DUBAI: The Dubai-based Palestinian designer talks us through the piece he created for the exhibition “From RAK to DRAK” as part of Dubai Design Week.
Design Ras Al Khor invited three designers to investigate the community of Ras Al Khor. My task was to look at an advertising and calligraphy shop as a theme to respond to.
I found a tiny shop — Al Arif Advertising and Calligraphy — but they didn’t have a calligrapher; they basically use software. So I was sitting there trying to get some idea of what I could do, and I looked up and saw these religious stickers — ‘Dua’ stickers — very brightly colored, on vinyl, and with a really interesting Islamic design. For me, they were very nostalgic, because if you grew up in the region they are part of your visual language. And it was very interesting to see these designs that originated centuries ago, and have trickled down to this little print shop in this industrial area of Dubai to be printed on plastic. That was an interesting journey. So I wanted to use those designs, but in my own way.
Also, I recently came back from a two-week workshop for Gulf-based designers at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. When I was there, I saw this sakkos — an Orthodox Church vestment from 17th century Iran. And the dialogue between cultures in that piece was interesting to me. So I replicated that garment, but using my traditional artisanal fabric as a base. I applied roughly the same design placement, but with modern interpretations inspired by the stickers. And it was all done using embroidery, because the whole point was to create something handmade.
It’s signed too, in a discreet way, as artisans would, traditionally. I worked with a calligrapher to create the signatures; you have my name; Adnan, the embroiderer; Ibrahim, the calligrapher; and Al Arif, the shop.
With fashion design, you really have to shape your designs in a commercial way. So it sometimes ends up watering down to something that’s not as spectacular as your original idea. Which is fine. That’s the nature of the market. But projects like these are an amazing opportunity to just create for the sake of creating; to really work on the concept without thinking about whether or not it will sell. It was a lot of fun. And it reminded me why I’m doing what I do and why I love it.