Marina Mrdjen-Petrovic speaks to Paul Bishop about his evolution as a designer and why he decided to rebrand his studio.
A new vision, a new chapter and a new – somewhat controversial – name. After 12 years of running his own business, Dubai-based designer Paul Bishop decided to relaunch Bishop Design LLC under a new name – Rogue. It’s time, as he reveals to CID, not to go “against the rules” but to brand the business as what it stands for rather than himself.
“Rogue was initially going to be set up as a subdivision of Bishop Design focusing on QSR (Quick Service Restaurants),” he says “but we felt that this had great presence in the market and cut straight into who we now are as a company and the direction we are heading towards.”
As he explains, Rogue will offer a variety of additional services for commercial interiors and branding as well as becoming more approachable for clients with smaller budgets.
“We’ve never turned clients away; we are not selective and we won’t judge. If the idea is good, regardless of the size of the project, we like to be an integral part of the process.
“Another reason for making the change is because I feel we became too complacent. We had a wake-up call after last year’s CID Awards. We realised we are still one of the best companies in the UAE and we have the capabilities but we needed to become more aware of the competition,” admits Bishop.
“You are only good as your latest work. We want to be at the top of our game and I think change is always good. We have an opportunity to reinvent ourselves and come out punching above our weight,” he says. “I want to brand Rogue with an edgy, cheeky approach to interior design and, in the process, reinvent our design ideologies. We are planning to go out with a fresher, younger outlook on design in general, not just interior but all design that is integral to making Rogue more current.”
With 46 projects happening worldwide, including five hotels and a restaurant for award-winning chef Hide Yamamoto among others, Bishop’s team is currently active in the region, the UK and Europe but looking to expand to the US and Asian markets.
“We appreciate the opportunity to design further afield, however, our Dubai office remains the nucleus of our practice,” he says. “Dubai has established itself as the design hub of the Middle East and as a home-grown local company, we are proud to be part of the success and the progression of the interiors community as whole.”
With Rogue, Bishop also plans to shed more light on his team while remaining the creative force behind all of the studio’s projects.
“I have an amazing team that’s capable of rolling out multiple projects (five to six) through the studio at one time. However, I’m involved from concept to post-contract and handover completion,” he says.
“Clients buy into the name and expect a certain level of design service from Paul Bishop. Being a recognised brand, it’s important that we maintain our design standards therefore I encourage my team, led by Mehmet Aktash, to adhere to that same level or standards while promoting their individual creativity.
“Also, we don’t practice hierarchy; we run an open, relaxed, fun practice. I don’t have an office; I sit in the middle of the studio so I can be accessible at all times. I want my staff to enjoy coming to work and being a part of the Rogue family.”
Bishop moved to the Middle East in 1996, not even knowing where Dubai was. After working for a few years for international design consultancies, in 2004 he decided to establish his own practice. His story starts from a small office with no AC that was built by a friend inside a warehouse in Dubai’s Al Quoz.
As with his own growth as designer, Bishop says that a natural evolutionarily shift happened in the region’s design industry in general and that people are now open to more casual and edgy environments.
“When I came here, I was accused of being 10 years ahead of Dubai, when, in fact, I was actually a few years behind the designs and trends in Europe,” he says.
Describing himself as an “old school” designer, Bishop says he never uses a computer, but draws.
He says: “We use computers purely for production, but I don’t let anyone design on a computer. They have to do it manually and have the ability to sketch. When working on two-dimensional plans, I’m already envisioning how that space will look, smell, feel or taste. Volumes, textures and layers, that’s already in my head.”
There are so many things “cooking in his head” – a family of “psychedelic monkeys who never rest”, as Bishop describes it.
“I never switch off,” he says. “Everything is visual for me and I see design influence inherent in everything from film to literature and art, and interpret this into a medium that suits the project I am working on at the time. I draw inspiration from the past and present, especially through the medium of film.”
For the Torno Subito restaurant, which will open at the new W Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, Bishop was given the brief: “Chef having fun at the beach during the 1950s/1960s in Remini.”
“I drew inspiration from the Fellini movies that the chef himself draws inspiration from for his creative dishes,” explains Bishop. “He is a master chef, a genius at what he does and we wanted to incorporate this into our design. We were honoured that we were approached to deliver such a fantastic project. As delicate as it was, we successfully translated the perceived idea of his design into reality.”
Bishop and his team are currently working for Dolce Entertainment on its new restaurants on the 70th and 71st floors in the new Address Boulevard Hotel. With 360-degree views of Dubai, one of the restaurants will be led by Japanese chef Hide Yamamoto.
“We’ve been fortunate to work with a great client and an amazing chef. Breaking misconceptions about what an Asian restaurant should look like, the interiors will be fresh and edgy with thought-provoking artworks and statement features throughout. They are already looking into rolling out the concept to New York and London.
“We really embraced the structure and played a lot with double-height ceilings. Both venues will be very performance-driven and unique in their own way, but we created a visual synergy between them. It will have a huge launch in October and we are there to make it happen.”
Although he doesn’t specifically design for that Instagrammable moment, some of Bishop’s recent designs, such as Little Black Door, Cubanolito, Katana, Waka, and Beat of Angels Lounge & Club in the W Hotel – Al Habtoor City, have been promoted in fashion shoots and media and naturally have inherent Instagrammable moments attached to them.
Without any false modesty, Bishop believes his designs are “at the forefront of interior design globally”.
“I have the support of my team as well as the belief of the clients to deliver interiors that are ahead of current market trends,” he says. “Interiors are ephemeral, they are forever changing but that is their beauty. It is as much about the time and audience you are designing for, not only the interiors.”
“It’s designing for a responsive crowd. I don’t want to be remembered for timeless designs, I want to constantly deliver new and innovative schemes,” says Bishop, concluding: “Now it’s time to go Rogue.”