Found within Downtown Design, one of the most-awaited highlights of Dubai Design Week, is its boutique showcase of limited-edition and bespoke design spotlights the diversity of design from the region and beyond.
Since its inaugural presentation in 2018, Downtown Editions has garnered a reputation not only for offering a platform of discovery and visibility, catapulting regional and international designers into the spotlight, but also for bringing together a diverse cross-section of product design: from hand-made to highly mechanised production, from furniture and lighting to innovative materials and artisanal finishes, and offering designers the opportunity to experiment and innovate.
For Dubai-based Iraqi designer Layth Mahdi, debuting his brand alongside some of the world’s most coveted names in contemporary design at Downtown Editions 2018 was both exciting and daunting. ‘I knew that I would be going up against some of the biggest commercial brands of our time, but participating in the show gave me focus and the opportunity to present my take on design to an international audience’ he says. Layth’s collection of robot produced marble furniture and accessories won him the Best Emerging Designer trophy at the Harper’s Bazaar Interiors Awards 2018.
Known for their timeless and exceptionally hand-crafted spindle furniture, Phillip Hollander and Stephen Wilson, founders of the South African studio Houtlander presented their award-winning Preservation Bench at the 2019 fair. ‘This was our first time exhibiting in the Middle East,’ says Stephen. ‘The fair offered us access into the Middle East market like no other. We had the opportunities to start conversations that will open the doors for Houtlander to trade in the Middle East.’ They were joined by the likes of New-York based sculptor-designer Fernando Mastrangelo and Japanese collectable furniture studio Tasca4D, all presenting their distinct approach to the creative process.
Also at Downtown Editions 2019, acclaimed regional architect Jennie Binchy sought to shift gears, to explore another mode of creative expression. ‘I came to a point where I was feeling tied down by pens and paper and computer screens; I wanted to explore through ‘doing’. Downtown Editions was a structured opportunity to do just that. It gave us a platform to analyse the validity of our ideas, and our design approach’ says Jennie. Exploring the essence of design; the balance of art, science and functionality, the collection, Ten Tables, positioned the design studio in a new light, illustrating their critical thinking process in a tangible format.
‘In addition to being covered by some of the most revered design platforms including Dezeen, Elle Decoration and Interior Design New York, we also made several connections towards new architectural work, and the dividends of participating in Downtown Editions keep coming.’
Binchy and Binchy’s architect Neda Salmanpour, who was integral to the design of the collection, was accepted into Tashkeel’s highly coveted Tanween Programme and will present her final work at this year’s Downtown Editions with the Tanween class of 2020.
Abdulla Almulla, from the Tanween programme 2019 found Downtown Edition a ground for exploration and learning. ‘After developing something in a so-called bubble, sharing it with the world at Downtown Editions was a great opportunity to engage with the industry and get real-time feedback,’ said the designer who presented an abstract clock inspired by the movement of sand dunes. ‘The fair also allowed me to gauge market sentiment and what the buyers are looking for.’
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