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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Celebrate street culture at Sole DXB with trendy sneakers, live music, art and sport

We preview the two-day street-culture celebration that will open the new Dubai Design District.
The founders of Sole DXB, from left, Rajat Malhotra, Hussain Moloobhoy, Joshua Cox and Kris Balerite. Antonie Robertson / The National
The founders of Sole DXB, from left, Rajat Malhotra, Hussain Moloobhoy, Joshua Cox and Kris Balerite. Antonie Robertson / The National

It might be dubbed a sneaker summit, but you don’t need a fetish for footwear to enjoy Sole DXB, the street-culture celebration that will open the new Dubai Design District this weekend (November 14-15).

Boasting an edgy mix of live music, art and sport – and plenty of trendy trainers – the two-day event will be the first one to be hosted at the new creative hub in Al Quoz, making it a double celebration for organisers.

Stop by on Friday or Saturday and you might see skateboarders showing off tricks, aerosol artists in action, fiery street-basketball games on the courts or B-boys spinning on the floor to basslines dropped by hip-hop DJs.

The thing these cultures all have in common? Trainers.

“There are all these different elements that contribute to street culture across the world,” says the Sole DXB co-founder Joshua Cox, “and Dubai is such a multicultural city that we want to represent all these elements as much as possible.

“We might wear a suit to work – but on weekends we all wear sneakers and denim.”

The concept of a festival based around footwear was the brainchild of a group of four trainer lovers who wanted to share their craze (and shoe collections) with the world.

An initial idea to screen the arty trainer documentary The Mystery of Flying Kicks spawned the first Sole DXB in February 2011 – a one-day street-culture celebration at Dubai gallery thejamjar, which attracted more than 1,000 visitors.

“We all have this fascination with footwear and urban culture, but there wasn’t really anywhere for people to get together,” says Cox, a 29-year-old Australian. “So we said: ‘Let’s do something about it.’ We were surprised to find this huge passion for what we were into that we never knew was in the Middle East.”

The second Sole DXB event took up the whole of Al Quoz’s art hub Alserkal Avenue, with a street-party vibe stretching across eight galleries and two warehouses and attracting about 4,000 people for a single day in March 2012.

Rajat Malhotra, a 34-year-old Indian who grew up in Kuwait and New York and is also a co-founder of the festival, puts the event’s success down to the way underground movements such as hip-hop and street art are gaining popularity in the region.

“You see elements of street culture in everything you look at. It’s no longer something ghetto or something to be afraid of – mainstream culture is looking at the street, it sets the tone,” says Malhotra.

The third outing of Sole DXB is a broader two-day concept. Hosted in a purpose-built 10,000-square-metre space, the area will be dotted with shipping-style containers, with each dedicated to an interactive display brand or concept, while parked Mini Coopers will serve as makeshift stalls.

Among the top attractions will be visits from the Amsterdam designers Guillaume Philibert and Olaf Hussein, plus representatives of the New York City brand Alife will appear at a series of one-hour talks focusing on everything from the latest trends to the effect of urbanisation on hip-hop.

There will also be plenty of beats all day and night from DJs, including London’s Dan Greenpeace and the locals Brooklyn, Shef Codes, Emtee Pockets, Don Corneille and Megadon Betamax, who promise a block-party style feel, while a huge graffiti wall will be decorated by visiting aerosol artists, including the Arabic calligrapher Wissam Shawkat.

“It’s about the vibe,” says Cox. “If you like art and culture, this is a really good chance to interact with people and come and be inspired.

“If you feel your life is lacking something that you can’t normally find in Dubai, this is for you.”

• Sole DXB takes place at the Dubai Design District, Al Quoz, on Friday, November 14, from noon to 10pm, and Saturday, November 15, from noon to 8pm. Register for free entry at www.soledxbregistration.com/register

rgarratt@thenational.ae