website, www.nadadebs.com

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Pathaan

Director: Siddharth Anand 

Stars: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, John Abraham 

Rating: 3/5

The biog

Born: near Sialkot, Pakistan, 1981

Profession: Driver

Family: wife, son (11), daughter (8)

Favourite drink: chai karak

Favourite place in Dubai: The neighbourhood of Khawaneej. “When I see the old houses over there, near the date palms, I can be reminded of my old times. If I don’t go down I cannot recall my old times.”

THE SPECS

Jaguar F-Pace SVR

Engine: 5-litre supercharged V8​​​​​​​

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Power: 542bhp​​​​​​​

Torque: 680Nm​​​​​​​

Price: Dh465,071

PAKISTAN SQUAD

Pakistan - Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Rumman Raees.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

THE SPECS

Engine: 3-litre V6 turbo (standard model, E-hybrid); 4-litre V8 biturbo (S)
Power: 350hp (standard); 463hp (E-hybrid); 467hp (S)
Torque: 500Nm (standard); 650Nm (E-hybrid); 600Nm (S)
Price: From Dh368,500
On sale: Now

RoboCop: Rogue City

Developer: Teyon
Publisher: Nacon
Console: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC
Rating: 3/5

Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

 Only recruitment companies authorised by the government are permitted as part of Tadbeer, a network of labour ministry-regulated centres.

A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

hall of shame

SUNDERLAND 2002-03

No one has ended a Premier League season quite like Sunderland. They lost each of their final 15 games, taking no points after January. They ended up with 19 in total, sacking managers Peter Reid and Howard Wilkinson and losing 3-1 to Charlton when they scored three own goals in eight minutes.

SUNDERLAND 2005-06

Until Derby came along, Sunderland’s total of 15 points was the Premier League’s record low. They made it until May and their final home game before winning at the Stadium of Light while they lost a joint record 29 of their 38 league games.

HUDDERSFIELD 2018-19

Joined Derby as the only team to be relegated in March. No striker scored until January, while only two players got more assists than goalkeeper Jonas Lossl. The mid-season appointment Jan Siewert was to end his time as Huddersfield manager with a 5.3 per cent win rate.

ASTON VILLA 2015-16

Perhaps the most inexplicably bad season, considering they signed Idrissa Gueye and Adama Traore and still only got 17 points. Villa won their first league game, but none of the next 19. They ended an abominable campaign by taking one point from the last 39 available.

FULHAM 2018-19

Terrible in different ways. Fulham’s total of 26 points is not among the lowest ever but they contrived to get relegated after spending over £100 million (Dh457m) in the transfer market. Much of it went on defenders but they only kept two clean sheets in their first 33 games.

LA LIGA: Sporting Gijon, 13 points in 1997-98.

BUNDESLIGA: Tasmania Berlin, 10 points in 1965-66

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

Washmen Profile

Date Started: May 2015

Founders: Rami Shaar and Jad Halaoui

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Laundry

Employees: 170

Funding: about $8m

Funders: Addventure, B&Y Partners, Clara Ventures, Cedar Mundi Partners, Henkel Ventures

Easter Sunday

Director: Jay Chandrasekhar
Stars: Jo Koy, Tia Carrere, Brandon Wardell, Lydia Gaston
Rating: 3.5/5

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi

Pakistan T20 series squad

Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shahzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammed Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Amir Yamin, Mohammed Amir (subject to fitness clearance), Rumman Raees, Usman Shinwari, Umar Amin

RESULTS

6.30pm: Emirates Holidays Maiden (TB) Dh 82,500 (Dirt) 1,900m
Winner: Lady Snazz, Richard Mullen (jockey), Satish Seemar (trainer).

7.05pm: Arabian Adventures Maiden (TB) Dh 82,500 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Zhou Storm, Connor Beasley, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

7.40pm: Emirates Skywards Handicap (TB) Dh 82,500 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Rich And Famous, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer.

8.15pm: Emirates Airline Conditions (TB) Dh 120,000 (D) 1,400m
Winner: Rio Angie, Sam Hitchcock, Doug Watson.

8.50pm: Emirates Sky Cargo (TB) Dh 92,500 (D) 1,400m
Winner: Kinver Edge, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar.

9.15pm: Emirates.com (TB) Dh 95,000 (D) 2,000m
Winner: Firnas, Xavier Ziani, Salem bin Ghadayer.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

How Tesla’s price correction has hit fund managers

Investing in disruptive technology can be a bumpy ride, as investors in Tesla were reminded on Friday, when its stock dropped 7.5 per cent in early trading to $575.

It recovered slightly but still ended the week 15 per cent lower and is down a third from its all-time high of $883 on January 26. The electric car maker’s market cap fell from $834 billion to about $567bn in that time, a drop of an astonishing $267bn, and a blow for those who bought Tesla stock late.

The collapse also hit fund managers that have gone big on Tesla, notably the UK-based Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust and Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF.

Tesla is the top holding in both funds, making up a hefty 10 per cent of total assets under management. Both funds have fallen by a quarter in the past month.

Matt Weller, global head of market research at GAIN Capital, recently warned that Tesla founder Elon Musk had “flown a bit too close to the sun”, after getting carried away by investing $1.5bn of the company’s money in Bitcoin.

He also predicted Tesla’s sales could struggle as traditional auto manufacturers ramp up electric car production, destroying its first mover advantage.

AJ Bell’s Russ Mould warns that many investors buy tech stocks when earnings forecasts are rising, almost regardless of valuation. “When it works, it really works. But when it goes wrong, elevated valuations leave little or no downside protection.”

A Tesla correction was probably baked in after last year’s astonishing share price surge, and many investors will see this as an opportunity to load up at a reduced price.

Dramatic swings are to be expected when investing in disruptive technology, as Ms Wood at ARK makes clear.

Every week, she sends subscribers a commentary listing “stocks in our strategies that have appreciated or dropped more than 15 per cent in a day” during the week.

Her latest commentary, issued on Friday, showed seven stocks displaying extreme volatility, led by ExOne, a leader in binder jetting 3D printing technology. It jumped 24 per cent, boosted by news that fellow 3D printing specialist Stratasys had beaten fourth-quarter revenues and earnings expectations, seen as good news for the sector.

By contrast, computational drug and material discovery company Schrödinger fell 27 per cent after quarterly and full-year results showed its core software sales and drug development pipeline slowing.

Despite that setback, Ms Wood remains positive, arguing that its “medicinal chemistry platform offers a powerful and unique view into chemical space”.

In her weekly video view, she remains bullish, stating that: “We are on the right side of change, and disruptive innovation is going to deliver exponential growth trajectories for many of our companies, in fact, most of them.”

Ms Wood remains committed to Tesla as she expects global electric car sales to compound at an average annual rate of 82 per cent for the next five years.

She said these are so “enormous that some people find them unbelievable”, and argues that this scepticism, especially among institutional investors, “festers” and creates a great opportunity for ARK.

Only you can decide whether you are a believer or a festering sceptic. If it’s the former, then buckle up.

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-finals, first leg
Liverpool v Roma

When: April 24, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 2, Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The specs: 2018 Renault Megane

Price, base / as tested Dh52,900 / Dh59,200

Engine 1.6L in-line four-cylinder

Transmission Continuously variable transmission

Power 115hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque 156Nm @ 4,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 6.6L / 100km

Courses at Istituto Marangoni, Dubai

Undergraduate courses
Interior Design; Product Design; Visual Design; Fashion Design & Accessories; Fashion Styling & Creative Direction; Fashion Business; Foundation in Fashion; Foundation in Design
Professional courses
Fashion e-Commerce & Digital Marketing; Fashion Entrepreneurship; Fashion Luxury Retail and Visual Merchandising
Short courses
Fashion design; Fashion Image & Styling; Fashion Trend Forecasting; Interior Design; Digital Art in Fashion
More information is at www.istitutomarangoni.com


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