d3: Dubai Design District

Introducing the world's next creative hub


In its constant state of creation and construction, Dubai is adding themselves to the growing list of cities developing dedicated design districts to encourage the next generation of creatives. The Dubai Design District (d3), is a 21 million square ft campus that will combine major brands, galleries, workshops, artist studios and office spaces.

We take five with d3’s COO Mohammad Al Shehhi to see what he has planned for the region.

d3 sounds like a utopia for artists/designers. Can you explain to us how the idea came about?
We have been watching and researching the design industry for around five years to see how it grows. Our research showed a compelling business opportunity due to the size and scale of the region’s growth in the design and fashion industry. What we found to be lacking was a central home, an epicentre of design, for all stakeholders to come together, collaborate, share and grow.

The global apparel, accessories and luxury goods market is currently valued at a staggering US$1.4 trillion and, in the Middle East, growth seems to be growing faster than elsewhere in the world.

Can you tell us about the business structure of d3?
d3 is a free zone and, as such, our creative partners can enjoy benefits of a license that provides 100 per cent ownership, tax-free status, and the ability to fully repatriate profits and capital. We are also unique in the UAE in that we also offer the option to apply for an on-shore licence to trade. This allows companies the ability to export and import their products and supplies easily through our newly established MoU [memorandum of understanding] with Dubai Customs.

What sort of steps will be taken to encourage collaboration across d3 businesses?
There’s a macro-trend of cross-pollination in the design world where fashion brands, such as Missoni, are getting into hotels; architects, such as Zaha Hadid, are designing shoes; and luxury brands, such as LVMH, are highly integrated into the art world. Collaborations and co-creations are the heartbeat of d3 and we are pleased to say that we have several exciting partnerships in the pipeline of this year. We have signed a very exciting deal with Wallpaper* magazine during London Design Festival next September.


What excites you most about the potential of d3?
Innovation is a key part of our d3 brand and I think this is the most exciting part of the whole project. Not only have we made sure that the master plan of the project is truly innovative by partnering with world-leading architects and designers, but we’ve incorporated a number of architectural elements that will be unique in Dubai.

I am particularly excited by the idea that we are creating a unique space for designers and retail outlets that allows emerging regional designers to sit alongside internationally leading brands to create an ecosystem thriving on creativity.

What’s your take on the future of cultural and creative industries?
We want d3 to be a home for this community, a space for them to create, innovate and produce beautiful pieces for consumers here in the UAE and across the world. Our site will house a rich mix of cutting-edge industrial, product, interior, architectural, graphical and digital design to offer a unique blend of international fashion brands, unique regional designs and a premier holiday destination they cannot get anywhere else.


Photos courtesy of d3

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