Dubai Design Week 2022: a meeting of international brands and local talent

Dubai Design Week 2022 returns with exhibitions at Downtown Design and the d3 Design District (until 13 November 2022), highlighting emerging talent and sustainable approaches

Modu Method rug and modular furniture shown at Dubai Design Week 2022
Modu Method's ‘Chill Pill’ rug and ‘Kelly’ modular system, presented at Dubai Design Week 2022
(Image credit: Courtesy Modu Method)

Dubai’s strategic position as a crossroads city – first as an important port along the historic Silk Road trade route and later on as a financial hub conveniently straddling Europe and Asia – meant that it has long been associated as a meeting place of cultures. However, Dubai Design Week 2022, which opened this week, largely spent its energy acquainting visitors with its own flourishing crop of homegrown talent. In addition to the many international participants, the fair was bursting with creatives born and raised in the Middle East, providing a peek into the region's vibrant creative scene.

ARDH stone design at Dubai Design Week 2022

‘From Dunes and Trees’ by ARDH

(Image credit: Courtesy ARDH)

The exhibition was spread over two locations: the Downtown Design trade fair, comprising over 200 exhibitors from 30 countries, and the d3 Design District, the purpose-built creative neighbourhood that throughout the week has been animated by installations from local and international brands – largely with a focus on sustainability. 

For instance, an interactive pavilion by Stella McCartney demonstrated the development process from prototype to product of the brand’s mycelium-based vegan leather. Or ‘From Dunes and Trees’ by UAE-based ARDH, a circular structure composed of bricks made from desert sand and date seeds, a product of the studio’s research into low-impact local materials. 

'The younger generation of designers have been very inventive with their approach to sustainability,' said Dubai Design Week director Kate Barry. 'There are so many bright young minds in this region working to develop a more sustainable future. So in organising this Design Week, it was important to us to shine a light on their work.'

Dubai Design Week 2022: the highlights

UAE Designers Exhibition

Pink furniture made with sustainable methoda by ANQA studio at Dubai Design Week 2022

‘The Most Sustainable Furniture' by ANQA Studio

(Image credit: Courtesy ANQA studio)

The standout exhibition in the Downtown Design tent was the UAE Designers Exhibition, which profiled several up-and-coming UAE-based independent design studios. Curated by Cyril Zammit and set within a booth designed by Studio D.04’s Fatima Al Zaabi and Noora Al Awar, the exhibition comprised 20 original works. 

Like the rest of the festival, it had a distinct focus on sustainability. For instance, designer Talin Hazbar presented a seating series composed of sea waste, including ropes dredged from the bottom of Dubai harbour, which was designed to benefit the Dubai Voluntary Diving team. Meanwhile, ANQA studio's collection, aptly titled ‘The Most Sustainable Furniture', employed plastic waste to create a series of furniture defined by its pink marbled surface.

Terminal G by Iwan Maktabi

Iwan Maktabi rugs at Dubai Design Week 2022

(Image credit: Courtesy Iwan Maktabi)

Third-generation Lebanese rug maker Iwan Maktabi’s Terminal G collection called on several Gulf creatives to design a collection inspired by regional narratives. For example, Kuwaiti designer Aseel Al Yaqoub’s ‘Water Memory’ – which resembles the reflection of a plastic deck chair in a tiled swimming pool – is a representation of the domestic ritual of gathering around a body of water, in this case, an homage to Al Yaqoub’s grandfather, who could often be found sitting next to their family pool. Or UAE-born graphic designers Afra and Sheikha Bin Dhaher’s ‘Taghrouda,’ a beautifully rendered topographic representation of ancient camel routes across the Arabian desert.

Gaar by Nareg Krikorian 

Nareg Krikorian black leather chair

(Image credit: Courtesy Nareg Krikorian)

Lebanese-Armenian designer Nareg Krikorian presented Gaar, a collection of leather furniture originally designed for his master’s thesis at Central Saint Martins. In crafting the fetish-inspired armchairs and stool, Krikorian employed a type of stitching generally used in the construction of handbags, but here scaled up to create a looping, exaggerated effect along the furniture’s ‘seams’. Krikorian’s vast knowledge of leather working comes from his family, who for several generations have specialised in the craft. In fact, his mother’s personal brand, Jasmin’s Line, was situated directly across the aisle from his own.

Modu Method by Omar Al Gurg

Modular office furniture by Modu Method

(Image credit: Courtesy Omar Al Gurg)

Emerging brand Modu Method’s modular furniture was a Downtown Design standout. Dubai-born designer Omar Al Gurg, who studied architecture at Belfast’s Queen’s University before returning to the UAE, presented his all-new ‘Chill Pill’ collection of rugs inspired by the 1960s, as well as his ‘Nu’ series of stackable modules that can be combined to form anything from storage to Space Age-style coffee tables. Also on display was his bent wood ‘Kelly’ system, a hybrid desk and shelving unit that can be cleverly arranged in several different ways, which Al Gurg says was designed to accommodate small space living.

 Saudade by Styled Habitat 

Saudade by Styled Habitat at Dubai Design Week 2022

(Image credit: Courtesy Styled Habitat)

Interior design studio Styled Habitat opened the doors of its d3 neighbourhood offices to showcase its latest exhibition, Saudade, a creative imagining of a private home. 'At the forefront was the idea of depicting a timeline of someone's life, of a person that inhabited a space over the course of years,' explains creative director Rabah Saeid. 'Each element, whether textile, wallpaper or even paint, truly speaks to the influence of design during different periods. The interior is also a testament to the quality and good craftsmanship of selected items that would weather the passing of time.'

Dubai Design Week 2022 runs until 13 November 2022

Laura May Todd, Wallpaper's Milan Editor, based in the city, is a Canadian-born journalist covering design, architecture and style. She regularly contributes to a range of international publications, including T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Azure and Sight Unseen, and is about to publish a book on Italian interiors.