Sum by Normann Copenhagen.
Sum by Normann Copenhagen. Image Credit: Supplied

It is that time of the year when the global design industry descends upon Dubai to celebrate the latest, most innovative and most exciting. Downtown Design, the Middle East’s only trade fair dedicated to high-quality, original design is at the heart of region’s design scene — showcasing a hand-picked selection of established and emerging design talent from around the world, in an environment curated to inspire both design professionals and enthusiasts.

Trade Programme

If one needs some faith in the future of the regional design industry, take a look at the unprecedented growth of Downtown Design. With over 175 international and regional brands, including the largest ever curation of Middle Eastern talent, this year’s showcase will be the fair’s biggest and most diverse to date. Downtown Design’s ambitious stance reflects in its investment in a brand new creative direction, which lays down the blueprint for the future of the global design fair model.

Porcelain art by Andreea Braescu.
Porcelain art by Andreea Braescu. Image Credit: Supplied

Glimpse into the future

A sustainable design approach, innovation and the culture of collaboration will take centre stage at this year’s fair. From seemingly superfluous trends such as colour palettes, to those that will critically influence our interaction with our surroundings, Downtown Design maps how design will be created, and experienced in the new year.

‘Le Refuge’ by Marc Ange. Image Credit: Supplied

Coveted international brands such as Normann Copenhagen, Baxter and Gebrüder Thonet Vienna among others will present the key colours for 2019 — sage greens, dusty pinks and mature greys. Balancing our need for clam and rejuvenation, this colour palette will be punctuated with energising primary colours.

A key trend moving forward lies at the intersection of tradition and technology. Designers such as the porcelain artist Andreea Braescu and Sophie Mallebranche who is known for her premium, woven-metal materials will join Preciosa Lighting and Saint-Louis among others, as they explore the confluence of artisanship and progressive production technologies.

Be it through new-age materials, lending new visual vocabularies to traditional materials or digital interventions in traditional crafts, brands such as Antonio Lupi, BeatWoven, Matteo Brioni, Moroso and Studio Cast Glass among others, will demonstrate the latest in design innovation.

Understanding the creative impact of an ever-shirking world, the fair highlights the power of partnership. International brands such as Lasvit and Cosentino will present never-seen-before works developed in collaboration with regional talent. Masters of creative collaborations such as Ini Archibong, Matthew McCormick and others will talk about the growing culture of creative code-sharing.

An immersive design experience

Created to help visitors develop an intuitive interaction with design, as well as nurture a deeper appreciate for the creative industries, the fair’s new elements are truly for everyone — design professions and enthusiasts, families and friends to enjoy.

This year, the fair’s overarching theme, ‘Liveable Cities’, reflects in its master plan wrote by Dubai-based architectural firm, H+A. It will feature an indoor landscaped garden by the award-winning landscape design firm desert INK.

Saudi Arabian brand Rejo. Image Credit: Supplied

Laying emphasis on Biophilic design and reconnecting fair visitors with nature, the installation that is inspired by the abstracted forms of a dune will celebrate the stunning textures, colours and forms of xerophytes, as well as the lush greens of tropical plantation

The acclaimed British sculptor David Harber will present Aeon, a monumental sculpture that draws parallels by the Arabic symbol of Evil Eye. LA-based designer Marc Ange will present a gold-plated, green marble-based version of his Instagram-breaking installation, Le Refuge. Presented against Dubai’s iconic skyline, and gleaming under our bright sun, the installation will be a magnet for social media and selfie addicts.

Saint-Louis presents avant-garde crystal.
Saint-Louis presents avant-garde crystal. Image Credit: Supplied

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Inspired by the futurist movement of the 20th century, Paul Bishop has designed a unique pop-up bar at the fair’s creek-facing venue. For four days only, this dramatic and immersive version of the House of Negroni will be the place to hob-nob with the coolest names in design, or just grab a drink while enjoying the best of international contemporary design. Take a break, catch up with friends or watch the fair go by at bespoke cafe concepts by Frame and The Kitchen.

Public Workshops

Ashley Cadzow, founder of the Dubai-based social media agency Sunday and Nisrine El Lababidi the founder of Harf Noon Design Studio have mastered the art of social media. They will present ‘Brand Your Instagram’, an interactive workshop that will share real-world tips to perfect your social media strategy and set you up for Instagram success.

Certified Lego Serious Play facilitator Marina Ojan will conduct two workshops that will address everyday issues. In groups and through visual and physical co-creation sessions, attendees will work on communication and teamwork via the act of play. Both workshops take place on Friday, November 16.

BIG designs for Artemide.
BIG designs for Artemide. Image Credit: Supplied

Supporting regional talent

“Over the last six years, Downtown Design has brought iconic international design brands to Dubai” says Rue Kothari, fair director at Downtown Design. “This year our newly formed showcase for limited-edition design, Downtown Editions, will give individual designers and emerging studios a platform to showcase their work.”

Under the spotlight will be 40 designers from the UAE, and over 20 from regional cities ranging from Beirut to Amman and Casablanca. The quality and diversity of their individual work will resonate strongly with visitors. “Collectively it demonstrates the real potential of regional designers — you can see first-hand, how brilliantly ambitious and sophisticated our design scene is becoming” affirms Kothari.

Downtown Design 2018 Image Credit: Downtown Design 2018

From ceramics handmade in the UAE to marble accessories designed and cut by robot, UAE-based designers are really showing their mettle. Very importantly, in contrast to the international design community, Women are taking the lead in the Middle East. From vintage Palestinian textiles reworked into modern objects, unique contemporary furniture pieces by female Saudi designers and collections debuting at the fair by creatives from Portugal and Morocco who have made the UAE their home, Downtown Design reflects the multi-cultural spirit of the nation.

“Key to the success of regional designers is engagement,” says Kothari. “These designers have produced pieces that need to be appreciated; acquired, taken home and loved. Patronage is the fuel that feeds their creativity.”

Crucial to the region’s development as a design hub is the collaboration between the creativity of these designers and the expertise of international brands. The potential here is limitless, and the success stories waiting to happen. Placing our designers front and centre will provide the inspiration and the aspiration for generations of regional designers to populate and grow Downtown Editions for years to come.

The Details

Location Downtown Design takes place at d3

Timings November 13-16.

Cost Public visitors can download the Dubai Design Week for complimentary access. Design professionals can register at