The Innovation Group’s Mennah Ibrahim Weighs In on a Few Recent Trends from MENA
It’s been a momentous year for the MENA region, spurred by elections, technological breakthroughs and a Saudi shakeup. With all of this recent change we asked Mennah Ibrahim, MEA Director of the Innovation Group, to weigh in on some of the top trends she’s noticed occurring in her region.
In the wake of Lebanon’s recent elections, socially-conscious design is emerging as a pertinent theme as people increasingly demand an active role in shaping the environments they live in. At this year’s Beirut Design Week, artists confronted urban problems of the present and explored solutions for the future in a new, optimistic light. One installation by local designer Tatiana Toutikian, Curious Extrapolations, invited visitors to explore provocative prototypes for the future via imagined scenarios of playing, praying, sharing and dying in the city. In one scenario, the craze for quantifying everything from steps to bites leads to multimedia digital tombstones that monitor decomposition and soil quality after death. In another, pets and plants post regular updates to their social accounts, for a closer understanding of—and therefore kin between—the kingdoms. According to Toutikian, “We have a responsibility not only to imagine the future, but also to imagine how we might change its direction.”
In Saudi Arabia, today’s luxury reality is far less elitist, spurred by dynamic female customers balancing new freedoms, attitudes and demands. Individualism is fast-rising, and women are selling their own narratives through their purchases (luxury included) in what can only be described as a mix of both culture and couture. Saudi designer Arwa Al Banawi’s recent collection takes inspiration from the Arabian Desert with pieces paired with traditionally woven Bedouin fabric. For newly empowered women, status is taking on new meaning; jewelry and statement pieces are coming to represent celebrations of personal achievement and landmark moments as opposed to symbols of wealth. Women are also using the versatility of new fashion freedom to project unique personas, with 76% opting for aspiring brands that share their future ambition. To commemorate the lifting of the driving ban, Saudi luxury label Hindamme released a jacket with the date the ban ended, June 24, emblazoned in both English and Arabic as a souvenir of this historic mindset shift.
For food, scent is now being seen through the lens of experience culture. It’s now thought of as a shared experience and an intellectual pursuit all in one—or, failing that, something to share on Instagram. To mark the launch of Perfumery & Co. at The Dubai Mall, scent critic Chandler Burr curated the Art of Scent Exhibition, an immersive olfactory journey inspired by the Gulf desert, where the works of art are perfumes. “I focused on whether the perfume is aesthetically interesting, does the art show mastery of the medium and whether it elicits emotion from the observer,” says Burr of his 11 internationally curated scents. “This new art medium is extraordinary because perfume is not something one would normally critique,” adds Burr. “In the next two decades, we are going to understand that works of art created in scent are as multidimensional as other mediums.”
To download the MENA region’s Future100 Report for 2018, click here.