Since its inception in 2013, Dubai Design District (d3) has quickly become the city’s go-to cultural hub for creative talents. As well as being home to many regional offices of fashion, beauty, luxury, and lifestyle brands, d3 has become a platform that brings together freelance talents in the creative field.
Khadija Al Bastaki
It is also home to some of the UAE’s newest and most iconic events such as Dubai Fashion Week, Sole DXB and Dubai Design Week. Most recently it was revealed that d3 will soon be home to a series of exceptional residences, for the first-time giving UAE residents the chance to live at the heart of the creative community.
Heading up the vision and progression of Dubai Design District (d3) is Senior Vice President Khadija Al Bastaki. Since joining the group her vision has always been to position Dubai as a global cultural hub and to bring together talented creatives. So far, her mission is successful with the city’s cultural scene being transformed over the past decade, and there’s so much more to come. Most recently, Dubai Fashion Week launched in partnership with d3, inviting regional and international brands to showcase their collections in Dubai and there are plans in the works for more events that will bring the community even closer together. The success is clear, but the work is not fully done yet. We find out more as we talk to Khadija Al Bastaki.
How do you think Dubai Design District (d3) has developed as a community and platform for creatives, and where is it today?
Dubai Design District (d3) provides a shared address for the entire creative community, as a freelancer ecosystem designed to encourage knowledge-sharing and collaboration; essential ingredients to feed innovation and ambition. Events at d3 are staples in Dubai’s event calendar and highlight our cauldron of different ethnicities, skills, and business types. It’s our way of facilitating new opportunities for investment and partnerships in the community and expanding the reach of our customers to new audiences. Our multipronged approach has established d3 as a global creative ecosystem and a key contributor to the creative economy.
We have seen many events and exciting happenings – how do you think these have elevated it as an area of culture and arts?
Dubai Design District is definitely on the map for some of the city’s most anticipated events. High-profile events like Dubai Fashion Week, Dubai Design Week and Sole DXB significantly amplify regional talent to a global audience and underscore the diversity of Dubai’s creative scene. We approach our events with an innovative lens to keep each season fresh and entertaining while widening the pool of coverage, brands, buyers, and stakeholders we attract. This hands-on involvement has attracted several creative businesses and talent to set up shop in d3.
Can you give us an insight into the growth and development of the plans for d3?
We plan to keep Dubai in the driver’s seat of any conversation around creativity, innovation, and culture. Dubai Fashion Week was a significant new chapter for us. We evolved Arab Fashion Week into an event that appropriately reflected Dubai’s global creative and fashion hub status. While elevating homegrown and regional creatives remains a fundamental part of our business, we are also a growth-focused platform for international firms and creatives looking to enter new markets in the UAE and MENA region. Exporting Arab and local talent while empowering foreign creatives ensures a well-rounded and sustainable creative economy.
How do you see your position and responsibility within the community, and how can you use that to support this growth?
We are deeply passionate about the creative industries, and I want to continue using my position to bring well-deserved attention, investment, and opportunity to talents. On one side, we use our global network and relationship with key public and private stakeholders to deliver novel experiences and opportunities that amplify their local, regional, and international visibility. Promoting collaborations is key to this. We can further drive our efforts by tapping into our parent company. d3 is a member of TECOM Group PJSC, a status we share with other leading business districts such as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Dubai Industrial City and more. We want to bridge any gaps between the creative and design industries with these other vital economic sectors to show how different brands can work together and pave their own path.
How would you describe the cultural and fashion scene in the UAE today, and how do you think it has changed?
Dubai Design District was launched in 2013, and the difference we see in Dubai’s creative ecosystem between then and now is incredible. Talent has become bolder, braver, and more experimental. We have a much larger global community exploring design in all its outfits. Emirati creatives have also become strong and active participants, innovating local culture and heritage with modern influences. Platforms like in5 and new business and visa regulations have also enhanced the ease of doing business and made the creative industries a more viable sector to join.
What do you think D3 can do to support this further?
As a global creative ecosystem, we align closely with the government’s vision to position Dubai as a global creative capital. The way d3 is structured as a district, integrated ecosystem and event platform all in one is to empower Dubai’s creative and cultural scenes. We want to serve as a bridge between our public and private partners to create a holistic creative ecosystem. It is why we are such champions of collaboration – by coming together, we can make lasting and impactful moves that resonate globally.
In this issue, we talk about success – what does success mean to you?
Success means never settling for the status quo. Our motto at d3 is to Rethink the Regular, something we instil in how we operate and encourage our creatives to do the same. Whether it’s events, the solutions we offer our customers, how we approach partnerships or solve problems, we always strive to think outside the box. Seeing that curiosity and innovation reflected by customers in our district feels like success.
As a woman in a powerful position, how do you make sure your voice is heard?
I am fortunate to be part of an organisation like TECOM Group that empowers me to take chances, grow and learn every step of the way. The Group values equity and equal opportunity. What is important to me is ensuring that other women, whether in the business or our creative community, have the platforms, mentorship, and opportunities to grow and succeed.
What is the biggest challenge you face today in what you do?
The creative industry is a fast-moving and competitive sector globally. The environment and support systems that businesses and talent need to achieve sustainable growth can change rapidly, impacted by trends, current events, and consumer preferences. That’s compounded by the creative economy’s large and all-encompassing category, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. What works one day might not work the next. These complexities make for a thrilling challenge that forces my team always to think creatively and tailor solutions as needed. This commitment keeps us – and Dubai’s creative community – agile and ahead of the curve.
Can you tell us a little about the residences in the plans for d3?
Meraas’ Design Quarter at d3 will invite people to live in the beating heart of Dubai’s creative community. Along with convenient access to the broader city, residents can enjoy d3’s high-end fashion and lifestyle boutiques, art galleries, studios, and popular restaurants and cafes. Conversely, our retailers will have access to a new and easily accessible consumer audience. The first phase of the Design Quarter at d3 will house more than 550 units across three towers. Construction is set to begin this year and is expected to be completed in May 2027.
What are some of the events we can look forward to in the coming year?
There’s a lot to look forward to this year! Dubai Fashion Week is gearing up for its second edition, where designers worldwide will showcase fall and winter fashions at shows and events across d3 and Dubai. Sole DXB also recently announced its return from 8-10 December with an agenda of live music, DJ sets, fashion, film screenings, talks, workshops, sports tournaments, and activations by top brands. Dubai Design Week and Downtown Design are poised to return as always. There’s never a dull moment!
How would you describe your overall vision for d3?
Dubai is funnelling great energy into enhancing the creative economy and transforming the Emirate into an international destination for creativity. Our vision is to play an integral role in enabling this ambition. We provide an ecosystem that allows creatives to experiment, flourish, inspire, and come together to rethink the regular. To keep this momentum going, we plan to facilitate more exciting local, regional, and international partnerships demonstrating Dubai’s talent potential while cementing the emirate’s position as a global destination for design, art, and culture.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Progress is less about speed and more about direction. Critically analysing whether our partnerships, investment and innovation are serving our overarching mission and vision help us determine our efforts’ short- and long-term impact. Our goal is neither quantity nor speed but ensuring that we deliver high-quality experiences and opportunities that drive growth for our community and the industry as a whole.