Dubai's home-grown heroes - saluting our favourite creatives
What’s On and Good salute Dubai’s home-grown heroes – creatives/culture – success stories in Dubai who know what starting a business in Dubai takes.
We’ve teamed up with Good to salute Dubai’s home-grown heroes. Whatever walk of life they are from, they all have in common the courage and conviction to grow an idea here, adding an authentic, home-grown flavour to the region. These are the people we champion – those who work hard, should be applauded and are creating a scene the Emirates can be proud of, forging ahead in heath, food, retail, charity, tech, community, culture and more.
This lot laughs in the face of anyone calling the UAE a cultural desert. Ha. Theatre, cinema, design, fashion, art and more are waiting to be discovered…
1) Jessica Aldred
Dubai is truly lucky to have a talent like Jessica on its sandy shores. A graduate of the Royal School of Needlework, this embroiderer, artist and author works at the very highest level, and was even part of the select team who created the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress and veil. Wow. She is a regular tutor at Craftland and is available for bespoke commissions.
2) Toil & Tinker
You might not expect an independent stationer to set up shop in Dubai Garden Centre, but Toil & Tinker seem to thrive on the unexpected. Started by Paul Green, these creative whiz kids can design everything from invites to menus, as well as printing whatever your heart desires (their motto is ‘We print stuff – just about anything!’). Font fans, kerning aficionados and design nerds (in the best possible way), this is a fantastic addition to the UAE.
3) Rock Camp For Girls
We’re loving the work of this not-for-profit organisation. Really, really loving it. Bringing together girls aged 8 to 18 for workshops and five-day camps they learn how to play various instruments, write music and, of course, perform, aiming to boost confidence and generally have a fantastic time. Started by Dubai Eye radio presenter Zahar Soar, the team consists of musicians Noosh Like Sploosh and Carla Saad of As Per Casper (pictured), who take it several steps further, even teaching the girls about self-defence and how to make band T-shirts. There will be camps running this summer.
4) The Courtyard Playhouse
This independent ‘fringe’ theatre space, founded by Tiffany Schultz (pictured)and husband Kemsley Dickinson, opened last year to rapturous applause. The 60-seat auditorium aims to create an alternative venue for theatre productions and workshops, a home-grown antidote to the UAE’s massive venues and big names, with local talent nurtured and celebrated, with workshops, drop-in improv sessions, corporate training, youth theatre and more. This dynamic duo may well be cultivating some big stars.
Started by Zeina Abdalla, the founder of photobooth fun-makers Fishfayce, Moushii has taken party printables mainstream. With numerous themes, from pirates to butterflies, you can buy ready made party packs complete with invites, cupcake poppers, placemats and more, making for instant looks, whether it’s for a birthday, wedding or baby shower. You can also buy the PDFs to print yourself, or have everything personalised. Quick, creative and affordable.
Poet and freelance writer Danna Lorch is a regular contributor to this very magazine. The Harvard graduate is a fairly recent arrival to the UAE, bringing with her a wealth of experience and insights into the Middle Eastern and international art scene, and adding her quirky cool to the city. Her blog is a must for anyone in need of exhibition recommendations, in-depth interviews with artists, and a witty spin on all things creative.
7) Buffi Jashanmal
This UAE-raised force of nature shot to fame on fashion reality show Project Runway, loved by viewers for her quirky often downright off the wall designs. Once she returned to Dubai, Buffi wasted no time in writing and creating Buffi’s Dress Design, a book of patterns and techniques aimed squarely at those who have always wanted to have a go at dressmaking but didn’t know how. She’s also a fitness instructor at FlyBarre, proving it is possible to have the body and the brain.
8) Dubai Moving Image Museum
The UAE is sadly lacking museums, especially on the specialist side – and you’d never expect one in the middle of Tecom. The Dubai Moving Image Museum is one of only a handful of collections dedicated to the history of cinema, and the first of its kind in the Middle East. The private collection of Akram Miknas, you’ll find exhibits were accumulated over 25 years, with some dating back to the 1730s, plus interactive displays and superb tours by museum manager Mandy Aridi.
9) My Fash Diary
The ever-glam Tala Samman is a blogger, stylist and socialite, whose ‘online diary’ is a celebration of all things stylish. A graduate from the London College of Fashion, she has collaborated with everyone from ASOS to Tom Ford, travelling the world to take in the shows and work with big brands, as well as keeping it local to champion regional talent and recommend the people and places every aspiring fashionista should have in their lives.
10) Alserkhal Avenue
One of the biggest changes Dubai has seen in the last decade is the explosion of galleries, studios and art in Al Quoz. The epicentre of the action is in Alserkal Avenue, where 20 ‘creative organisations’ have turned the industrial area into a place where ideas and art blossom. Aside from photography and art exhibitions, it also hosts some of the city’s hottest events, creating a social scene of its very own.
11) ReMADE DXB
These wonderful women are on a crusade to make crafting cool. After launching in a tiny lace-draped, super-girly studio last year, their Al Quoz-based sewing parlour has grown in strength and size, with guest tutors, more classes and even more enthusiasm. Paula and Theresa can also be found selling their own gorgeous creations at pop-up markets, have been spotted on TV and – most importantly – are thoroughly delightful. And they always have sweets in the sewing parlour. We love.
Meet our other home-grown heroes…
– THE FOODIES: This wonderful food-obsessed bunch will keep you well-fed, from independent cafés and fine dining fastfood to a food truck and cookery classes.
– THE GLOW-GETTERS: Spas, products, fitness, experts and more, all with a UAE twist to get you healthy, happy, looking good and feeling great.
– THE RETAIL THERAPISTS: Step away from the mega malls and you’ll discover small shops and brands are doing it for themselves (and you, of course).
– THE TECHIES: As Madonna didn’t say, we are living in a digital world, and these digital girls and boys are making life better on the www.
– THE IDEALISTS: These charitable guys do very good things, from one person trying to make a difference to initiatives that inspire the whole community.
– THE CREATIVES: This lot laughs in the face of anyone calling the UAE a cultural desert. Ha. Theatre, cinema, design, fashion, art and more are waiting to be discovered.