We’ve wrapped up Fashion Forward and now it’s time to immerse ourselves in the unique and innovative world of design, with the third edition of Dubai Design Week held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. The six-day event kicks off on Monday at Dubai Design District (d3.) Among the event highlights is the third edition of DRAK, a collective initiative founded by jewelry designer Nadine Kanso, fashion designer Khulood Thani, and product designer Khalid Shafar. DRAK – an acronym for Design Ras Al Khor – draws attention to the creative district potential of the Ras Al Khor Industrial Area.
In partnership with the Swiss art and design institution ECAL University, DRAK aims to highlight four emerging UAE-based designers this year. The participating design talents include Saudi Arabian furniture designer Ayah Al Bitar, interior designer Omar Nakkash, photographer and mixed media artist Ammar Al Attar, and 2017 Fashion Prize accessories finalist Farah Nasri.
DRAK 2017 will also welcome two guest designers, Samer Alameen from Italy and Michael Rice from the UAE. The exhibition explores the theme of “Industry To Luxury” in order to highlight industrial and mass-produced materials sourced from the Ras Al Khor area that have been recreated to produce product for luxury use.
Here, the design collective speak to Vogue.me about the most exciting highlight during Design Week, what they look for in creatives, and what the worlds of art and fashion are in need of.
How far has the initiative come since inception?
Khalid Shafar: This is the third edition of DRAK since its inception in 2015 during the first Dubai Design Week. In the last two years, the platform highlighted 10 local, regional, and international designers and presented 12 design projects spanning architecture, fashion, jewelry, food, product, textiles, interactive, film and graphic design.
What is the most significant artist the platform has discovered this far?
Khalid Shafar: In the bigger picture, the platform has proven how the industry needs such collectives and initiatives in order to grow it forward. On the other hand and on a personal note, one of our greatest discoveries is always the new designers and their work. We get the pleasure to understand their design process and work closely with them until realization.
Could you share a story about a particularly impressive talent you found as part of this project?
Khulood Thani: To be honest, many, but I believe Hala Kaiksow, our DRAK 2016 guest designer from Bahrain, worked on one of the most challenging areas, which is integrating wood within textile, as the theme was “Celebrating Wood.” Hala’s final project, “GRAIN,” was a huge panel installation, all weaved manually with pieces of wood in-between.
What do you look for in fellow creatives?
Khulood Thani: We always like to work with people who are more collaborative and are willing to challenge the brief through digging into it and coming up with something completely new.
What artists’ signatures do you think are specific to the region?
Khulood Thani: My friend Khalid Shafar – he keeps fascinating us with stories that are related to our heritage and culture in his designs.
What are the most exciting highlights on the schedule?
Khulood Thani: Aside from the new commissions, we will also be having Samer Alameen with his project “Out Of The Box” as an international selected project. ECAL will have two exhibitions for the first time, one of which will be at the DRAK site: the “Music Box” project collaboration between ECAL Swiss company Reuge. ECAL’s second exhibition, “ECAL lays the table,” will take place at The Light House, while Molecule will be showcasing Michael Rice’s “Pyxis,” which was specifically produced for DRAK 17. So mark your agenda for these events.
How do you balance this with your other projects?
Nadine Kanso: There is no such a thing as balance; it is always kind of crazy but it’s a sweet and energetic period when it comes to Design Week Dubai. It is the time where I juggle so much and multitask! Working ahead of time is the key, so I try to start six months ahead and schedule things so they don’t overlap. It is always great to work on your own projects as well as help others designer take the stage and be in the limelight.
Which three new things on the Middle Eastern art scene do you think signals positive change?
Nadine Kanso: The obvious would be the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as it will impact our region and give people access to immense knowledge. The announcement of DIDI brings new horizons to the fields of design and future designers. The Youth initiative is a brilliant project and will challenge young people to become more involved and look for new and innovative ideas to work on and establish.
What do you think the worlds of art and high fashion need more of?
Nadine Kanso: More support for real talent and mentorship (which the DDFC has planned). It would also be a good thing to see some filtering when it comes to bad work versus good; it is everyone responsibility.
List one thing you all do together before you start story working on a new initiative.
Nadine Kanso: The one thing we always do when we brainstorm for DRAK is breakfast together. It has become our ritual and pleasure to share our thoughts over a good meal before we all leave for our studios. Another ritual is that we always go to Milan Design Week, it’s great for inspiration.