Growth of the regional design community

As the commercial gateway to the Middle East, Dubai is a hospitable business environment, with international expertise, regional opportunities for new business and governmental support. At the apex of East and West, it’s perfectly positioned to facilitate a profitable interaction of international brands and regional buyers.
When you consider that only 20% of demand can be satisfied by local production, there are significant opportunities for new international furniture manufacturers for example, to find growth here.

If you like hard data, the numbers are big. The UAE’s design industry will apparently be valued at USD36.7bn by 2019. In the design sector, the UAE is the largest market in the Middle East & North Africa region, with 90% of economic growth in the design industry expected to stem from architecture, interiors and fashion. In 2015 alone, the design market in the UAE has contributed US$29.7 billion.

At Downtown Design, the impact that the development of Dubai is having on the rest of the world is clearly apparent. Shortly entering its fourth edition, the design trade fair has witnessed first-hand how the opportunity presented by the region’s growth is signaling a wave of new business from design brands from around the world. This year, the event will host over 100 brands, chosen for their quality, originality and relevance to the local buyer, divided into 15 categories.

As the commercial centerpiece of Dubai Design Week, Downtown Design provides a platform for new-to-the-market and iconic design brands. This year, the fair welcomes 43 new exhibiting brands:  10 regional exhibitors; established brands that return to launch new collections at the fair; and a curation of artisanal brands under the Italian Trade Agency’s (ITA) second Italian Luxury Interiors Pavilion.

Milan, SoHo, Shoreditch, Dubai? The FT seems to think so. Our mission to create a design hub for the Middle East here in the emirates shows great potential; and with projects like Downtown Design and the new Dubai Design Week, we are polarizing the region’s design community and contributing to raising the profile of our city’s design output, both for brands and buyers.
Events like DTD and DXBDW not only attract demand, but they accelerate sustainable growth. For us, it’s crucial to take a considered view on our own development, to create a credible model that will do justice to our design scene, far from the ‘satellite’ models of the ‘big’ shows that simply do not reflect the needs and requirement of their locality.

One way is to balance our established brands with new ‘discovery’ brands that allow visitors to engage with innovative new products they won’t find on their yearly trip to Milan.
The Destination initiative for the first time last year presented six co-curated booths in collaboration with emerging Design Weeks from around the world. And it worked. Visitors loved this new product, and brands sold.
Building on the success of last year – we’re continuing to refine the concept in preparation for an even bigger fair next year. If you take the growth of Downtown Design as an indicator, the unequivocal evidence suggests that we’re in an upward trajectory.
Not without its bumps – it never is – but the fact that we tripled our footprint last year, sold out by April this year, and will double the size of our buyer programme to include a substantial number of buyers from MENASA and the subcontinent – we’re quietly confident that 2017 will be a stellar year not just for Downtown Design and the Dubai Design Week – but for the whole industry.