Located far away for most on the Arabian Peninsula, a few decades ago not many would have believed that Dubai had the expertise and the willpower to become such a powerful force on the world's creative front. But with the recent Chanel Cruise show, Fashion Forward's continuing presence, and the host of international and regional art events that maintain their place year after year on Dubai's social calendar, the city has made international headlines for the flourishing of its creative industries. Its entrepreneurial spirit has helped to give rise to such high-class events, as it has also become the driving force for the development of the Dubai Design District (d3), the city's upcoming centre dedicated to design, luxury and fashion.
But d3 is not to be confused with an area solely dedicated to fashion. "Dubai Design District, as its name indicates, will include everything related to the Design industry," says Lindsay Miller, d3's Development Manager. "It should be clearly emphasised that the word Design is with a capital D – meaning it should be taken in its broadest sense, encompassing fashion, but also interiors, architecture, arts, services and luxury design." Construction on the development has already begun. Located next to Business Bay, just minutes from The Dubai Mall, d3 will boast two kilometres of waterfront – longer than the length of Jumeirah Beach Walk. The space will feature international and design-led hotels, an event space and a pop-up shop area. On offer will also be property options including residential, commercial, retail and hospitality real estate. There will be the area designated by distinct public spaces, with arty street furniture, public art and shaded walkways – all elements that will enhance Dubai's community life.
The first phase of d3, which totals around AED 4 billion and is the 'core' of the 1.4 million square metre site, will include art offices and workshop spaces, and will be ready for tenants in the first quarter of 2015. The second phase of the development will be focused on the community – a centre with aims to provide a dynamic environment to enhance participants' wellbeing and creativity. The last phase of the project, phase three, will develop the development's waterfront area, which will offer new concepts in dining, retail and entertainment. TECOM Investments, which is part of Dubai Holding, is building 45 percent of the project and will bring in investors to fund the remaining part.
Given the wealth of retailer opportunities in Dubai, now couldn't be a better time to erect d3. "Many commentators had written off Dubai's economy following the global financial crisis, but it has proven far more resilient than originally thought," says Miller. "The confidence and positive sentiment that have returned to the market are backed by many luxury brands reporting that their top globally performing stores are located in Dubai." Another supporting fact is that Dubai is now ranked second after London as the biggest retail destination in the world.
Moreover, d3 goes beyond simply a development for design, it helps encourage local creative expression. "Our main ambition is for d3 to act as a catalyst for the region's design community by creating an environment where local design talent can grow into successful brands," says Miller. In June, d3 confirmed that over 140 licenses have been granted for businesses to move to the site, with over 40 percent of these from the MENA region – a real sign of interest from the regional community.
In addition, Dubai already has a budding community for art, design and fashion on which d3 can expand. Miller cites the many talents of the region who are gaining a significant amount of international recognition. "Whether it is Furne One by Amato dressing Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Heidi Klum, or Rami Al Ali whose designs have been worn by Kelly Rowland and Jennifer Lopez; art events such as Art Dubai, Design Days and the Shajah Biennale, to name a few, there already is great potential here," she says. This is what the city, as it continues to expand, ultimately needs: a centre to further unite and build Dubai's creative community.