TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Dubai 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

d3, Dubai's new district promoting up-and-coming designers and serving as a hub for bigger brands, is contributing to the design sector's bigger picture.

Khadija Al Bastaki
BIOGRAPHY

Khadija Al Bastaki is Executive Director of d3. She also manages the implementation of d3's business vision and future growth plans. Prior to her current position, she was director of business development for Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, and Dubai Production City, members of TECOM Group. In earlier roles, Al Bastaki worked within management roles at Economic Zones World (EZW), Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), and DP World. She holds a master's degree in business administration and strategic management from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi and a bachelor's degree in software engineering technology from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai.

How do you support entrepreneurs in the design ecosystem?
Through TECOM, we host the in5 Design incubator, which is an entire ecosystem. The participants are licensed and have workshops and receive advice from a board of investors that invests in interesting prototypes and projects. We also have a business center, co-working space, and micro studios for those who want to start and test the market before going commercial. If you are a start-up designer without the capital to lease a d3 office space, we offer alternatives like a freelance visa under the d3 umbrella. We also have the business expertise to help guide people to test the waters before fully investing in a commercial space. We also offer workshops that to allow them to grow into a commercial space. d3 is also partnered with Dubai SME, which has a large number of local entrepreneurs. The d3 structure allows for us to have mainland license and a free zone structure as well as a dual custom code.

As a unique design hub in the region, how do you work with the government and larger businesses to create a well-rounded environment?
First, we are looking to improve the government agenda in terms of attention to the design sector. We want d3 to cater to the headquarters of design, art, and luxury brands. At present, 80% of our portfolio comprises international companies. A few government entities also have offices here, like the Ministry of Culture, Dubai Culture, and Dubai Schools Council. We have names such as Dior, Chanel, Hugo Boss, Foster & Partners, and Zaha Hadid. We have the offices and regional headquarters for Lego, Asics, Adidas, and Puma. We want to leverage our existing brands and attract FDI to Dubai's design industry. Some of our existing business partners have initiatives with the government, and they are bringing in talent from Europe for these projects. This is where we are seeing a soft contribution coming back to the design industry and Dubai. There are a lot of successful emerging designers, and d3 has been able to provide the platform for them to shine. In addition to offering a commercial space and platform, we also sponsor events which are relevant to the industry, like Fashion Forward and Design Week.

From which regions are you seeing people come to d3, and from which markets are you looking to attract entrepreneurs and companies?
Our focus is mainly Europe and Asia. Looking at regional stability, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the most to offer, but in terms of the design sector itself, the UAE has a bigger pull, especially from Egypt. Our location and logistics advantages attract people to explore the Middle East market. Within Europe and Asia, we have defined primary and secondary markets. In Asia, the primary market is China, which is a must for us to penetrate as we see huge potential in the design sector there. Within Europe, the UK, Germany, Italy, and France are our primary focuses. This is not to only position the luxury or big brands but also medium-sized companies who want to work through Dubai. We are also eyeing opportunities that coincide with our business missions, travels, and exhibitions.
What are your priorities for 2020 to make d3 synonymous with the region's creative ecosystem?
We are currently eyeing Expo 2020 and are working closely with the Expo team. This is where we would like to put some of our business partners, curations, and projects. In 2018, Expo wanted our help to design the uniform, and we did a competition across the entire UAE. Several d3 businesses took part. We collaborated on a few projects and continue to work with them and plan more collaborations. We have also spoken with their international department to receive their delegates within d3 to do their programming. Expo 2020 will be a great tool and fantastic opportunity for showcasing and exposing designers, especially considering the caliber of visitors.