UAE’s investment in culture Helps promote economic diversity

Downtown design fair sees 350% growth


Saudi Gazette

Dubai Design Week is taking over the city with 200 activities staged in selective locations. With original content staged by over 80 businesses, designers and organizations, the creative tide will take over the city including exclusive venues like Etihad Museum, DIFC and Hamdan Bin Mohammad Heritage Centre. Over 90 events will take place at Dubai Design District including

talks and seminars. We spoke to Rue Kothari, Fair Director of Downtown Design, who said the biggest challenge lies in staying relevant and keeping it fresh every year. She has successfully managed the third edition that reportedly doubled in size from the previous year and is not looking to stop anytime soon.

“With new and more diverse exhibitors that our high end visitors will really engage with. We usually have more applications than we are able to accommodate, but this is where curation is crucial. Having to say no to some brands isn’t easy, but we never accept applications from brands that we think our buyers will not respond to. Creating a dynamic visitor experience takes a lot of thought and consideration, but when you’re able to connect brands to buyers and create opportunities for them to do business, it’s extremely rewarding. We have grown the fair by 350%, doubling in size again this year,” Kothari told Saudi Gazette.

We discussed the criteria set up for the fair this year and what she thinks sets a brand apart from the rest during the screening process. “Our selection criterion is critical to the show’s success. We have to ensure that products are original, well manufactured, both aesthetically pleasing and functional, and of course suit the market need. As a contemporary fair, we present the latest innovations across a variety of product categories, the presentation of which has to be well managed and balanced. All our brands invest heavily in experiential stands that wow the visitor, this is what creates our unique atmosphere.”

Kothari spoke about the growing economic significance of Art Dubai and Dubai Design Week, admitting investment in culture helps facilitate economic diversity. “All of the events managed by the Art Dubai Group contribute significantly to the growth of the Creative Economy here in the UAE. Investment in culture has a proven economic impact. At Downtown Design we ensure that we support emerging designers with commercial potential. Given the right opportunity these will ultimately become the UAE’s first design brands that can be exported to other countries, benefitting the country’s GDP and encouraging economic diversity.”

We asked Kothari about the regional design market expansion over the last decade and where she sees it going in the future. “Since I first began searching for local product designers, I’ve seen definite progress in both the number of designers producing original work and the maturity and complexity of the work produced. From designers producing one-off limited edition pieces to fledgling brands that are thinking about long-term commercial prospects, building an identity and manufacturing on a larger scale. We’re not there yet, and our manufacturing needs to develop so we start producing ‘Made in the UAE’ products. We’ll see this changing over the next 10 years. My hope is that the brands that we’re supporting now at Downtown Design, will have a long and prosperous future.”

‘Top 4 emerging design brands’ to watch out for this year according to Kothari are AYKA designs for carpets, Designed by HIND for tableware, Mosaico for handmade tiles, and Roudha Al Shamsi for furniture.


Follow the journey on social media

@dubaidesignweek @globalgradshow @downtowndesignd