Dubai Design Week

Dubai Design Week

Earlier this month I flew back from doing fantastic design show in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
It all started a few months back when my colleague from North Limited got a phone call from the Icelandic Design Center telling us that we were lucky enough to be invited to Dubai along with three other design studios from Iceland. We would all be showing together in Dubai along with the Icelandic design week ‘Design March’.

I had heard that Dubai was a city constantly under development – new houses and hotels being built every day, well I didn’t have to put that theory to the test as our hotel was only two months old yet it was completely booked and looked fantastic. In fact, you would never have thought that it had not been anything but a designer hotel connected with the Design Week in Dubai.  
Dubai started Dubai Design week three years ago, they wanted a design show to celebrate the cultural melting pot that is happening in Dubai. To add diversity to the show, Dubai has been inviting design weeks around the world to come and exhibit three brands at a time during the Dubai Design Week.

There is a distinct energy in the air in Dubai, an energy to get things done and being able to always do better and greater. The show was just like the city, a melting pot of people from all over the world with great energy, inviting the guests of the exhibition to come, see and buy new beautiful items for their home.

2016-10-25-12-43-48The odd uncle at the family table.
During the show, we got all sorts of questions and requests, but never as much as during opening day. We had clearly lacked in our preparation and hadn’t really expected such heavy traffic during the show. This meant that a lot of the time we had to stay on our toes and try to do the best we could in any given situation.

One of the questions we got was from an interior designer from Dubai,  she wanted to know how Icelandic designers vary from Swedish and Danish designers.
I had to think quickly – I wasn’t quite sure what to say here as I don’t really compare myself or fellow Icelandic designers or other Scandinavian designers, so I answered:  “Well you know we have a lot in common with the Scandinavian designers, especially the Danes and the Finns. But we have a shorter history in design – so in a way we are younger and perhaps not afraid to be playful or odd. So if perhaps you think of Scandinavians together as one big family – then we, the Icelanders, could be considered to be the quirky odd uncle.”
I also got quite a few requests to talk about our products and exhibition on to people’s personal snapchat – and no I did not get to edit the snaps. Social media in Dubai seems to play a very important part of communication and consumerism in Dubai.

During the first day, we had already sold quite a few of the show pieces. Especially Agustav, a maker design studio formed by a husband and wife Gustav and Agusta. They nearly sold out of their bookcases during the first day. It’s safe to say that we hugely underestimated the sales we could have done during the show.2016-10-25-13-11-59

There is a lot to learn from going to design shows so far away and in different continents. For example function in design is not a key aspect in Middle eastern homes. I spoke to a furniture sales associate regarding this cultural difference and he explained to me that the houses are very big  in Dubai and that people prefer having a grand signature pieces in their homes, rather than to focus on the actual functionality of the item. That was completely mind blowing to us, since function always plays such a big part in most Icelandic designs.

Function, form and simplicity, three words I enjoy greatly in design were flipped upside down while I was in Dubai and it was really refreshing walking into a completely different world of consumers. 

I hope that we get the opportunity to participate in the Design Week Dubai next year – or at least visit it. The amazing people, the amazing architecture, design, food, and culture is all just so different to what we are used to in Iceland that you can’t help but to stop, and open your eyes to all the diversity in the world.  

By: Þórunn Hannesdóttir