Dubai's Broadway Interiors' Chris Barnes on the need for collaboration

Dubai's Broadway Interiors' Chris Barnes on the need for collaboration

The firm's owner and founder is hoping for a better future

Over the past few years, as an industry, we have risen to new heights. The biggest awards in the region have created platforms for designers to compete in the international arena and it has been quite a journey.

The region has benefitted hugely from this success story; new innovative spaces have made their mark, creativity has reached a new pinnacle, with peers pushing boundaries, forcing us all to lift  our game.

The downside, however, is the interior design industry has matured and developed into an extremely competitive and sometimes 'dog eat dog' marketplace.

At times, we struggle to protect our ideas in pursuit of work, which is often further compromised by the introduction of new entrepreneurs joining our existing community.

As a result, we have moved away from the origins of support and co-operation, in search of the next deal. Thus, as horrible as this pandemic is, forcing us to sit at home driving business from inside our concrete walls, it also provides us with the opportunity of reflection and redemption.

It doesn't seem many months ago, that I was discussing this very theme with many of my respected peers at the Design MENA summit. We were sharing our frustrations, yearning for the chance to once again ideate and collaborate, missing the days when we would share our ideas more for the benefit of each other and the collective nature of our industry.

Little did we know what was ahead of us in the new year. It is well documented that social media has the ability to portray a healthy picture, creating an impression that everything is normal and nothing has changed at all.

We are all guilty of self-promotion, as that is the cornerstone of the digital age, but perhaps we should use this experience to adopt more of the oldschool analogue approach, where support and co-operation with your fellow peers would actually be for the greater good of our industry long-term.

I imagine many businesses like mine had a healthy order book at the time the pandemic broke, but could at some point in the future, fall off the cliff if revenue and opportunity does not materialise.

Let's be honest, this is the harsh reality for all of us. So whilst we, like many, have undertaken a business audit and applied prudent measures, none of us are in control of our destiny, so you never know when you might need to make that call to seek support.

I was taught honesty and integrity can never be compromised and I have lived both my personal and business life by these rules. I believe it is always better to be in good credit and to receive the compassionate ear of my friends or fellow compatriots in difficult circumstances.

If an opportunity to share and collaborate with my peers arose now, I would certainly look to do it. If you need help, reach out, don't be afraid to seek support.

Having been in the UAE for 20 years, we have learnt valuable lessons and it is for that reason I feel comfortable and able to speak from this point of view.

As creative people we look at every situation somewhat differently to others; thinking outside the box we have the ability to come up with new ways to work and create.

Yes, we have some valuable time to research new ideas online, update our offerings and design, enabling us to continue to provide a service without the need to be in the office. But there's no getting away from the fact our industry will be impacted significantly as a result of this pandemic.

I recognise we need to react positively in the interim, but I'm not convinced design will need to change significantly long term.

Some enhancements and improvements will require implementation, but the simple principles of thoughtful design will not change.

Innovative, intelligent design provides flexibility of space and adaptability, and whilst these are unprecedented times, we will come out of this pandemic.

Our industry could certainly learn from nsome self-evaluation and change for the better by adopting a more co-operative spirit beween us.

A demonstration of this was most notably proven in the recent video 'We are in this together', which Pallavi and Richard Dean created with the support and collaboration of a number of us designers in the region, to show support for the hardship our suppliers were experiencing in Italy. Great idea and working together at its best.

Using the online platforms to talk about the current climate is great, so with honesty, integrity and co-operation, we will get through this together.

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