Before the first Dubai Design Week, more than eight years ago, the idea of “UAE made” was just that, an idea — perhaps even a dream.
The UAE’s architectural journey was already well established by the early 2000s, while a more solid understanding and formation of the arts landscape in the country was also beginning to emerge. As an infrastructure around the arts was forming organically across the country, solidified by the first Art Dubai in 2007 and then in the following year the first galleries opening in Alserkal Avenue, it was only logical that as an artistic voice and identity took form in the UAE, design would follow suit.
Design intersects many expansive disciplines, including architecture, product and furniture design, interiors, jewellery, technology, culture and art — to name a few. For the UAE, a hub for a diverse range of cultures, it always made sense to have different voices and ideas of design filtering through a very multicultural space.
As the UAE’s cultural fabric became more varied, as institutions turned their focus to organically fostering cultural talent here and in the region, and as international interest in the UAE grew, thoughts around the nation's point of view in design were brought to the fore.
How did the UAE fit into the international design landscape? What was the “voice of design” from the country and from the greater region? Could a “made in the UAE” label be a reality?
Design Days Dubai, which was later renamed Dubai Design Week, set out to explore these fundamental questions, along with developing design and innovation in the city by fostering a creative environment. In less than a decade, Dubai Design Week has become one of the largest creative festivals in the Middle East.
The design fair, which runs this year until November 13, stretches across the city, with its main hub in Dubai Design District (d3), and includes Downtown Design, a three-day industry-focused event where the business of design is explored. Activities across the city include public installations, exhibitions, talks and workshops, and for the first time this year the d3 Design Market by FLTRD. The market presents a retail experience, displaying home-grown pieces in fashion, art, homeware and more from Emirati and UAE-based designers.
From international and local designers and artists whose ideas, work and products are on show, we see the accumulation of eight years’ growth in the local design landscape. Not only do up-and-coming regional designers have the opportunity to display their work through the Global Grad Show programme or the more recently launched Mena Grad Show, but international designers and architects are presenting at the fair and creating work inspired by the UAE’s vision, heritage or perspective.
Most importantly, Dubai Design Week has created a platform for Dubai and the UAE to include its own interpretation of global trends and challenges facing the international community, whether that be through diversity, organic growth, new technology or sustainability.
It’s clear over the past few years of Dubai Design Week that the UAE is making its dream a reality.