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Design Labs project designers with artisans from the Bidwa Social Development Programme. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE will have representation as ‘a guest country’ at the London Design Fair (LDF) for the first time this weekend when the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council unveils its exclusive product line in the UK capital from September 19-22.

Irthi, an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, will unveil 12 exclusive collections that represent the craft and design talents of UAE women, giving artisans their highest profile exposure to date.

The showcasing will also highlight the council’s pioneering programme of creative, cultural and commerical initiatives, which are designed to empower women through crafts.

The collections are a result of two of the council’s recent projects: “Design Labs” and “Crafts Dialogue”, which were launched by the council earlier this year.

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Safeefah weaves Image Credit: Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council

The council’s 40 square metre exhibition area will be designed to reflect the nature and landscape of the UAE, using elements such as wood and camel leather. The pavilion will take visitors on a journey that tells the story of how the collections came to be, from the raw material to the process of design and making, incorporating details of the rich handmaking heritage of the UAE along the way.

Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said: “The selection of the UAE as the guest country for this year’s LDF is a testament to the ground-breaking work and innovative approach adopted by the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council. Both projects – Design Labs and Crafts Dialogue - reflect this innovative approach: They rely on designer collaborations from different cultures and artistic backgrounds, while at the same time working to empower local women artisans economically and socially, as well as ensuring a sustainable future for handmade and traditional crafts.

“These collaborations provided an opportunity for the exchange of knowledge, art disciplines and approaches, in addition to craft production techniques, which consequently resulted in the creation of innovative product lines,” she added.

Jimmy MacDonald, Founder and Director, of the London Design Fair, said: “Each year we nominate a ‘Guest Country’ drawing special attention to activities and creatives in the chosen region. We have long since been intrigued by the Middle East, nowhere more so than the UAE with its ambitious plans to develop its creative sector. The establishment of the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council focusing on female artisans in the UAE, MENASEA and Central Asia is just such a great initiative and we are honoured to host the UK launch of their first product line at the Fair.”

The projects - Crafts Dialogue which will present four collections, and Design Labs, which will reveal eight collections - feature luxury products that were created through a collaboration between Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Programnme’s artisans and trainees, and international designers and makers from the UAE, Pakistan, Japan, the US, UK, Spain, Italy and Palestine.

As part of Design Labs, Emirati women, who joined the Bidwa Social Development Programnme as trainees, learned the basics of new crafts like glassblowing, metalsmithing, and stone carving.

The LDF, is a four-day industry event that will bring together 550 exhibitors from 40 countries, and will be held from September 19–22, at Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, London.