Design Days is gone, but here comes Downtown Editions

So, Design Days Dubai is no more. After six years of showcasing collectable design in a Downtown location during March, the event is to be subsumed into Downtown Design (which is held in d3 rather than Downtown) in November. It will be renamed as Downtown Editions.

We’re told that Downtown Editions will be “a curated exhibition of bespoke and limited-edition design, providing opportunities to buy and commission unique design objects and offering visitors a rare chance learn more about the regional design scene” – so much like Design Days, then.

This move makes some sense, uniting two of the region’s leading design events (and the two best-established) to beef up the Dubai Design Week brand. The more that’s happening around Dubai Design Week, the better – especially if Art Dubai Group (which owns and runs Design Week) wants to build a bigger and better international presence for Dubai’s design showcase. More power to the brand means more visitors, more exhibitors, and more revenue.

Still, Design Days had a distinctive vibe. Individual designers and small studios could promote their personality and talk about design at a practical level to individual collectors, interior designers, and small design-led retailers, with a sidebar of talks and discussions. It was definitely a show for the consumer.

Downtown Dubai, by contrast, is a dyed-in-the-wool B2B event. Big-name manufacturers and big-ticket prices promote brands and sell products to developers, architects, top-end retailers and the like.

So will the two mix? Well, Downtown Design is described by the organises as “the key event” of Dubai Design Week, so you might think that everything else is secondary to it. But Design Week already has a good contrast with non-commercial features like Abwab and the Global Grad Show running alongside Downtown Design; apparently the next Design Week will have over 200 events across a range of disciplines including architecture, product, furniture, interior and graphic design. Last year it drew 60,000 attendees. It’s big, and it’s broad. The Design Days ethic fits in well.

It’s a shame to lose the Design Days name – though it seems ripe for resurrection, maybe as a seminar or workshop programme? – but the event was looking increasingly anomalous when so much design emphasis was going into a different location (d3) and a different date (12-17 November this year, if you want to mark your calendar).

Uniting two successful exhibitions into one event is a natural progression …

William Knight, director of Dubai Design Week and a former bigwig in the London Design Week scene, talks about boosting Dubai’s position as the design capital of the region: “Dubai Design Week is genuinely strengthened through Design Days Dubai, the city’s first collectable design fair, moving into Downtown Design … It will add a key component to our programme by highlighting designers and producers of limited edition design pieces and in turn delivering commercial opportunity to exhibitors as our audience continues to grow”.

His boss, Art Dubai Group CEO Benedict Floyd, points out that in just three years Dubai Design Week has become the largest creative festival in the region – though to be fair the competition is not exactly intense, and few competing locations have Dubai’s market. “Our design fairs are where commerce and creativity come together,” he said. “Uniting the two successful exhibitions into one event is a natural progression.”

The ‘commerce plus creativity’ mantra is serving the Art Dubai Group rather well. Downtown Design looks very successful, especially on the commercial front; Design Days could never be expected to match that, but in its new incarnation as Downtown Editions it should provide a useful leavening of creativity.

Above: Aljoud Lootah’s Unity Stool, one of the stars of Design Days Dubai 2016.  “Design Days Dubai was the platform that supported the launch of my career as a designer,” she said. “Being showcased amongst the best design galleries in the world helped me to better understand how to develop my craft. Exposure to the international industry is crucial for the Aljoud Lootah brand and the unifying of the region’s two main design fairs will provide greater opportunity for the commercial success of local designers”.

What do you think?

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