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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Discover D3: a look at the new restaurants, stores and upcoming events at Dubai Design District

This year, the space has reached 95 per cent capacity, with more than 7,000 people employed in the vicinity

The d3 Design Quarter. Courtesy D3
The d3 Design Quarter. Courtesy D3

The plan for the Dubai Design District (D3) was initially commissioned in 2013, and the first phase of the project was completed in 2015. At first, it emerged as a barren-looking cluster of buildings housing the offices of fashion and design-related businesses. But as we near the end of 2017, the district is shedding its business-centre feel and proving that it’s on track to becoming the city’s hotspot for creativity, with a host of new retail operations and restaurants having set up around the neighbourhood.

This year, the space has reached 95 per cent capacity, with more than 7,000 people employed in the vicinity. There are 40 established retailers, with an additional 14 set to open in the coming weeks, as D3 moves to embrace a consumer-friendly community lifestyle that celebrates creativity in all forms.

And, if you thought that D3 was a place just for women and fashion, some of its latest offerings, which specifically target men, may surprise you. This week, D3 inaugurated its autumn 2017 season with some innovative art installations, and a campaign celebrating the varying definitions of design. Here are some launches and upcoming events that should be on your radar.

1. Closet Case

Closet Case. Anna Nielsen for The National
Closet Case. Anna Nielsen for The National

Expect to be see a wave of black as you enter this mens-wear store on the ground floor of Building 7. From apparel and shoes to sunglasses and fragrances, black is the colour du jour. Claiming to be Dubai’s first menswear concept store, it was founded in London over two decades ago, and when it became clear that many of its customers hailed from the Middle East, founder Bobby Chehrazi decided to expand, and open its first overseas branch at D3. Labels such as Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake are all stocked at Closet Case, where the interiors are dark and industrial-themed. Sporty trainers, geometric sunglasses, graphic T-shirts and oversize clothing are all on display, alongside fragrance brands like Bougie Apothicaire and Meo Fusciuni. While the store targets men, Chehrazi reveals that almost 50 per cent of customers are in fact women, shopping for androgynous or unisex apparel.

2. Amato Luxe

Amato Luxe boutique has opened in Dubai Design District (D3). Courtesy of Amato
Amato Luxe boutique has opened in Dubai Design District (D3). Courtesy of Amato

Known for his couture clothing and for debuting his collections in avant-garde runway shows at Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD), Furne One, creative director of Amato, has set a high benchmark for regional talent. His designs have even been worn by celebrities like Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez. Walking into the Amato Luxe boutique in Building 4 of D3 is like stepping into a dream world of all things whimsical. Beautiful gowns in sorbet shades, adorned with embroidery and beadwork, hang along the walls, making it an ideal destination for wedding shopping.

3. Montroi

Montroi is a space that celebrates nomadism, promotes cultural diversity and sells travel accessories. Anna Nielsen for The National
Montroi is a space that celebrates nomadism, promotes cultural diversity and sells travel accessories. Anna Nielsen for The National

Traditional Indian music fills your ears as you enter this boutique, and a Rajasthani poster on one wall further sets the tone. But the products sold at Montroi are neither ethnic nor solely Eastern. This is a space that celebrates and promotes nomadism. The brand began by producing city guides, listing offbeat, under-the-radar travel destinations that offer authentic experiences. Luxe leather bags are displayed around the room, along with passport covers, luggage tags and other travel accessories. Customers can have their leather purchases embossed with their initials, or request to have them customised with hand-painted designs. Montroi also produces scents inspired by some of the cities its team visits – the latest is called the Mughal Incense. Montroi is a village in Europe, which was a part of the ancient Silk Route. Founder Enrique Hormigo explains that the brand identifies more with craftsmanship and design, than with mainstream fashion, and also emphasises that this isn’t merely a shop – the layout can be rearranged to host talks and exhibitions in the space. The wider goal is to provide a space where nomads can interact with one another.

4. Yui & Frame

Frame is a Japanese concept store attached to a ramen bar. Anna Nielsen for the National
Frame is a Japanese concept store attached to a ramen bar. Anna Nielsen for the National

A dedicated ramen noodle bar has opened in Building 7, and it’s connected to a Japanese concept store. Egg noodles, broths, dumplings and Japanese rice bowls are all on offer at Yui, where interiors feature minimalist wooden booths and traditional Oriental lanterns. The eatery is connected to Frame, which is the region’s first Japanese-themed lifestyle store, stocking both menswear and womenswear, as well as home decor, accessories, stationery and edible items. Here, you can find everything from graphic high-top trainers to Japanese toy figures, from brands that are exclusive to this store in the UAE. A coffee bar inside Frame is operated by Norwegian coffee brand Fuglen, which has also gained popularity in Tokyo.

5. Espresso Lab

Espresso Lab is the first coffee shop in the UAE that doesn't offer any sugar for its coffees. Anna Nielsen for The National
Espresso Lab is the first coffee shop in the UAE that doesn't offer any sugar for its coffees. Anna Nielsen for The National

Located in Building 7, Espresso Lab was founded by Emirati entrepreneur and coffee connoisseur Ibrahim Al Mallouhi, and since its opening on International Coffee Day on October 1, the niche cafe has brought many new visitors to D3, who come seeking the speciality coffee here. On a Monday evening at 8pm, the coffee shop is full of Emirati patrons – mainly men. Members of the royal families of various Emirates are rumoured to be some of the home-grown brand’s VIP customers. But Al Mallouhi asserts that all are equal here, and no matter how important or wealthy a customer is, he or she must wait in line with everybody else. Also, he adds, Espresso Lab won’t give free coffee to “influencers” or celebrities – everybody here is treated with equal importance.

The highlight of the space is a U-shaped bar, formed from patchworked granite, with elegant copper spotlights overhead. Tables are wooden, and chairs have wicker backs. The baristas wear denim aprons with leather pockets, over grey T-shirts. Speciality coffee is sourced from a single-origin farm, and Espresso Lab drinks are completely void of sugar – it’s the only outlet in the UAE that doesn’t offer sugar with your coffee.

6. Swarovski Creative Centre

Visit the Swarovski Creative Center. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Visit the Swarovski Creative Center. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Known for its flashy and colourful embellishments, which have been used by the world’s most famous fashion designers, including Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin, Swarovski actually does far more than just provide crystals to brands and sell jewellery and trinkets in its retail stores. The company also dedicates its time and resources to collaborating with emerging designers and supporting the community. Its latest establishment, the Swarovski Creative Centre in Building 7 of D3, gives the region’s creatives access to the brand’s materials and machinery. Aspiring designers across different fields, such as fashion, jewellery and interiors, can visit the space free of charge, and play with the various embellishments and technologies available. This season, the centre will also host a series of talks, workshops and exhibitions.

7. Chaps & Co

Chaps & Co in Dubai Design District. Reem Mohammed / The National
Chaps & Co in Dubai Design District. Reem Mohammed / The National

Popular barbershop Chaps & Co has opened its latest branch in Building 6 of D3. Its luxurious interiors are a far cry from traditional neighbourhood barbershops, and its top-notch treatments match its stately atmosphere. Sleek black walls are lined with old-school razors, and customers have the option to book standard cuts, skin fades, beard trims, facials, massages and even waxing services. The branch also reportedly employs the city’s first licensed female barber specialising in male grooming.

8. Mum’s Table

Mum's Table. Anna Nielsen for The National
Mum's Table. Anna Nielsen for The National

Brown tiled flooring, wooden interiors and an array of wicker chairs give this eatery an authentic street-side vibe. Walls of this restaurant, which is located in Building 7, feature paintings of pastoral scenes. The menu features home-cooked recipes, inherited from the founder’s mother, that originate in the Levant – specifically, from a village on the Syria-Turkey border. Choose from a range of traditional Arab dishes featuring labneh, tahini, halloumi and samosas.

Mark your calendar

  • The prestigious L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, a Paris-based fine-jewellery and watchmaking school, will be launching in Dubai next month. From November 7 to November 25, classes and workshops taught by jewellers, art historians, gemmologists and watchmakers, will take place at the school’s temporary campus in D3.
  • The latest in The Jamjar’s series of free workshops for children is a class on sculpting signs from clay. Kids will trace their hands in air-dried clay, and use tools to imprint a word in sign language onto their creation. The class takes place in Building 3 on Saturday, at 12.30pm and 2pm, for an hour.
  • Hosted by Sharjah Art Foundation, a free workshop for art enthusiasts will teach modern Arabic calligraphy techniques to participants ages 15 and over. The class takes place in Building 5 on Saturday from 10am to 1pm.
  • Emirati artist Sumayyah Al Suwaidi has curated an exhibition entitled Express Yourself in 30x30, which will open on October 30 for a week, at Citizen E Gallery in Building 6. The group exhibition features all sorts of creative expressions that follow only one criteria: that it’s hung, and measures 30cm x 30cm.
  • The region’s definitive fashion-week platform, Fashion Forward Dubai is set to take place from October 26 to 28 in D3. For the first time, the event will take place in the main Design Quarter of the neighbourhood, rather than the Hai D3 area. Expect to see the new-season collections from various regional designers, such as Arwa Al Banawi, Madiyah Al Sharqi, Hussein Bazaza, Zareena and more.
  • The third annual Dubai Design Week will take place from November 13 to 18. Celebrating design with activations all around Downtown Dubai, the event will also see a host of commissioned installations in D3, along with both indoor and outdoor pop-ups.
  • The region’s biggest urban footwear and lifestyle fair, Sole DXB is scheduled to take place from December 7 to 9 at this space. The platform celebrates sneaker culture in its entirety, and visitors can browse rare footwear finds from collectors, while enjoying trendy food start-ups and live entertainment.

Stay up to date with upcoming events by visiting www.dubaidesigndistrict.com/events

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Read more:

WATCH: Meet the female barber challenging cultural norms in the UAE

Esmod Dubai launches make-up service for women working in d3

Swarovski establishes a free creative centre for Middle Eastern designers

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