Dubai Design District: Creating a designer's dream?

Since its launch in June last year, Dubai Design District (D3) has received thousands of expressions of interest and is currently processing dozens of licences to operate under the D3 free zone.

But what does the development really offer to designers and Dubai’s new-age creative minds? And how much does it cost to be a part of it?

Currently, the two largest shopping havens, the Dubai Mall and MOE - which together attracted some 117 million visitors last year — are feverishly expanding and sprucing up to meet rising consumer expectations, surging tourist and immigration flows, and the threat of even bigger, more spectacular malls on the horizon.

Dubai’s retail spend is expected to hit $41.1 billion by 2015, with tourism credited for 60 percent of the luxury market and 20 percent of the branded market, according to data from Bain & Co and the government’s media office.

But retail is only one aspect of fashion, and Tecom Investments is preparing the backbone on which local talent can flourish.

The Dubai developer is giving fashion and other design disciplines plenty of room to grow — up to 25 million square feet of space, in fact. Ten buildings are under construction on the vast site that is the future home of the Dubai Design District, with office tenants expected to start moving in January.

It’s only the first phase of an ambitious, mixed-use development that aims to position Dubai as a key fashion capital and nurture a nascent and fragmented industry.

D3’s mantra is to be the beating heart of the Middle East’s design scene, a creative community where local designers rub shoulders with global brands. The idea is to nurture local talent in hope that the next global brand will come out of Dubai.

But looking at the numbers, it seems that D3 is catering more to Western brands that are looking for a hub for their businesses in the Middle East region.

If you’re a fashion designer that is new on the scene and looking to set up offices in D3, here are the costs that you have to incur to be a part of it:

Licence Fee: $4,110-$5,465 per year
Registration: $960
Visa fee: $806 per person, which is valid for three years
Visa deposit: $683 per person, which is refundable.
Share capital to set up a new Free Zone Limited Liability Company: $13,661- $37,322
Office space: Minimum office size available starts at around 800-1,000sqft. There are three categories available: Courtyard View $25 per sqft, Standard View $35.5 per sqft and Burj View $45 per sqft. This price includes the service charge but excludes DEWA & chiller (a/c) charges which you will have to pay for separately.
Office deposit: Equal to three months’ rent which will be adjusted to the rental of the office, once D3 is ready.

According to Tecom, the fashion and interiors market in the Gulf market is expected to top $14.7 billion this year with the UAE accounting for $6.26 billion of that total.

Fashion already accounts for roughly half of tourist spending here and it is no doubt that D3 will provide a hub at which design brands can get together and capitalise on these figures. But is it the ideal place to foster a budding business?  Well, that all depends on your budget and willingness to take a risk on a promised dream. After all, it’s all about the numbers at the end of the day.

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The write stuff: Al Jazeera's Mostefa Souag