Rue Kothari Reveals the Talent to Watch For at Downtown Design
ExpatWoman interviewed Downtown Design Dubai's Fair Director, Rue Kothari, on its 7th season
27 October 2019
After six successful years of showcasing collectible design from established and emerging talent in Dubai, Downtown Design returns for its 7th run from November 12 to 15 at d3.
We asked Rue Kothari, Downtown Design's Fair Director who joined the event in 2015 and is in charge of conceptualising and planning, to tell us more about what we can expect from Downtown Dubai this year and a little bit on what goes on behind the curtains.
On what's unique for this year's edition of Downtown Design...
Every year we start with a clean sheet and reimagine the visitor experience so that each year feels fresh and dynamic. For the first time we’ve collaborated with not just one but three of the region’s leading design firms to create brand new fair features including the pop up concept bar and café, as well as a brand new entrance and registration area. Our 7th edition will welcome more new brands and designers than ever before and our curatorial approach ensures that the edit is fresh and relevant each year, bringing more colour, innovation and exceptional design from around the world.
On which design talent to keep an eye out for...
Downtown Editions is our showcase for limited edition, handmade and bespoke products, with a focus on regional designers. Tashkeel will unveil products from the three designers they have been nurturing through their Tanween programme for the last year. This launch pad has traditionally been responsible for some of our best known local designers like Aljoud Lootah who will also present her new collection at the fair.
Irthi, the Contemporary Crafts Council from Sharjah will bring an outstanding selection of objects from handmade leather stools to oversized marble prayer beads, that have been produced through a collaboration between Bedouin artisans and international design studios.
In amongst that, visitors will be able to see new works by emerging designers including Meshary AlNassar and Jawaher AlKhayyal as well as sophisticated pieces from more established designers like Ammar Khalo and The Line Concept.
On what angle she has in mind when exploring talent each season...
We aim to support as many new designers as possible each year. When I receive an application, I usually assess the purity of the idea, the feasibility of the prototype and then the scalability of the product ultimately to see how commercially viable they are. We want our designers to present successfully to our audience, to get positive feedback and of course to sell their work. They need to be able to sit alongside our more mature brands and hold their own.
On a typical day as the Fair Director...
No day is ever typical, but usually involves a very early start and as we approach the event, very long days and weekends in the office and onsite. Once I’ve addressed all my pending emails, we are usually in planning meetings, addressing press requests and liaising with exhibitors, partners and sponsors. Once our giant tent starts to be built, then I’m with our Operations team onsite, wearing a fetching neon vest and hard hat, ensuring that the build is going to plan. Lunch is usually on the fly, and between calls, meetings and press interviews and far too many cups of coffee I make time to have a little fun with my team. We work really closely together, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie that sustains us while the pressure is on during the week of the fair.
On the most rewarding thing about her job...
When I arrive at the tent on the morning of our opening, to walk around and see all the elements of the fair that we have worked so hard to achieve throughout the year actually come to life, is thrilling. We plan on paper with concepts and renders and big ideas that can be incredibly challenging to engineer. To overcome this and push the boundaries year on year, is incredibly rewarding. Perhaps the most personally rewarding is to see the brands and designers I’ve worked closely with over the years, get a strong foothold in the industry, raise their profile and experience success as a result of our relationship.
6. With over a decade’s long experience, what are your thoughts on the evolution of Dubai’s innovative design scene?
I could write a book on this. Over the last 15 years in Dubai I’ve witnessed stratospheric change. It’s the kind of evolution that is only possible in Dubai. From just a handful of local designers producing authentic products, alongside a relatively small number of international brands that catered almost solely to the polarities, super-luxe or cheap copies, things have changed immeasurably. Today, thanks to educational programmes, grants, and awards, as well as platforms like Downtown Design, there are so many pathways for young designers to pursue a career in the design field.
The result is an ever-burgeoning number of local designers producing ever more sophisticated work. As for the big players, we are lucky to have so many of the world’s best brands now situated here in Dubai. Architects and interior designers have raised the bar too – producing beautiful spaces, from museums to restaurants that are world-class in quality and regional in flavour. Overall, there is now a greater diversity and a move away from superlative luxury to strong, contemporary, durable and affordable design solutions.
Finally, the best advice she can give designers who want their work involved with Downtown Design...
I would advise them to contact us. I would need to review their designs and renders and see how they would work within our overall curation and to make sure they are really serious about developing their own style and brand. It’s highly competitive out there in the global market, so ultimately they need to be benchmarking against the very best in order to have a chance at success. Of course, you need to be in it, to win it – so having the confidence to get started and put their products out there is an important first step.