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Design Diary: Middle East Shines at London design festival

Dubai Design District showcases the works of 18 designers from the region as part of the Designjunction exhibition

Tabloid

London’s leading destination for design during the annual citywide design festival, Designjunction, has continued to break the mould of traditional trade shows since it was established in 2011. With a unique visitor experience offering a wide range of design led pop-up shops, installations and other interactive features that strikes the balance between the creative and commercial, the fair has an established tradition of spotlighting emerging talent.

Co-curated by Suzanne Trocme, the d3 exhibition titled: Middle East: Design Now! looks at traditional materials and design methodologies, portraying designers and artists from a variety of creative fields and diverse mediums. “There will be some unexpected moments and surprises for visitors to the jewellery-box of contemporary design that will really challenge preconceptions of the Middle East” says Trocme.

Younes Duret’s Souk’na collection.

Featuring designers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, Middle East: Design Now! is a reflection of the broad spectrum of creative talent and expertise in the Middle East. “Our participation at this event aims to position the Middle East as a global creative centre,” says Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi, COO, d3.

The Middle East is wide and varied — and each country has a storied past that impacts its creative class in a board manner. “As we move towards the future, we’re finding a new aesthetic emerging from the region; it is important to share it with the international creative community and the world at large.”

Dual Bowls by Kawther Al Saffar.

London’s might as a global creative centre and its cultural affinity towards the Middle East makes it the perfect host for an exhibit that straddles tradition and modernity. Kuwaiti product designer Kawther Al Saffar’s furniture brand Saffar promotes local crafts in products that are personally informed and regionally defined, yet universally desirable.

Using unique sand-casting methods developed with Alwafi Foundry in Kuwait, Al Saffar’s Dual Bowls offer an unexpected combination of metals. “Creatives are not only competing against a predefined image of a nation’s product culture, but also with a global network of established industries” says Alsaffar. Dual Bowls are an active demonstration of the creative process and experience. They give power back to those who deserve it the most — the craftsmen, who, for far too long have been forced to question their place in the industrialised world order.

A Gafla necklace

The established Egyptian designer Cherif Morsi — his works include collaborations with Sawaya & Moroni, Droog and Chi Ha Paura among others — will present the Trefle, a domestic chair recognisable by its unique yet so familiar backrest.

Launched in 2015 by Hamad Bin Shaiban, Abdulla Beljafla and Bushra Bint Darwish, Dubai-based fine jewellery brand Gafla specialises in contemporary designs inspired by the rich history of the Gulf. Drawing on philosophies from Arabia’s past, their presentation reimagines traditional motifs and stories to create the treasures of tomorrow.

Younes Duret from Morocco has created a market in his country for contemporary design, interior, furniture and lighting. His studio seeks to integrate principles of sustainable design in every product — starting from the empowerment of suppliers, manufacturers and craftsmen. This commitment extends to the high-tech spectrum of design manufacturing. Using 3D Printers, the studio produces prototypes and objects made from bio-plastics such as corn starch. For their London audience, the studio underscores its mission statement with the eco-friendly collection, Souk’na.

Aljoud Lootah’s hadwoven carpets

“This exhibit is so much more than just exposure for Middle Eastern creators,” say Dubai-based Aljoud Lootah who presents some of her career-defining works. “This is a glimpse into modern day Arabia. I hope the show generates curiosity, fosters connections and creates dialogue. Not just between designers, but between cultures”. In the current world climate riddled with divisiveness and a fear of the unfamiliar, such platforms are imperative not only for creativity to flourish, but also for humanity to persevere.

Middle East: Design Now! ends 24th September, and takes place in Granary Square, Kings Cross, London. Don’t miss it if you are in the British capital.

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