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Ruggero Ottogalli on Downtown Design, the design market, the pandemic, and more

identity's Editor spoke with the fair's newly appointed Managing Director.

Ruggero Ottogalli, Downtown Design’s newly-appointed Managing Director, reveals how he will be consolidating its operational model and expanding the fair’s offering ahead of this year’s edition in November.

Read more from this interview in our April issue, which you can read for free here.

What sets Downtown Design apart from other fairs and what can we expect for the eighth edition this year?

Downtown Design is so much more than just a design fair. It is an ecosystem that nurtures the cross-pollination of ideas, cultures and talent. As an industry agent, it connects design with commercial opportunity. The fair’s curatorial approach – filtering brands for quality, originality and context – remains strong as ever.

We continue to build on that DNA with solutions that maximise the return on investment for exhibitors. We understand that the scale, offering, local presence, expectations and key objectives of exhibitors are different. So, we will have tailored packages designed around the specific needs of the exhibitor.

The Talks programme is always very popular. What can we expect this year?

The Forum at Downtown Design is the intellectual heart of the fair and brings together global design leaders. Last year we had Dara Huang, Christian Louboutin and Greg Natale, among others, to discuss the industry’s most pressing matters. The team is working on an exciting theme that will explore future attitudes towards design creation and consumption. We will be announcing this year’s theme soon and will be announcing updates via Instagram and online.

Who visits Downtown Design and where do they come from?

Downtown Design’s visitor profile reflects Dubai’s position as Middle East design hub and gateway to the GCC, Africa and Asia. Each year we collaborate with a regional designer to mastermind the fair’s look and feel, and the public areas. Together with specially commissioned installations, talks and networking events, it attracts top design firms, design investors, hoteliers and developers. Last year visitor numbers grew by 20 per cent. This included locally-based designers, many of whom service Europe and America as well as the region. In addition, Downtown Design welcomed regional industry decision-makers, as well as private clients. As a key event of Dubai Design Week, we see a deeper engagement with design enthusiasts and consumers as well. We also want to increase the wider regional participation, particularly from KSA and North Africa.

How has demand for contemporary design changed in recent years?

While there is growing appreciation and demand for contemporary design across the region, there are cost-efficiency pressures. Our industry players must increasingly share their requirements and expertise with transparency while being ready to listen, learn and adapt. I believe Downtown Design can be the ideal platform for a similar symposium. What is currently happening globally will have a long-term impact and we must create a better environment for the industry.

What excites you about the lead-up to the show?

Downtown Design has proven itself to be an industry platform that continually responds to the design industry’s needs. We must support emerging talent, give visibility to design innovation from the region and the world, and foster meaningful relationships. Communication, engagement and collaboration are key. It is challenging and immensely exciting to evolve and offer tangible value to exhibitors, the industry, visitors and the community.

Downtown Design 2020 is scheduled to take place from 10 to 13 November at Dubai Design District (d3) waterfront. For more information visit downtowndesign.com.