Could you tell us a bit about your design concept, starting with your work but also about jewelry? My approach is based on my design-ethos triangle of creativity, practicality and functionality. I prefer to design for function and therefore my functional objects must serve a purpose. Along with this approach, I make sure to add my local cultural influences to all my design projects, with the aim of defining the character of Emirati Design. This includes developing new techniques, integrating handcrafted processes and materials, and preserving cultural techniques and stories. The same concept applies to jewelry design.
How and why did you decide to found the DRAK project with Nadine? Give us a general idea but tell us especially about the DRAK jewelry designers. Design Ras Al Khor (DRAK) is a collective design platform, established in 2015 in Dubai and founded by UAE-based designers Khalid Shafar, Khulood Thani and Nadine Kanso. DRAK’s objective is to draw attention to the Ras Al Khor Industrial Area – one of the oldest in the city – and its potential of becoming Dubai’s newest creative district. As an annual event, DRAK is growing by covering different topics in design, involving more designers, and creating a design movement that encourages design research, innovation and material exploration. Jewelry designers have been key participants in DRAK since its inception. In 2015, DRAK welcomed the participation of Nadine Kanso, founder of the BilArabi Jewelry Brand. Farah Nasri, the founder of HKD (HOOKED), followed in DRAK17. This year, DRAK is pleased to present a new ‘protagonist’, Amal Haliq, founder of Amal Haliq Jewelry as one of its main participating designers.
Can you explain the guidelines for the project? Which is your main market? Every year, the platform highlights a specific design topic that is explored through projects undertaken by carefully selected designers from a range of design fields. Each project addresses the topic – highlighting it and presenting fresh perspectives. At this stage, for DRAK, and as a way of supporting the growth of the design industry locally and regionally, our main market remains the Middle East. However, we always welcome international participation through our educational program that includes talks and discussions during which groups of international speakers and designers debate and share insights on industry topics.
How do you select the jewelry brands? Can you make a short list of the selected designers? The selection is based on the design topic chosen for DRAK and on how a jewelry project might respond to the topic. It also depends on which jewelry designer can go beyond the norm and explore luxury and jewelry from a new perspective by introducing new materials and exploring new manufacturing methods.
Which jewels and lines do you like?
I always look to contemporary jewelry and statement pieces. Lines that explore new materials and techniques yet still preserve a high level of craftsmanship and quality.
Can you trace the differences between the jewelry market in the UAE and in Europe/Italy? Starting from the design concept to sales. My observations of the market here in the UAE are still kind of conservative when it comes to exploring new materials that can still define luxury and design concepts that make statements. Major social occasions are still linked to classic high-end jewelry and traditional designs, while the younger generation and workers are moving towards simpler, more functional, branded jewelry. Due to the social dress code, statement pieces can’t find a strong market locally. Also, major and young brands have started targeting local holidays to promote sales, for example, for Ramadan and Eid celebrations. ◆