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Emirati designers need more support

First edition of Downtown Design, a furniture and product design trade event opens in Dubai

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Craftmanship at The Workshop stand at the first edition of Downtown Design, a furnitureand product design trade event in Dubai’s Mohammad Bin Rashid Boulevard, which beganon Tuesday.
Gulf News

Dubai: Emirati furniture designers that want to see their designs turned into products face some barriers in the UAE, Emirati designer Khalid Shafar told Gulf News.

Shafar was speaking on the side-lines of a press conference announcing the opening of the first edition of Downtown Design, a furniture and product design trade event in Dubai’s Mohammad Bin Rashid Boulevard.

Emirati designs are manufactured abroad, rather than in the UAE, since local companies are not willing to develop a product, which is a barrier for many designers, according to Shafar.

“There is more willingness [abroad] to take your ideas and apply them. It’s not the way here. The companies here are more oriented for business to business. As much as you are still in the trial stage, they are not willing to open this door because there might be a chance that they might not finish this product,” he said.

He also said that there is a shortage of Emirati designs.

Another challenge faced by budding Emirati designers is the lack of university degrees that equip them with knowledge of product design.

Despite the barriers, the design infrastructure in the UAE is developing, he said. There are a number of design galleries in Dubai, including Nakkash, J+A, La Galerie Nationale, and Shafar’s own gallery Kasa, where he displays his work.

International designers are starting to recognise Emirati talent. Giulio Cappellini of Cappellini said that he is willing to work with Emirati designers.

Commenting on the design landscape in the UAE, Cappellini said: “In the UAE, there is more and more attention to design from consumers.”

The development of design in the UAE has caught the attention of international brands. Some have used the exhibition as a platform to debut their products in the Middle East, including Italy’s Chi Wing Lo, which recently opened its Dubai showroom.

Chi Wing Lo, the Chinese designer behind the brand, said that consumers in Dubai are willing to pay any price for a good quality product.

Buyers have to dig deep into their pockets to buy Wing Lo’s products. A circular cabinet with a revolving door costs between €12,000 and €14,000 on average.

But consumers don’t have to pay a large sum to own quality furniture. At Discipline in Milan, products are priced between €150 and €600.

Renato Preti, president of Discipline, said that he wants to expand his business to the UAE. The company‘s products are already displayed at a showroom in Beirut, and it is looking for distributors to bring the business to the UAE.