International Women's Day & the women designing Dubai: Carla Conte
…a brief introduction:
I’m Carla Conte, founder and creative director at Brand Creative. We specialise in holistically designed branded environments from retail to food and beverage, fashion, beauty and shopping center interiors. With our headquarters in the UAE, a branch office in India and a studio on its way in Toronto, we are globally focused and ambitious. We’re working with the region’s most forward thinking entrepreneurs as well as well-reputed organisations and developers like DIFC Courts, AKI, Landmark and Al Mana Fashion Group to create fresh homegrown brands while refreshing older brands with soul and a renewed sense of purpose.
Talk us through your average day at work:
Every single day is different. Our projects have us flying all over the region: I’ve been in Bahrain, Oman, Saudi and back to the UAE all in the last eight days alone! When I’m able to sit in the studio I’m working closely with our designers on strategies and concept development. This can involve brainstorming sessions, sketching and ideating with both the interiors and graphics teams. I review all creative work that we deliver to ensure it’s in line with our own ethos of a wholistic approach while keeping client objectives top of mind.
How do you feel your work and the work of other female designers has changed Dubai?
We think globally. Gone are the days of Dubai based creatives aspiring to what designers and brands can achieve elsewhere. I feel it with all my conviction that Dubai’s female designers are not only capable of achieving world class concepts – I am witnessing these achievements being delivered on a daily basis. Our ideas are fresh, thoughtful and considerate of local cultural influences and putting homegrown ideas on the map of brand excellence.
What other female designers/architects do you particularly admire?
I’m particularly proud of the consistent achievements of Pallavi Dean and her entire team. It’s admirable to have built a team of creative leaders (most of which is female based), a line of beautiful products and award winning projects all whilst raising a family and being involved in design education. Her mission is truly admirable.
What is your philosophy in terms of architecture and design?
We approach design strategically. We will often spend the first weeks of a project without actually sketching or designing. Brands need to be studied, considered and debated. If a discussion around what’s “right” for the brand isn’t heated – we aren’t doing our job. I insist on approaching each problem with intensity and passion. We emotionally connect with consumers and clients and I know that is appreciated. When we do get to the creative process, we use a multidisciplinary method. Drawing on the influences of both our graphics and interiors team simultaneously, we are able to ensure that powerful brand stories are told and can be retold via social media and marketing.
How does Dubai and the UAE fare in regards to career and growth opportunities for women in architecture and design?
I have been living in Dubai and working in the design industry for almost 12 years. I have been supported on all levels to excel since my arrival. You can imagine that the industry and expectations were quite different over a decade ago so the opportunities to make an impression in terms of process and aesthetics were immense. My ideas have always been taken seriously and valued whether it’s a boardroom full of men running a Fortune 500 company or a strong-willed business woman opening a shop for the first time. Being a woman didn’t hold me back – being confident and professional propelled me forward.
What, to you, has been the most defining moment of your career to date?
Every time Brand Creative wins an award or is publicised I am beyond proud and grateful. Last year I was listed on design:RETAIL’s Top 40 Under 40 Retail Designers worldwide. It’s a peer selected process that goes through an additional panel of judges and criteria to qualify. I was truly honoured to be recognised by fellow retail designers that have inspired my own work over the years. The award came two months after the birth of my first child and had us all flying to New York for the ceremony. I will never forget the experience – more so because of the overall circumstances in my personal life. They made an additional mention that I had just given birth and the entire hall gave me such a heartfelt applause. I was touched.