Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

At home with the UAE's top creatives: sharing lessons learnt in isolation

We capture members of the UAE’s creative community in their homes, as they reflect on how their perceptions of luxury have changed as a result of the pandemic

How will the pandemic shape our priorities moving forward? For many, the past few months have been filled with anxiety and uncertainty – for others, they have offered much-needed stillness and time to reflect. Either way, it is a period that is likely to shape our collective consciousness.

Luxury visited members of Dubai's creative community in their homes, to find out how the pandemic has affected them – and whether their definition of luxury has changed as a result.

'It has been both insightful and emotional'

Salama Khalfan, jewellery designer

For Khalfan, time at home facilitated a period of self discovery. “I’ve learned things about myself – and about my reactions to external factors that I cannot control – that I didn’t know before. It has also been insightful in terms of learning how to adapt and being reminded of what it's like to live a slower-paced life.” And it has invited her to reconsider her definition of luxury. “Luxury in my view is a sentiment, a feeling derived from an experience, whatever that experience may be.”

'I’m really craving things like views and outdoor spaces'

Pallavi Dean, interior designer

Pallavi. Dean, founder of Roar. Photo by Antonie Robertson / The National
Pallavi. Dean, founder of Roar. Photo by Antonie Robertson / The National

As the founder of design and architecture firm Roar, Dean is well versed in the ways space can affect wellbeing. But as she continues to spend more time indoors, even she is looking to enhance her home. “When we bought our home, I was very much focused on the interiors of the space.” Now, things like views, outdoor space and having dedicated zones within her open-plan house have gained in importance.

'Luxury is wellbeing – your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing'

Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of 'Table Tales, the Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi'

An engineer by profession, Hanan Sayed Worrell works on urban and cultural projects, but is also “a recipe hunter by passion” and the author of Table Tales, the Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. She likens the self-isolation experience to a “game of musical chairs, where everything stops and you are right there, where you are”. But it has offered her an opportunity to reconnect with her home and spend more time with her family. “I hope to have a balanced life when we come out of this,” she says.

'The earth has given us quite a lot of of signs that we need to slow things down'

Bong Guerrero, co-founder, Fashion Forward Dubai

Bong Guerrero, co-founder, Fashion Forward Dubai. Photo by Antonie Robertson / The National
Bong Guerrero, co-founder, Fashion Forward Dubai. Photo by Antonie Robertson / The National

“I think we need luxury that is more mindful and sustainable, and more thoughtful,” says Bong Guerrero, chief executive and co-founder of Fashion Forward. “I think luxury, even more so, will become more about the experience of absorbing something, whether it’s a product or travel or space. It boils down to the quality of the experience."

'For me, luxury is now about comfort'

Faissal El-Malak, designer and artist

Multidisciplinary Palestinian artist and designer Faissal El-Malak is the founder of his eponymous fashion brand, which bridges traditional craftsmanship and artisan work from the Middle East with modern design elements. Time spent in self-isolation has given him a newfound appreciation of the comfort of home, he says. “I’ve had the privilege for it to be a time to reflect and a time to work on myself,” he notes.

'Luxury comes with having good people in your life – and journeys and adventures'

Abdulla Elmaz, photographer

Abdullah Almaz, photographer. Courtesy Antonie Robertson  / The National
Abdullah Almaz, photographer. Courtesy Antonie Robertson  / The National

As movement restrictions were being put into place in Dubai, photographer Abdulla Elmaz was racing against the clock to shoot a campaign for Italian fashion house Valentino. While that project was completed in the nick of time, a planned exhibition of his work at Abu Dhabi's Manarat Al Saadiyat had to be postponed. Nonetheless, the coronavirus crisis has offered much-needed time to reflect, he says. “It gives you time to think, which is something none of us have had to do in a long time, because we have our routines, we go about our days, and that’s it. It’s been like a little retirement for me.”

'You realise what is actually important'

Dominic Nowell-Barnes, founder of The Giving Movement

While a lot of people have been scaling things back in the wake of the pandemic, Dominic Nowell-Barnes decided to launch a new business, The Giving Movement. An athleisure brand with an ethical slant, it donates $4 (Dh15) to charity for every item sold. Although unforeseen, the timing seems apt. “I think, for so many people, the pandemic has been a life-changing experience. You realise what is actually important – the basics of having family and friends around you, and of staying healthy. I feel this is probably going to be reflected around the world in people’s values and the products they want to invest in,” he says.

Updated: July 5, 2020 09:55 AM

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