The fashionable life of Nez Gebreel

The CEO of DDFC shares how she built one of Dubai’s top institutions for creativity.

With her fierce passion for all tenets of design, Nez Gebreel has been a driver of inimitable momentum in the region as Chief Executive Officer for Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), the government entity which promotes Dubai’s fashion industry both locally and globally. Working with Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, Chairperson of DDFC and Group Chief Executive Officer of TECOM Group, Gebreel has established numerous educational, economic and cultural initiatives. Her extensive experience in brand management and strategic commercial growth includes David and Victoria Beckham’s individual and joint business and creative projects, Adidas, Motorola, Pepsi and Gillette. She explains how DDFC’s mission benefits everyone in the region and in the creative industries.

Nez Gebreel

What is your design philosophy?

My design philosophy was ingrained in me from an early age; it lies within my DNA and has been passed down from my parents. They had a constant thirst for travel, motivated by their interest in learning about other cultures through history, art and cuisine. Design is such a big and complex word and can mean so many different things to so many different types of people. I feel it’s very inclusive as it touches every aspect of our lives.

What have been the three most important moments in your career?

One that stands out is right at the beginning of my career during my time as a research assistant working with the WHO/UN on two projects with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine while looking at decentralising the health system in Afghanistan. Another would be getting the chance to work with Simon Fuller at 19 Entertainment. Finally, becoming the CEO of DDFC was a hugely important milestone.

As CEO what are your main challenges at the DDFC?

Managing initiatives effectively, creating the right reputation for DDFC and efficiently leading the Council to a successful future. In order to manage these challenges, I have a strong team behind me who are invaluable to the success of DDFC. We work closely with the design community to determine where their needs are. One of our key initiatives is mentorship, which allows designers to learn from established industry experts. There are a number of regional design skill gaps as well as opportunities to further develop the sector. In order to achieve growth sustainably, DDFC works closely with relevant stakeholders to implement initiatives both for higher education and K-12. A dedicated design school is a milestone goal of Dubai, as it truly represents our mandate of nurturing regional talent and attracting global talent though education, mentorship, research, legislation and endorsement.

How have design events in Dubai impacted the local and global scenes?

By providing platforms for our local and regional talent to be showcased, we are building a solid base for professionals in the industry. We always look for ways to endorse events and through involvement with key awards such as the identity Design Awards, we are able to see first-hand how these schemes help to nurture, reward and recognise talent. Another key event for DDFC is the upcoming DDFC/Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize, an annual endowment granted to the most promising design talents from the Arab world. DDFC is also proud to support and partner with Market OTB, an innovative pop-up market that showcases ‘Out the Box’ shopping concepts during Dubai Shopping Festival.

How do you see the relationship between art, design and fashion?

I feel the lines are blurred. You’ll find a lot of the talent here in the region that crosses over one or two categories. Artists challenge themselves to break the mould, and this has paved the way for designers to be bolder with their ideas, incorporating experimental and artistic methods to produce some truly brilliant work. Brands have certainly recognised how powerful such artist collaborations can be to their products as it opens doors and allows their work to reach a wider audience.

How is technology changing how we think about creative capital?

Technology and design have influenced each other from the invention of the wheel! They go hand-in-hand and together play a key role in the growth of the fashion and design sectors, influencing the way creative capital is perceived and pushing the boundaries of expectations. It’s fantastic to see brands from the technology industry supporting the growth of local and emerging designers.