‘Saudi Arabia is the place to be’, is a statement most of us have heard one too many times in the past few years. However overused, we cannot deny that it is the current state of affairs. The shift in ambitions is particularly felt when prominent studios in Dubai such as AAID set up base in the region. Boutique firms are fetching opportunities in the Kingdom, too.
While financial and commercial growth is an obvious motivator, part of Saudi Arabia’s charm is also its clean slate. It’s a nation eager to grow and open to renaissance. What we experienced at INDEX 2023 Saudi Arabia further affirmed our beliefs in the theory. Bigger and more diverse, this year’s show was a tremendous improvement over its first iteration.
Talks, nine distinct product sectors on display and participation from multiple designers from the Middle Eastern diaspora rendered the venue in bustling charm. As our visit came to an end, we couldn’t help but wonder what the next time around would look like. And here are four reasons, why:
1. An Endearing Undercurrent of Cultural Pride
If there’s one thing that every visitor at INDEX 2023 Saudi Arabia would have experienced is a palpable cultural undertone. From Kristina Zanic’s collaboration with BSH Floors and Walls to The Yard’s live painting, colours and forms inherent to the region were interspersed throughout.
That is not to say that there was a dearth of international representation. Brands such as Interstuhl (present at Offispace booth), Frezza, Quinti and Technogym showcased their products focused on well-being. Reputable bathrooms companies like Kohler (in collaboration with Cosentino‘s Dekton range), Bagnodesign, hansgrohe and Axor were also seen putting their most luxurious foot forward. Dubai-based prominent suppliers such as Foliages and Lobo & Listone (presenting Hakwood) also attracted passersby. Yet, it was tough to detach the inundating spirit of nationalism that coursed through the halls. In fact, the contrast of the international showcase and regional flair provided a novel lens of diversity at the venue.
2. Well-Organised Talks and Schedules
Ask any frequent trade show visitor what they dread and they will narrate stories of absolute chaos at venues. Even though INDEX 2023 Saudi Arabia was a much bigger venture with Hotel and Hospitality Expo and Lighting Expo in tandem, schedules were pertinent throughout the course. With show timings (4PM to 10PM) slightly out of the norm, the event organisers made sure the best was made out of speakers’ and audience time.
What was noteworthy was how intrepid designers from Saudi Arabia were. Designers from UAE are known to be gregarious and often grace talks and provide insights and opinion on industry affairs. Here, refreshing takes from regional designers made discussions more nuanced, allowing for diversity in dialogue.
3. The Appetite for Transformation and A Buzz of Curiosity
‘The Land of Opportunity’ aka Saudi Arabia is one looking to write an admirable history. In consequence, the citizens of the country are looking for avenues to expose their minds. Most visitors had a brisk gait and swiftly moved from one booth to another to grasp everything the show had to offer. The excitement to see their region flourishing was unbridled.
Design has many definitions. Interior design, in particular, is a channel to display character. For a land where cultural identity is incumbent, there lies an opportunity to excel in creativity and concoct fusions that honour traditions. There’s an insatiable appetite for novelty and the unknown here. Simply put, as of today, the audience in Saudi Arabia is more likely to explore perspectives than any other region.
4. Bonus: The Potential to Go Beyond
The consensus at INDEX 2023 Saudi Arabia was that the show had improved by leaps and bounds. Yet, there is more that can be done to deliver an exhibition that attracts an international audience. The panoply of products was impressive and the zest was infectious. Expectations from upcoming iterations of INDEX Saudi Arabia have certainly spiked, and we are here to capture the trajectory.