Final Recap: What Caught Eyes at Dubai Design Week 2023

The week-long annual design festival of Dubai came to a close last week. The aftermath of Dubai Design Week 2023 commandeering a bigger stage is missing out on activities on one end of Dubai Design District while you were at the other. With Downtown Design in the mix, this year’s programme had networking events and insightful talks in surplus.

Amongst a sea of global design fests, what is unique about Dubai Design Week is its focus on regional design and design business. Group gatherings and showcasing what brands can do for this demographic are key in the eventful week.

Take ICEX, for example. The entity opens up each year with their signature Spanish breakfast and a thought-provoking discussion. This year, they decided to address the mammoth topic of Sustainability in Hospitality. Factors such as a year of complete tourism revival for the city made the premise of the talk relevant and even pressing. With playing hosts to global events such as EXPO 2020 in hindsight and COP28 in foresight, big names in hospitality were certainly equipped to answer burning questions. 

Names such as Laura Bielecki, Associate Director – Interior Design at Nakheel, Marta Gonzalez, Director of Interior Design at Accor, Diane Thorsen, Design Director at Gensler and Mennah Darwish, Design Manager at Select Group graced the Porcelanosa showroom as panellists.

The Porcelanosa showroom was also abuzz throughout the week with intimate events such as a designers’ lunch and students’ mood board workshops.

Kvadrat, on the other hand, collaborated with two furniture brands. Francesco Favaretto, the popular Italian industrial designer, re-imagined his collection for True Design, Fender with Kvadrat fabrics, especially for Dubai Design Week. This limited-time collection commemorated the first participation of True Design after the opening of their new showroom in the Dubai Design District. Vivid and tactile fabrics from Kvadrat hugged the neotenic form of Fender sofas and chairs, giving the pieces a refreshed look. The tapestry of geometrically cut fabrics might look like random and playful placements, but Francesco’s eye for detail culminated in a tasteful yet effortless amalgamation. 

Next, Kvadrat also joined forces with Humanscale. At the latter’s showroom, they indulged in a discussion about using wool for upholstery. Gitte Nyus Holm, Regional Director Kvadrat Middle East, presented compelling properties of the fabric, such as being an inherent fire-retardant. Although starting at a higher price-point, its impressive resilience (and, by extension, sustainable qualities) could ultimately prove cost-effective. For instance, at Humanscale’s showroom, the iconic Freedom chair upholstered in Elle from Kvadrat truly spotlighted one of the main pillars of the collaboration between the brands – a timeless aesthetic. 

Independently, Humanscale with Frazer Butcher, Regional Director, MENA also hosted a talk called ‘Setting the Bar for Sustainability’ to leverage their position as a brand that values ergonomic design as much as sustainable endeavours. From material transparency to dissecting how materials used in all products can affect human health and the planet, the talk traced Humanscale’s journey to becoming the only manufacturer to have completed the “Living Product Challenge” and achieving Level 3 LEVEL certification for all products.

Over at the Bene showroom, the brand collaborated with XAL (a lighting brand) and Jabra (a communication solutions provider). Aptly named ‘Harmonious Design’, the breakfast event spotlighted how crucial it is for optimal lighting, adaptable furniture and seamless communication technology to come together in an office environment. Bene’s flexible products, such as PIXEL and the more recently launched CASUAL range, dotted the premise with peppy points. Lighting from XAL made for a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors. Jabra’s technological aids made it abundantly clear how having systems catering to online meetings could contribute to imbuing collaboration (even long-distance). 

Fusing the worlds of golf and sublime carpets, Shaw Contract welcomed guests into their showroom filled with challenging (but irresistible) mini-golf courses. Their latest range, Floor Architecture III and New Path were part of the set-up, and players experienced their resilience first-hand. Amongst winning reactions and teeth-grinding anticipation, Shaw Contract delivered a message close to their ethos. The term ‘Design Optimism’ was emblazoned inside the putts, signifying the brand’s belief in a design’s ability to bring about change. The concept also forms the basis of the annual Shaw Contract Awards, which aim to inspire new ways of working, learning, healing, and thriving.

Atlas Concorde hosted a panel talk on ‘The Path to Saudi Arabia’ featuring Aljohara Beydoun, Founder of Ink Design; Tom Debono, Senior Manager, Construction & Planning, Al Balad Development; Dr.Chadi Chamoun, Director of Strategy & Innovation, Bond Interiors and Gareth Cain, Studio Director, DSA Architects. The talk focused on demystifying the myths around participating in Saudi Arabian projects and gaining insights into what it requires to become a stakeholder in one of the mega-projects in the region.

Vitra paid homage to the legacy of Ray and Charles Eames during Dubai Design Week 2023. Spread over two days, two panel discussions (one moderated by Salim Khoury, Regional Leader, Middle East Vitra and another by Oliver Baxter, Founder, Workplace Maven) with prominent faces in the industry, delved into the thought-processes and design-thinking of the once-in-a-lifetime design duo. 

Furniture brand ISKU arranged for a breakfast networking session through Design Week. In addition to scrumptious bites and talks about the future of design, attendees also partook in a draw to procure covetable prizes. At the Occhio GmbH store by Goettling Interiors, Object Carpet showcased their latest, fully-recyclable Mediterraneo Collection by MATTEO THUN & PARTNERS & Antonio Rodriguez. 

Teknion, known for their corporate furniture, collaborated with Scarlet Opus’ Phil Pond to impart knowledge about trend forecasting. One of their sessions was aimed at regional designers, with an agenda to break down steps in encouraging clients to invest in workplace design for employee retention. Another talk was directed at students and revolved around teaching them to forecast global trends on their own. 

This time around, iGuzzini partnered with ISOLA for Dubai Design Week 2023. From announcing ‘Design Challenge Light for Future’ for students in collaboration with the Interior Design Department of AUD to hosting a talk on ‘The Traders of Bastack’ in line with the indigenous focus of Design Week, the brand had plenty of exciting events planned through the five days. Panel talks, workshops and even an unmissable PechaKucha featuring businesses like Yarns of the East filled the brand’s agenda.

At Dubai Design Week 2023, Haworth played host to a vibrant group of architects, designers and valued customers. Led by Stefan Kiss, Director of Ideation and Workplace Strategy at Haworth, they embarked on a journey of workplace reinvention. The process includes using innovative and a research-based framework that allows participants to design their ideal workspaces, sparking dynamic conversations about modern workplace design.

Image Courtesy for PechaKucha Night by iGuzzini and ISOLA: Goldfish Photography

Cosentino turned into a luxurious spa during Dubai Design Week 2023. Dubai-based interior design studio Estilo Blanco curated ‘an oasis of calm in the chaos’ within the showroom. Seven hundred metres of unstitched fabric in a soft gold hue embodied adeptly tied together with statement lighting pieces, a pouffe shaped like a fluffy cloud and handcrafted décor elements from La Nena. In all this, electric massage beds by CODE: Coco, clad in Dekton® Laurent, served as the most eye-grabbing piece. 

Within the buildings, Vertical Design‘s installation ‘Prismatic Dreamscape’ grabbed attention. Children, especially, interacted with the neon lights and grasped at the reflections. Commendably, the installation by Vertical Design employed sustainable cement tiles to conceive the design. Conceptually, the intent was to represent the cosmos and curate a sensorial experience that coaxes a ‘stop and interact’ pause from passersby, slowing down the hectic Dubai Design Week 2023 tour for just a moment.

This time, Pinnacle Interiors focused on enticing visitors to their brand-new extension in Dubai Design District. A series christened ‘Explore Pinnacle’ began with a launch party and slowly progressed to more themed events. One was a panel about art, photography and interior design, spearheaded by Patricia Millns, Ambassador for Dubai Design District, Phil Handforth, Photographer and Clara Voce, Creative Director, Pinnacle Interiors. In the coming days, the company hosted discussions with Studio Lumen, delving deeper into the journey of lighting Pinnacle Interiors’ office and one about LEED certifications in offices. 

Swisscotec brought designers Pallavi Dean (Roar), Chris Barnes (Broadway Interiors) and Saeed Bin Shabib under one roof. Moderated by Oliver Baxter, the talk revealed insights and opinions on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (DEI) in the design industry. While the panellists’ views on the topic were not all congruent, it brought out a dialogue about perceptions and the common goal of sensitivities.

Downtown Design

At the entrance of Downtown Design, “Light Gazing” by Light & Lives and Ultra Arte greeted visitors. Colourful, see through, geometric shapes created a path bracketed by vivid reflections, both in the afternoon and evening. Inside, Light & Love also collaborated as ‘Counterculture‘ with the brand Arte.

Occupying a front and centre position inside the Downtown Design tent, Balneum by Kristina Zanic Consultants could quickly be declared the public’s favourite spot. The installation was always occupied. The stepped design around a water feature was a much-needed respite for visitors with aching limbs. Inspired by Greek bathhouses, the elaborate showcase inconspicuously displayed the qualities of Dekton® Pietra Kode by Cosentino. Despite being white, the material didn’t stain even after being used as an amphitheatre. 

Kohler‘s booth, designed by ace designer Nada Debs, drew inspiration from the designers’ Japanese ancestry and Middle Eastern influences. The American University of Sharjah and Istituto Marangoni students visited the booth for a meet and greet with the designer. From questions about the booth and products to absorbing learnings from the renowned designer, the curious minds moved through the convulsions of the booth, trying to imbibe it all.

The biggest booth at Downtown Design this year belonged to Casa Milano. After all, it housed the six bathrooms designed by design firms partaking in the Talking Walls Competition. Ele Interiors, CK Architecture Interiors, Bishop Design, LW Design, Designsmith and Kristina Zanic Consultants each boasted a finished design using products under Casa Milano’s repertoire. Ideal Standard‘s booth-in-booth featured designs such as Conca and Linda-X masterminded reputed designer Roberto Palomba

The NGC Nafees stall attracted passersby with their immersive experience. Concocted in tandem with Brand Creative, the booth’s design, inspired by aquatic life, aimed at reshaping the brand’s identity in people’s minds.

Next, the Jaipur Rugs booth was a box installation that was as vibrant as it was mysterious. Right from the palatial chair framed perfectly at the entrance arch to the carpets doubling as artwork inside the booth, a visual feast informed visitors about the brand without much verbal cues.

The Interiors from Spain booth, this year around, sported five brands: ACTIU, Porcelanosa, Isimar, Naxani and Legado Artesano Castilla-La Mancha. ACTIU’s first Type A certified task chair, A+S WORK and well-received QYOS pod, made an appearance at the showing. Similarly, Porcelanosa, one of the biggest names in Spanish ceramics, displayed their impressive panoply of samples, exemplifying what it means to provide variety. 

As always, Quooker‘s Live Demonstrations left visitors in wonder and awe of their individualistic technology. The launch of the latest shades (rosecopper and gunmetal), along with stalwart models Flex, Nordic and Fusion ensured a steady influx of visitors at the stand. 

In partnership with Mobili Emirates, Interstuhl presented their flexible ‘What If We Fly’ Collection. A resounding solution to the ‘how to navigate the new workspace design’ conundrum, this collection was a hit with passersby who often filled the booth to try and use the products and play around with them.


More about What If We Fly


Huda Lighting‘s booth, designed by 4SPACE, usurped its inspiration from the form of a cloud. Right in the centre of the stand was a light that perfectly depicted what a frozen cloud would look like. The late Zaha Hadid conceived this luminaire under Slamp. Other products showcased in the booth were telling of Huda Lighting’s prowess in the region.


More about the brands and products displayed at the Huda Lighting booth

Presented with boxes, the Jalapeno X MillerKnoll stand brought attention to the most simple yet effective designs under the latter’s name. The products were concealed in boxes and revealed a part of the brand’s history and journey. 

In a deluge of brands that bring bling to the Middle East, Christiane Nasr‘s The Bowery Company caters to understated luxury. At Downtown Design, the Bowery Company featured Danish furniture brands such as 101 Copenhagen, Audo Copenhagen, Ferm Living, Norrii and Fest Amsterdam. In addition, the company also supplied furniture to The Forum (a talks stage designed by Intercon) along with ceiling solutions supplier and manufacturer Rockfon and fabrics manufacturer Kvadrat. Rockfon Mono made for a stellar and sturdy boundary (semi-circle, mid-height walls) to the stage, and the upholstery by Kvadrat played a major role in realising cloud-like seating.

It is fair to say that Dubai Design 2023 and Downtown Design returned with added oomph and revised ambitions this season. Seeing a homegrown show spread its influence and embrace its local muses is heart-warming. As we wait for the fete’s next iteration, the mind cannot help but conjure visuals of an even more inclusive and diverse show.

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Date added:

15 November, 2023

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