Dubai Design Week: Discover The Who, What, Where

5 min read
The Aeon Installation by David Harber, Downtown Design

As the city’s largest creative festival, Dubai Design Week, returns for its fifth edition from November 11-16, MOJEH gets the inside scoop from Rue Kothari, Director of Downtown Design.

Read on to discover how to navigate the week – from the most inspiring exhibitors and events, to shopping the forefront of cutting edge design – we have all the highlights.

How do you prepare for Dubai Design Week?
As the director of Downtown Design, the Week’s largest component, this one moment of the year is what I work for all year round. In order to focus fully on the task at hand, I don’t want to be fretting over sartorial details. Smart wardrobe choices make all the difference during a week where I am meeting VIPs, having business meetings, hosting parties and generally on my feet all day.

Rue Kothari, Director of Downtown Design

What would you typically wear?
It’s all about style with comfort; which usually translates to structured dresses with boots or trainers and statement accessories from Fendi. Half the battle is dressing for the part, the other is being calm and centred. I usually meditate every morning for at least 20 minutes, which gives me the positivity, energy and clarity to tackle whatever the day throws at me.

Can you tell me how Dubai Design Week is different this year, and what’s new on the agenda?
At Downtown Design we revamp our visitor experience every year, collaborating with new award-winning local designers to create a fresh look and feel. This year we have 200 contemporary design brands and individual designers, pop-up bar and café concepts, installations and features from around the world with a focus on regional creativity, including an exclusive talk in The Forum by Christian Louboutin, where he will reveal the creative process behind the curation of his upcoming retrospective.

Ababa 2019 in d3

What will be returning from previous events?
Around d3, regular pop ups like Abwab the annual cultural exploration of regional design, will be joined by original exhibits including an evocative visual journey through the history of Kabul, presented by NGO Turquoise Mountain and haute horologists Rado, who return with a celebration of Le Corbusier – the epic design talent considered to be the Father of Modernism.

Craftwork presented by Turquoise Mountain

What are you most looking forward to?
I can’t wait to see Preciosa’s interactive light installation Carousel, which reacts to human contact and emotion – it will be the first time this has been shown outside Milan and it’s truly spectacular. The immensely creative design team behind India’s Klove lighting will present their phenomenal collection Totems Over Time bringing giant tribal totems and jewellery pieces to brilliant life through handmade glass light pieces. And Irthi, Sharjah’s contemporary crafts council is a definite must. Showcasing at Downtown Editions, they will present a transformative exhibition of objects created through a unique collaboration between Bedouin artisans and international design studios.

Irthi showcase at Downtown Editions

Can visitors shop directly from exhibitors?
All our participating brands and designers are looking to connect with new buyers. Our emerging talent at Editions rely on commissions and sales in order to build their brands. Supporting our own regional design industry not only feeds creativity but gives the buyer access to beautiful, limited edition handmade products. Overall, Downtown Design is the one time of the year that people in the city can discover and buy from some of the best contemporary brands in the world, in one place. Around d3, it’s worth checking out the Art Jameel Shop for design, architecture, music and culture takeaways, as well as La Suite, a pop up sale of pre-loved fashion items with styling sessions, talks and art content.

Can you tell us about The Global Grad Show?
Grad Show is a treasure trove of ideas and innovation that will make you completely rethink the role of design in determining our future. Almost all the projects focus on employing design thinking in creating solutions for ecological and socio-economic problems that pervade commerce, culture and societies all over the world.

Kuwait Pavilion at DDW, 2018

Who are the ones to watch, and why?
Paulina Kwiatkowska graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw where she produced a series of zero-energy domestic appliances that use the natural properties of various fabrics and textiles to regulate the air inside the home; removing impurities, regulating humidity and maintaining a constant temperature.

Elissa Brunato’s degree show for St Martins redesigned the sequin. Not as innocuous as it seems, as sequins are made from petroleum-based materials then often end up in the ocean, where they are consumed by marine life mistaking them for food. To reduce the threat, Elissa designed a Bio Iridescent Sequin made from naturally abundant cellulose, that’s light, strong and compostable, retaining the appeal of the sequin without posing a danger to wildlife.

Audi Innovation Hub at DDW

Do you have any advice for people attending?
For anyone looking to visit, pop in during the week for lunch and you’ll be able to properly engage with the installations and designers without having to subvert the weekend crowds. Failing that, the exhibitions are open late, so it’s a great evening activity for our cooler winter eves. As is the case with Dubai, you can dress up or down, but with most exhibits scattered around the buildings of d3, and Downtown being so huge, it’s best to wear stylish flats in order to make the most of the experience without the challenge of sore feet.

What are your essential tips to surviving Design Week?
To survive Design Week, you’ll need hydration, a portable phone charger, the Dubai Design Week app and enough time to see it all.

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  • Words by Elaine Lloyd-Jones