Local Cultures in Global Settings

Lidewij Edelkoort

Forecaster, educator, publisher, activist

Lidewij Edelkoort

Lidewij Edelkoort is arguably the world's most renowned trend forecaster, working in industries from design and fashion to food, architecture, beauty, communication, automotive and retail. Founded in 1986, her company Trend Union produces trend tools for strategists, designers and marketers at brands from Zara to Prada. She is also a publisher, humanitarian, educator and exhibition curator. 

Edelkoort has been named one of the Most Influential People in Fashion and one of the Most Influential People in Design. In 2014, her much-talked about ANTI_FASHION Manifesto was the first to raise awareness about the shifts and upheavals currently experienced in the global fashion industry. From 1998-2008 she was Chairwoman of Design Academy Eindhoven before moving to New York from 2015-2020 where she was Dean of Hybrid Design Studies at Parsons, establishing an MFA Textile masters and New York Textile Month. In 2020, in response to the covid-19 pandemic, she founded the World Hope Forum as a platform to inspire the creative community to rebuild a better society. 

Since 2022, Edelkoort collaborates with Polimoda in Florence where she has created an innovative new textile masters called From Farm to Fabric to Fashion. Her latest publication is Proud South (Lecturis, 2022), a visual bible that celebrates the creative talent of the global south.

Monica Mazzolani


Monica Mazzolani

Monica Mazzolani obtained her Master's degree in architecture from the University of Genoa with Giancarlo De Carlo as supervisor and she started working in his studio in Milan. In 1994 she became associate to the projects. In 2002 the studio became "Giancarlo de Carlo and Associates", with the aim of concluding a long cycle of collaboration and participation in the design, planning and research to complete the works under construction. In December 2005, together with Antonio Troisi, she founded “MTA Associates”, with the same research objectives in the field of architecture and public space planning. Based on the experience previously gained, the studio continues its exploration through projects that reflect on the physical and social context, on the use of technology and on the search for innovative spatial solutions that respect the environment and the historical context, in Italy and abroad. abroad.

The studio portfolio spans from the renovation and reuse of buildings and complexes of historical and monumental interest, to educational buildings; MTA developed innovative design practices in this field in collaboration with educators and pedagogists. MTA supports and engages with various municipalities in the fields of urban regeneration and the enhancement of architectural heritage.

Among MTA projects it is worth highlighting the Urbino Observatory Museum in the "Orto Dell'Abbondanza"; “Lama Sud” school in Ravenna, and “Villamarina” in Cesenatico; the school complex in the "Ex Macelli" area in Monza; the "zerosei" complex at the Vivaio di Sanremo, the "Rehabilitation del Levante Ligure” in La Spezia. Monica followed the design and construction of residential buildings in the historic center of Beirut.

Since 2012 she has been a lecturer at the University of Texas at Sanatonio and since 2018 she teaches in the Design School at Politecnico di Milano.
Since 2017 she has been a co-founder of UAE Modern, addressing the issue of cultural identity with attention to the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and Europe, an co-curated several events for the Dubai Design Week, including “Modern Architecture Heritage’, “People Planet Profit” and “Nature Based Generations”. She is a member of the “ XX Century Society "which established in 1979 to safeguard the heritage of Architecture and design in Great Britain from 1914 onwards. She was responsible for drafting the Conservation plan and implementation of the anti-seismic protection criteria of the University Colleges of Urbino as an example of " Heritage " of the nineteenth century. Since then Monica has been collaborating with members of the C20 community to promote the exchange of knowledge both nationally and internationally. She participated as a juror in the "Architectural Residential Awards" at the AIA in Los Angeles 2021

Federica Minozzi

CEO Iris Ceramica Group

Federica Minozzi

After graduating with honours from the Faculty of Law at Modena University, Federica Minozzi joined Iris Ceramica, her family’s industrial holding company, where she studied and investigated the areas of sales and marketing, an orientation that soon turned out to be strategic for her future and essential for the development of her entrepreneurial and managerial skills.

Over the years this has allowed her to hold positions of the highest responsibility in all the companies in her family’s multinational group; she is now Group CEO at the age of only forty.
Along with her father, Romano Minozzi, Federica won the "2017 Innovation Award" at the 21st EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
In 2017 she also won the “Copernico40 Award” presented by "Il Quotidiano Immobiliare".
In 2019 she established Fondazione Iris Ceramica Group, a non-profit organisation aimed at promoting environmental protection, sustainable development and social cohesion.
In 2021 Iris Ceramica Group won the "Premio Industria Felix" and received the Alta Onorificenza di Bilancio for being one of "the best female-run businesses" thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit.

The same year, Iris Ceramica Group becomes Main Sponsor of the Italian Pavilion at the Biennale of Venezia and, during the event “The H2 Road to Net Zero” of Bloomberg, illustrates the new industrial project for the construction of the world’s first green hydrogen-powered ceramics factory.
In December 2021 Iris Ceramica Group results to be the top company that women are happy to work in, according to the ranking table drafted following the survey “Italy’s Best Employers for Women” by the Istituto Tedesco Qualità Finanza (ITQF), published in December 2021 on La Repubblica – Affari & Finanza.

Abeer Seikaly

Architect, Artist, Cultural Producer

Abeer Seikaly

Abeer Seikaly is a Jordanian-Palestinian interdisciplinary thinker and maker, who works across architecture, design, fine art, and cultural production.

Her practice is deeply rooted in the processes of memory and cultural empowerment, expressing architecture as a social technology that has the power to redefine how we engage with and within space. Challenging traditional notions of belonging and identity, her works are in constant dialogue with perceptions and contemporary understandings of time, materiality, and the role that women play in a patriarchal structure. Her recent works center indigenous Bedouin knowledge and practices, to recover the intimacy of handmaking—lost in today’s production. She has been regularly traveling to Jordan’s Badia (desert), where she engages in Bedouin women’s craftsmanship of textile weaving and tent making.

In 2002, she received her Bachelor of Architecture and her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. After pursuing her architecture career in luxury retail design and mixed-use developments, her work increasingly began to reflect a tactile sensitivity to the consciousness within the objects and spaces she crafts. In 2012, Abeer won The Rug Company’s Middle East Wallhanging Design Competition, for exploring the duality between nostalgia and the labor of new craft. And, in the following year, she was awarded the international Lexus Design Award, for a performative structural system that explored the social implications of creating homes for displaced communities.

In 2015, she co-founded and co-directed Amman Design Week, a participatory learning initiative that seeks to promote and foster a culture of design and collaboration in Jordan. And, in 2018, she established ālmamar, a cultural experience and residency program. It is situated in an abandoned 53 m² 3-bedroom house (built 1957) in Amman. From culinary experiences to interactive exhibitions and events, ālmamar reflects on the evolution of traditional values, critical arts practice, and the notion of transience, within the context of Jordan.

A lifelong diarist, Abeer continues to ‘read backwards while writing forwards’ in order to surface and interrogate themes and narratives that echo her work and life.

 In addition to numerous features, her works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) in Vienna, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Her latest exhibitions include: Shelter (2022–2023) at CVPA Swain Gallery (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) in New Bedford, USA; Re-rooting (2022) at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan; The Year 2121: Futures In-Sight (2021) at The Miyake Issey Foundation in Tokyo, Japan; La Manufacture: A Labour of Love (2020) at Gare Saint Sauveur Cultural Institute in Lilles, France; and Radical Curiosity. In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller (2020) at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid, Spain.

Her works can be found in multiple private and public collections, such as Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah (in Amman, Jordan) and Barjeel Art Foundation (in Sharjah, UAE). Abeer is also a frequent speaker, panelist, and visiting lecturer. In the Fall of 2021, Abeer was appointed as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor at the Yale School of Architecture. It was an endowed professorship, where she taught an advanced graduate Architectural Design Studio, titled Conscious Skins.

Watch her TEDxKlagenfurt talk here.

Watch her Yale School of Architecture lecture here.

Khalid Alshafar

Founder & Director - KHALID SHAFAR

Khalid Alshafar

Born in 1980 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As a business graduate of the American University in Dubai Khalid worked in marketing and communication for almost seven years. In 2005 Khalid completed a degree in Fine Arts in Interior Design and by the end of 2009 had decided to leave marketing and follow his passion for design. Khalid has studied and specialized in Furniture & Objects design, first at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, UK, then at the Centre for Fine Woodworking in Nelson, New Zealand. In 2011 Khalid opened his own studio in Dubai followed by a showcase space in 2012; both in Ras Al Khor Industrial area. Khalid’s approach to design encompasses his personal expression of form, movement, emotion, and in particular, ‘the tale’ of objects.

Among his notable international collaborations, Khalid collaborated with LASVIT, Tai Ping, Campana Brothers, Moissonnier, COS, Kartell, and the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) on special projects and limited edition releases. He also collaborated recently with Le Mobilier National et les manufactures nationales des Gobelins, de Beauvais et de la Savonnerie on a site specific Art installation for Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum.

Rooted in material culture, his design philosophy is always evolving. “Simple lines mixed with rich details and fine materials are the hallmarks of my objects,” he explains. “It’s a revival of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s avant-garde sleek styling re-interpreted with today’s furnishing trends. I believe it’s the ‘tale’ that is the aesthetic side of each object. Whether you belong to the tale or not, you still react to it.”

And it also includes a deep commitment to international design. “Design should be universal and versatile [rather] than tied to a particular culture or ethnic background. It should appeal to a wider audience and adapt to different spaces and tastes. But, designs that evoke certain cultures gain the interest and attention of certain clients and the recognition and exposure of global design. There are more sensitivities and constraints [that] a designer should consider when designing for the Middle East [when compared to] other regions – notably cultural, political or religious aspects,” he reflects.

‘The Nomad’, Shafar’s overwhelmingly popular – and extended – interactive public exhibition at London’s Chelsea College of Arts as part of the Shubbak festival was revealed in Dubai at d3 during Design Week 2015. Inspired by a collaboration with the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), “the concept brings historical architecture and the traditional material of arish (palm fronds), rethinking it into a format for the 21st Century – a ‘reappropriation’ as it were. It’ s made from my preferred material, wood (African Teak),” Shafar explains.

The result was phenomenal. “It made strangers get closer in enclosures, removed all communication barriers and opened a space for interaction and connection. It carries a social message for architecture in the UAE, exploring how old methodologies and architectural components can be re-purposed to fit our current lifestyle.”

But his heart is always in the UAE. “Culturally inspired yet contemporarily presented, my design approach revolves around defining some UAE design aesthetics and attributes. I think the Illusion line illustrates how Dubai can be seen in my objects. It was inspired by my love of city life: the buzz, the vibrancy, the many cultures; a tribute to my yearning for city life. The Illusion stool for me is my Dubai,” he explains.

His favourite line is The Palm, first introduced in his 2012 collection and still evolving. “It gained international recognition and has become a signature for my brand. Another line is Arabi, made using unconventional material, the egal that men in the Arab region traditionally wear on top of their head covers.”

Refreshingly, Shafar is a committed ambassador for the region’s design scene, mentoring young UAE creative entrepreneurs as part of the ADMAF/British Council initiative, The Cultural Excellence Fellowship. “My advice to aspiring designers is to think global and act global. Two things will make you stand out in the crowd: the quality of your work, and the benchmark and position you set for yourself and your brand.”

His thoughts on the future of design Dubai are bright: “Dubai is leading the fast movement in this part of the world. Internationally, the debate between technology integration in design and design materiality and the ‘making culture’ will continue and evolve, creating a new breed of hybrid design.” We can’t wait for him to lead the way.