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Life & Style

Dubai Design Week: a global canvas for talent including Pakistan

  • Region’s leading fair returned for its seventh edition with a well-calibrated programme
Published November 13, 2021

DUBAI: When Dubai Design Week raises its annual curtain, the global creative circuit takes notice.

Across the vast expanses of Dubai Design District (d3), the city’s chic neighbourhood that serves as the festival’s central hub, trends are sparked, diverse cultural vocabularies come to life, and the industry’s top talents serve boundary-pushing design.

In 2015, the inaugural edition of Dubai Design Week saw eight Pakistani designers lead the Pakistan Pavilion at the Abwab initiative. Today, the fair and its multiple arms continue to present opportunities for Pakistani and global talent to relish Dubai's thriving creative ecosystem.

Now in its seventh edition that ended on Saturday (November 13), the fair is an essential stop on the crowded international creative calendar, with over 250 activities and events, 430 UAE-based designers and 560 companies participating in one of its most extensive programs to date.

“Every year, the fair acts as a catalyst for growth in Dubai and the wider region’s creative community, providing an international platform for creatives to collaborate, create, network and showcase their design talents,” Mette Degn-Christensen, Director of Dubai Design Week, told Business Recorder. “Organisations and creatives are invited to take part by demonstrating their expertise, projects and innovations, collectively staging activations in the city and d3,” she adds.

Abwab 2021 winning architectural pavilion 'Nature in Motion' by Ahmed El-Sharabassy, Dubai Design Week 2021
Abwab 2021 winning architectural pavilion 'Nature in Motion' by Ahmed El-Sharabassy, Dubai Design Week 2021

MENA Grad Show

An underlying thread of Dubai Design Week is the MENA Grad Show, which returned for its second edition to showcase 60 ideas and solutions by 78 students from 29 universities across 10 regional countries.

Think about innovations like a solar-powered robot built to plant seeds in desert areas and an app to organise the routine of dementia patients. The initiative is part of Global Grad Show, an international platform that supports social impact innovators in universities around world, which returned with 150 game-changing projects for its seventh iteration through a digital exhibition on

“This is the first Global Grad Show edition to take place since the world started to emerge from the pandemic,” shared Tadeu Baldani Caravieri, Director of Global Grad Show. “As a reflection, the students’ priorities were concentrated on healthcare and wellbeing, and safety and emergency, as future readiness becomes a common denominator among production and consumption, community and inclusion, and education and awareness.”

Pakistani student shines

Among the participants at Global Grad Show this year was Pakistani industrial designer Ghaniyah Manzoor, who graduated from the University of Karachi in January this year. Through her project, titled ‘Net Impact’, she proposed a design process that transforms abandoned fishing nets into sustainable urban furniture.

“Since I decided to pursue a career in design, I wanted to work on a project that would have a beneficial impact on the world. As a coastal city, Karachi has an abundance of marine life, so I chose to look into stranded ghost gears,” explains Manzoor.

“Researching and developing long-term solutions to conserve the ocean has been a tough but rewarding journey. Students should engage in platforms like Global Grad Show, which encourage participants to strive towards a more sustainable future with change and innovation,” she adds.

'Connectivity' installation by Kart Group at Dubai Design Week 2021
'Connectivity' installation by Kart Group at Dubai Design Week 2021

Global Grad Show offers an Entrepreneurship Program, which is a four-month development route to bring venture-building thinking and opportunities to applicants who wish to take their projects forward – a palatable initiative for Pakistan, especially in light of the recent startup boom in the country.

Students should engage in platforms like Global Grad Show, which encourage participants to strive towards a more sustainable future with change and innovation: Pakistani industrial designer Ghaniyah Manzoor

“Since 2019, the program has welcomed over 300 participants – a figure that has tripled for this year’s cohort alone,” states Caravieri. “The program has three phases that offer access to training, mentorship, networking with industry specialists and the opportunity to pitch for investors, including A.R.M. Holding, who pledged an AED10 million fund dedicated to startups from the program.”

For Pakistani creatives, the fair and its multiple arms present the opportunity to relish the city’s thriving creative ecosystem. “There are many ways for aspiring individuals to participate in the region’s largest design festival, whether they’re based locally or abroad, or are at different levels of their design careers, including students, local artisans, established brands and international firms,” shares Degn-Christensen. “I advise them to always keep an eye out on Dubai Design Week’s channels and submit their creative ideas to open calls in the lead up to the festival and its key features, including the annual Abwab commission and Urban Commissions program, supported by A.R.M. Holding, and much more.”

Dubai Design Week is a tour de force that looks to bolster Emirate’s position as a creative habitat, with Dubai being recognised as UNESCO’s ‘Creative City of Design’ in 2018.

It complements the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy that aims at transforming the city into an international destination for creativity and the capital of creative economy by 2025, and doubling the contribution of creative industries to Dubai’s GDP from 2.6 per cent in 2020 to 5 per cent in the next four years. It also seeks to more than double the number of creators based in the Emirate, from 70,000 in 2020 to 140,000 by 2025.

Covering more ground than any single exhibition could provide, Dubai Design Week offers plenty to satiate ultra-high-net-worth tastemakers, with projects like the collaboration between Bentley Motors and Emirati creative Hessa Al Suwaidi for a concept drawing titled ‘Safeefa’, which was unveiled at the fair.

Bentley x Hessa Al Suwaidi installation at Dubai Design Week 2021 - Courtesy of Bentley Motors
Bentley x Hessa Al Suwaidi installation at Dubai Design Week 2021 - Courtesy of Bentley Motors

As a magnet for aesthetes, this iteration included the region’s most coveted fair, Downtown Design, which resumed its in-person format after hosting a phygital edition last year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Beyond the inspirational design work and the opportunity to meet a large audience of design professionals and enthusiasts, the return of the live and in-person edition of the fair coincided with the demand for interior design and architecture services at levels not seen across the region for many years,” states David Ross, Director of Downtown Design.

As Dubai Design Week’s commercial centerpiece, Downtown Design offers important networking opportunities for visitors to discover the latest in local, regional and international design trends, with over 150 leading brands and designers from over 20 countries, and major national representations from Austria, France, Hungary, Italy and Spain. “The week provided a perfectly-timed, exciting and purposeful platform to reconnect the industry and celebrate original and high-quality design,” Ross adds.

Among Downtown Design’s most lustrous offerings is Downtown Editions, a boutique showcase of limited-edition and bespoke design. It featured works by designers and brands, including Aline Hazarian, The Line Concept, Nakkash Gallery and Zieta Studio, allowing both trade professionals and consumers to get direct access to local and global creative entities.

“Reach out to us,” Ross summons Pakistanis who wish to participate at Downtown Design. “We’re always open to involving new talent and high-quality design brands.”

Caravieri adds, “We encourage everyone to explore this year’s showcase, get inspired and stay engaged with Global Grad Show, as we grow our program to support talent from the region and overseas. We hope to see even more projects from students of Pakistani universities, who can apply and join us as we move forward.”

Images courtesy of Dubai Design Week


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Arqum Malik Nov 13, 2021 10:34pm
It's a great opportunity for young Pakistani artists.
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