DUBAI — The newly created Dubai Design and Fashion Council’s  (DDFC) said its top priority is a design school for the region within a four-year timeframe.

The council is to seek globally established design schools to partner in this endeavor as part of its overall mission to raise the profile of the emirate as a global design and fashion destination.

“Dubai has already made a huge impact in terms of retail and distribution in this part of the world,” said Nez Gebreel, chief executive officer of the council.  “Now we would like to raise the level of competitiveness of our own designers. Education is a major component in the framework we are building.”

Gebreel said the council would form a working committee dedicated to overseeing the setup and execution of a design school. The aim is to create a degree-granting academic institution that will also offer workshops and vocational training programs in Dubai.

DDFC board member Ali Jaber, dean of communication and information studies at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Communication at American University of Dubai, is to chair the education committee. “Dubai’s design initiative requires grassroots action,” he said. “Education is the foremost tool that can establish solid foundations for a sustainable design industry.”

Jaber said the council would be looking at one or more partner institutions to work with on the project.  “We seek partners that can help us set up a Dubai school of design, help draw up cutting-edge curriculum that serves the design needs at this time and age and at the same time enable design education that takes the art and culture of the Arab and Islamic world into consideration,” he explained.

In the last year, senior officials from design schools in the U.S. and Europe including Carmella Spinelli, head of international special projects and admission at the Savannah School of Art and Design, have made visits to the region. University of the Arts London’s College of Fashion has been offering short courses in Dubai on everything from fashion buying and brand management to handbag design.

The council, formed by a royal decree from Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in August, includes the top leadership from across the retail, education, and tourism sectors in Dubai. Designers Reem Acra and Azzah Fahmy are also a part of the group which is chaired by Dr. Amina Rustami, chief executive officer of Tecom Investments, the developer of the Dubai Design District.

Other board members include: Patrick Chalhoub, ceo of the Chalhoub Group, Khalid Al Tayer, ceo of retail of Al Tayer Group, Nisha Jagtiani, director of Landmark Group; Laila Suhail, ceo at Dubai Festival and Retail Establishments, Robert D. Booth, ceo of real estate at EMAAR Properties; Iyad Malas, ceo of Majed Al Futtaim Holding; Mohammad AlShael, executive director of commercial licensing at Department of Economic Development; Ashok Sawlani, honorary member of the managing committee at Dubai Textile City; Farida Abdulla Kambar AlAwadi, president of Association of Professional Interior Designers in UAE; designer Reem Acra; Raja Trad, ceo of Leo Burnett and Publicis Group of Companies MENA; and Gassan Harfouche, group ceo of Middle East Communication Network.

The council also plans to set up a regulatory framework for the local design industry including IP protection; establish mentorship exchange programs with top international talent; and create a calendar of events related to fashion and design.

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