ICEX’s Fiesta and Design at Tagomago

The infamous Dubai sun is out, bringing with it a refreshed season of ICEX’s Fiesta and Design. Earlier this month, an evening at Tagomago saw UAE’s most known designers and illustrious Spanish brands indulge in a fierce culinary battle. There were knives, jabs and trickery. Who took home the spoils?

Islamic architecture is a critical influence in both Spanish and the Middle Eastern histories. Perhaps, it is this dated link that creates an innate bond between the two regions, or it might be their shared interest in good quality and ingenious designs. In recent years, Spain has emerged as one of the world’s design hotspots. UAE’s prevalent demand for top-tier interior products to instate understated luxury in projects also buttresses the unmissable synergy between the countries.

Capitalising on this, ICEX Interiors from Spain (in partnership with Love That Design) invited interior designers from Dubai’s most prominent firms to Tagomago. Here, the guests along with representatives from ten Spanish brands would face culinary challenges prepared by Tagomago’s Chef Iker Zapata. Before diving into what happened at Fiesta and Design, let’s learn a little about the brands that made this possible…

The Sponsors

Ape Grupo craft designer ceramics that cater to the diverse needs of designers. The brand offers over 200 ceramic collections of the highest quality, some of them even in collaboration along with crème de la crème international designers.

CasaDesús produces modern sofas and armchairs. Classic silhouettes, plushing cushioning and top-tier upholstery contribute to timeless pieces that can command a room through decades, with just a few alterations.

GANDIABLASCO, an outdoor furniture brand, takes pride in fusing architectural influences within their repertoire. Furthermore, their use of aluminium to convey the Mediterranean essence underscores their penchant for sustainability.

Industrial chic meets colours in iSiMAR’s gamut of outdoor products. Most recently, their Topos collection by Zaha Hadid Architects debuted at Salone del Mobile 2024 – embodying their unique and quirky approach to design.

From left: Firas Atallah, Middle East Delegation Manager, APE Grupo; Marian Casadesus, Owner and Sales Manager at CasaDesús Furniture Design; Lucía Carande, Area Manager Middle East at iSiMAR

Lighting brand Marset spreads light through interesting forms. Backing the marvellous designs are Marset’s penchant for high quality, technological rigour, innovation, sustainability, durability and authenticity.

esPattio focuses largely on patterns, fabrics and forms to bring comfort and congeniality in corporate spaces. By aesthetics, their furniture is contemporary, and by function esPattio’s pieces aim to bring about collaboration and conversation. 

PORCELANOSA Group, a well-known name for ceramics in Spain, impresses with their sheer range of ceramics – be it design or product volume. From floor and wall tiles, mosaics, natural stone, laminate, parquet to countertops and bathroom equipment, the brand delivers versatility and quality at once. 

From left: Kathy Wobst, Regional Sales Manager, Marset; David Oyon, Managing Director Middle East, Forma 5 & Pattio; Nuño Arcusa Gil, Regional Director, Porcelanosa Middle East

Punt Mobles stands as a beacon of craftsmanship, contemporarising wood in sculptural forms. Home designs could benefit from the oomph of their furniture pieces, while workspaces could stir warmth.  What’s most notable is Punt Mobles’ storage repertoire, a league above the typical. 

Resol’s philosophy ‘Dress Your Space’, guides their production and vision for the brand. Alongside, inculcating sustainability the outdoor and indoor furniture brand believes in storytelling and crafting spaces for cognitive pleasure.

You have probably heard or seen the Link sofa, a Sancal original, that encapsulates the brand’s essence. At Sancal, the idea is to create a stimulating environment that engages users, ultimately contributing to well-being. It’s simple; furniture needs to be fun.

From left: Lourdes Prieto, Commercial Director, Punt Mobles; Diana Boancas, Sr. Export Area Manager, Resol Group; Ziad El Masri, Sancal

A Rundown of ICEX’s second Fiesta and Design

The event began by the beach, where designers basked in the sun for sometime before heading inside Tagomago’s conference bedecked to represent Spanish panache. Over 40 designers and brand representatives filled the room, all keen to tune into the competition rules and acquainting themselves with their teammates for the evening. From last year’s experience, some attendees were aware of the coloured badges allotted to them at entrance, while others quickly caught on. Once the host of the evening, Enid Pitchen, addressed the crowd, they were familiarised with the teams.

Those with blue placards were team Barcelona, those with yellow were team Sevilla, orange signified team Valencia and finally red badge holders would bat for team Pamplona. The brand representatives would serve as advisors, guiding the team culturally as the designers expressed their culinary ambitions in their dishes (and on espadrilles).

The four teams had to go through four 15-minute rounds each. The first two quests would test participants’ culinary skills, the third one would assess their mixology talents and finally, for the fourth they were to channel their creativity onto plain white espadrilles with sharpies. Judges Marina García del Soto, Head of Design at ICEX, Álvaro Angulo, Trade Attaché of the Embassy of Spain in the UAE, and Miriam Llano, CEO & Founder of Amphora Marketing would be evaluating each team based on their performance, after every round.

Excitement and camaraderie spiked in Tagomago’s conference hall round after round. Designers bustled around the venue, with some flaunting their practised chopping techniques while others bewildered by ingredients (Chef Iker Zapata cleverly placed a few extra ones). Brand representatives played kingmakers, whispering advice and suggestions about Spain’s heritage and culture to their team members. For that glorious hour, acquaintances from different offices became confidants, and long-time colleagues became rivals.

Some confusion, tons of laughter and a few taste tests later, Team Valencia emerged at the top of the leaderboard. As the evening went on, a roulette system selected 12 lucky winners to receive gifts from the generous sponsors.

Fraser Stevenson from Turner & Townsend won a trip to Spain to visit Porcelanosa’s factory; Grammatiki Zamani from Kiklos Architects bagged esPattio’s Marina Armchair; Hernan Clot from HBA was awarded iSiMar’s Bolonia chair; Elliot Kalensky from Keane Brands bagged Sancal’s Roll Chair; Rahaf from Lulie Fisher won Resol’s Toledor Aire Green Edition Chair; Vijay Nambiar from Designsmith pocketed a dinner for two at Tagomago, donated by Rikas Group; Mehmet from Bishop Design and Mais from 4Space took home one SIPS portable lamp from Marset; Tarryn from Well International bagged Casadesus’ Ely Ottoman Chair; Hanin Rifai from Keane Brands won Gandía Blasco’s Plisy Portable Lamp; Yose Suprayogi from Kristina Zanic Consultants acquired PUNT’s for Crevalo-Nuvol Vase; Mohammed Adib won a coffee table made from Carmen products, by Ape Group

After a line up of addresses and announcements, the crowd relaxed into a leisurely pace. Professionals returned to the beach side, enjoying the variety of paella and other Spanish delicacies. Worries around deadlines were eschewed as guests enjoyed the breeze and shared anecdotes about the contest with one another. New connections were made, and the comfort and familiarity of industry peers fueled genuine conversations.

Another triumphant attempt by ICEX Interiors from Spain was drawing a close. Just a day before Fiesta & Design, the team also conceived their first event in Riyadh with resounding success. Throughout the year, the entity also supports participation of brands in international trade shows, such as the upcoming 3daysofdesign in Copenhagen. 

Most importantly, Valencia will once again host the country’s leading design exhibition, Feria Hábitat Valencia, scheduled from 30th September to 3rd October this year. Following which, Interiors from Spain will return to Downtown Design during Dubai Design Week 2024 to tap into the UAE’s multicultural design scene – this time in collaboration with Amphora Marketing.

While trade shows with large turnouts introduce brands to designers, here numerous competitors vie for attention. If quality products are the foundation of a successful business, strong business relationships are its growth branches. To forge a meaningful network within the UAE design community, ICEX Interiors of Spain curated Fiesta and Design last year and delivered a vibrant iteration this time around too. And something tells us, this is the beginning of a new tradition.

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