Over 19,000 visitors, a 20 percent increase over last year, discovered the latest works by some of the world’s most dynamic brands and gained insights from global industry thought-leaders.
Connecting original design with visibility and commercial opportunity in the Middle East, the seventh edition of the fair spotlighted designer debuts, collection launches and a new wave of brands that have not exhibited in the region before.
Furniture makers known worldwide for high-quality designs launched their collections for the first time in the Middle East at Downtown Design 2019. These include Pedrali who presented contemporary furniture for homes, hospitality and offices, award-winning South African brand Houtlander, American studio Skram and kitchen design specialists Minacciolo, amongst others.
Italian furniture and accessories brand Minotti presented their latest collection that signals a new era for the family-owned business. "It was a rewarding experience to present the Minotti vision in the regional design scene," says Alessandro Minotti, General Manager. "The fair was a great opportunity to network with peers and industry decision-makers.”
Ahead of the Expo2020 Dubai, the participation of country-specific initiatives looking to present their design industry's savoir-faire in the Middle East grew to include Spain's ICEX. “Given the high level of satisfaction from Spanish companies exhibiting individually, it was only natural to take the next step by participating with a national pavilion," says Erik Rovina, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of Spain in UAE. "Our brands loved the exposure they got at Downtown Design and left very satisfied with the quality of their visitors: designers, architects, distributors and developers from the GCC region and beyond."
Business France too made their debut at the fair with a multi-brand showcase alongside returning pavilions from Italy and Malaysia.
Presenting for the first time in the Middle East, Brooklyn-based designer Fernando Mastrangelo launched the Capital Collection: a trio of mirrors featuring hand-dyed sand to evoke the landscape that Dubai emerged from.
Amulet-like sculptures in glass, precious stones and metal were the focal point of Delhi-based Klove Studio's presentation. Titled 'Totems Over Time', their showcase explored the spiritual values that world cultures imbue in objects.
Spotlighting the brand's commitment to innovation in crystal for the premium design sector, Atelier Swarovski returned to the fair with collections developed in collaboration with Patricia Urquiola, Tomas Alonso, and Peter Pilotto, amongst others.
"Downtown Design is the most essential design event to attend in the region if you are connected to the industry in any way," says Maliha Nishat, Director of Interior Design, Marriott International. "From collections that offered inspiration for upcoming projects to new connections made for the year ahead, there was so much to take away from this year's showcase."
Downtown Editions, the fair's section for limited-edition and bespoke design provided a platform for established and emerging design talent from the region and beyond to connect with the international design community.
Award-winning architect Jennie Binchy’s presented a collection of the ten plinths explore the designer’s passion for innovation with materiality and form.
Sharjah-based multidisciplinary designer Jawaher Alkhayyal’s debut collection offered a new interpretation of the Emirati craft of palm frond weaving, whilst Kuwaiti designer Meshary Alnassar turned to memories of his grandfather’s house for a sculptural lighting collection.
Known for their work that uplifts Emirati Bedouin craftswomen socially, professionally and financially, the Irthi Crafts Council recently forged collaborations between 12 international designers and around 40 craftswomen. The resulting work - furniture, jewellery, perfume bottles and large-scale home accessories inspired by prayer beads - are fine examples of the fast-evolving regional design scene where regional techniques and crafts intersect with contemporary design.
A point of reference for the regional design industry, Downtown Design goes beyond showcasing brands, to offer visitors a dynamic experience of the current design scene.
This year, the fair invited three leading design firms – Wilson Associates, XBD Collective and Swiss Bureau Interior Design – to re-imagine the fair’s public areas. Through the Bar, the Café and the Forum, these studios touched on themes community, exchange and collaboration in the industry.
Alongside, The Forum at Downtown Design brought over 50 industry thought-leaders together on one stage in the Middle East as they explored emerging industry trends and the role of design as a tool for positive change.
Key speakers included Tomás Alonso, Greg Natale and Christian Louboutin who offered a glimpse into his rich artistic universe that forms his unique identity. Marcus Fairs of Dezeen and Patrick Abbattista of DesignWanted delved into brand building and digital marketing for design businesses. The 2019 talks programme was rounded off with Lina Ghotmeh, Ashiesh Shah and Sanna Akerlund Gebeyehu who explored the impact of the design industry on the wider world.
“Every year I look forward to Downtown Design for inspiration, idea exchange and the best of what the industry has to offer,” says Jonathan Ashmore, Founder & Director of Anarchitect. “The 2019 edition delivered that and so much more - it's been by far the best edition of Downtown Design to date.”