Artists of the Emirates

December 13, 2022   |  Sonia Esther Soltani

The vibrant design community in the UAE makes it a perfect incubator for new talent, says Amani Waqi of Dubai-based consulting firm Amanqi.

A strong interest in fashion and lifestyle led sisters Amani and Manal Waqi to launch the Amanqi Consultancy in 2020. The company, which represents jewelry and accessory brands, was an expansion of the Amanqi Edit, a platform they’d founded in 2016 to support emerging design talent.

The Dubai-based duo — Amani studied business management, while Manal focused on fashion marketing — works with up-and-coming designers, mostly hailing from the Middle East. In addition to offering public relations, branding, and digital communication services, the Waqis organize pop-ups, events and showrooms in the United Arab Emirates and Europe to maximize exposure for their clients, both locally and internationally.

Here, Amani Waqi discusses the creative market in the UAE and the distinct opportunities it offers.

Tariq Riaz Palm Leaves ring in 18-karat rose gold with diamonds. (Tariq Riaz).
Tariq Riaz Palm Leaves ring in 18-karat rose gold with diamonds. (Tariq Riaz)

How would you define the Emirati design scene?
The Emirati design scene is vibrant and growing, with some incredible creators. Whether it is in terms of fashion, art or jewelry, the design scene in the country has grown in an incredible way in recent times, and we have been fortunate to be a part of this industry.

What is so special about Emirati designers?
The narratives and the talent displayed by the Emiratis are truly remarkable in that the brands work hard not only to showcase their skills, but also to exhibit the region’s stories and artisans’ talents in a unique way that has never been done before.
The local design scene has grown quickly, as the designers, artists, media and agencies are really working together not only to promote one another and the industries, but also to create platforms that enable growth, opportunities and the chance to showcase talent. This, coupled with a strong event culture, really amplifies the opportunities available, creating a thriving design community.
From Art Dubai and Dubai Design Week, which focus on design and the arts, to the big annual jewelry shows that take place in Doha, Riyadh and Sharjah, these events all celebrate the vibrancy of culture, display of talent and immense community feel in the region, where everyone comes to support one another. Furthermore, smaller-scale yet equally powerful events like Cactus District or Winter Wonderland by [Saudi-based concept store] Homegrown Market also display great talent and celebrate new designers and their collections.

Ailes Wave ring in 18-karat white gold with diamonds. (Ailes)
Ailes Wave ring in 18-karat white gold with diamonds. (Ailes)

What types of events do you and Manal organize for your clients?
In the Middle East region, we regularly organize pop-ups at Kulture House in Jumeirah, one of our key collaborative partners. The idea behind these pop-ups is to curate a selection of seven to eight international and local jewelry brands and their collections for customers to browse, discover and shop around a specific theme. Over the one- to three-day events, customers are able to physically see collections they might often only see online.

Xoia Fine Jewellery Dagger earrings in 18-karat white gold with emeralds, diamonds and onyx. (Xoia Fine Jewellery)

Is there a recurring theme that each designer interprets in their own way?
Paying homage to the local culture and the incredible growth of the region is often the inspiration behind many of the brands’ inspiration and narratives. Each jewelry brand is celebrating the progress, tolerance and excellence of the region in its unique way.
For example, one of our incredible jewelry brands, Toi Fine Jewelry, created a special collection for the 50th National Day in December 2021, incorporating the brand’s signature design while celebrating the magnificence of the country. Another one of our brands, Toktam, introduced the Mosque collection recently, drawing inspiration from the grandeur of the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi. One of our well-established brands, La Marquise Jewellery, introduces something unique every year for National Day.

Toktam Mosque collection. (Toktam)
Toktam Mosque collection. (Toktam)

What challenges do designers in the region face?
With any new market, the process, the exposure, everything is new. However, with the amount of opportunities and events in the region, we believe the opportunities outweigh the challenges.

Who are the local jewelry collectors in terms of taste and demographic?
The collectors in the region are connoisseurs of design and talent, and have an acute understanding of what skilled, artisanal work looks like. There is a wide range of age groups buying jewelry now; even the younger generations are valuing a good piece of jewelry [as] an investment. For brands like Ailes Fine Jewelry and Xoia Fine Jewellery, we see an interest from a younger demographic — let’s say in their 20s — who want to invest in jewelry but are looking for something fun and vibrant. Jewelry brands like Louiza incorporate a more sophisticated appeal, which is attracting all kinds of age groups. I would say that more than age, it ultimately depends on the taste of the customer group.

Main image: Amani and Manal Waqi. (Amanqi Consultancy).

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