Five Middle East Designers To Know

By Shalaka Paradkar
15 November 2018
Dubai Design Week, Design District, D3
Photo by Dubai Design Week
With Dubai Design Week underway, meet the top talents contributing to the region’s biggest-ever celebration of all things design

The 10th edition of the region's largest creative festival provides a chance for visitors to check out the creations of some of the best designers working in the Middle East today. Here are five to watch.

Khalid Shafar

Khalid Shafar

Photo provided by Khalid Shafar

At this year’s Dubai Design Week, Khalid Shafar launched his latest interior collection, Forma; which, like all his works, is rooted in UAE culture. The 38-year-old Emirati designer deconstructed agaals (the woven rope headbands worn by Emirati men) to craft his pieces, in collaboration with Italian mirror works atelier Arte Veneziana. A prolific designer, Shafar set up his eponymous studio in Dubai’s gritty Ras Al Khor industrial area. He has led a gentrification of sorts of the area, co-founding the DRAK collaborative, a progressive design movement that leads urban experiments within Ras Al Khor. International collaborations with the likes of LASVIT, Tai Ping, the Campana Brothers, COS and Kartell have cemented his stellar reputation as an Emirati product designer and cultural commentator.

Isabel Pintado

Isabel Pintado

Photo: ITP

Senior vice president and managing director at luxury interiors specialist Wilson Associates, Isabel Pintado is a consistent presence on regional design power lists. Leading a 30-strong team, Pintado provides the design direction for the firm’s ongoing projects in the Middle East and beyond. When asked to create an installation for Downtown Editions, a new feature at Downtown Design dedicated to limited-edition, bespoke works and individual studios, Wilson Associates produced Tales. The collaborative exhibition brings together designers, suppliers and diverse materials to create a whimsical show stopper.

Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop

Photo provided by Paul Bishop

When he won Interior Designer of the Year award at this year’s CID Awards, Paul Bishop danced on the table. Never one to rein in his emotions, the 50-year-old Bishop’s irreverent style and bright, bold designs have lit up A-list venues such as London’s Caramel and Dubai’s La Serre, Nusr-et, Scalini and chef Massimo Bottura’s Torno Subito in the new W Hotel, Palm Jumeirah. The head of Bishop Design (now rebranded as Rogue) created the pop-up concept House of Negroni for this year’s Downtown Design, an energetic riff on modernity and liberation, expressed through striking graphics, artwork and interior design. 

Pallavi Dean

Pallavi Dean

Photo: ITP

Among the few women who have made it to the top in a notoriously male-dominated field, architect Pallavi Dean leads an all-women team at her boutique firm. Roar by Pallavi Dean’s fresh, crisp, no-nonsense design approach has helped it bag a diverse multitude of projects, including the new Delano and Yotel hotels on Palm Jumeirah, Enterprises Headquarters at Dean’s alma mater AUS, and the award-winning Al Rawi and Shababeek cafés in Sharjah. A keen champion of all things #MadeintheUAE, Roar’s installation for homegrown brand Oasis Paints at Downtown Design is a paint-factory inspired tribute to the triumvirate of three powerful Arab women: Zaha Hadid, Umm Kalthoum and Nancy Ajram.

Jonathan Ashmore

Ashmore

Photo provided by Jonathan Ashmore

The striking terracotta installation Circadian Light Synthesis - designed to highlight people’s relationship with natural light from the sun and the moon - is the work of Dubai atelier Anarchitect, one of the first RIBA-chartered practices outside the UK. Anarchitect founder Jonathan Ashmore, a Bartlett School of Architecture alumnus, has to his credit spaces such as El Chiringuito Ibiza, Rosanno Ferreti Hair spa, Akin barbershops, No57 café, Fossil Rock Retreat & Spa (coming up) and the Harding Boutique Hotel in Ahangama, Sri Lanka.