Our featured guest this month is none other than the influential Carla Conte, Creative Director and Founder of the multidisciplinary and Award Winning studio Brand Creative.
1. Brand Creative is an award-winning multidisciplinary firm. How does one become recognized and achieve this success in a highly competitive market like Dubai?
We recognized a market gap for multidisciplinary thinking early on and decided that we would ensure that our projects were strongly rooted in strategic thinking and compelling storytelling. It’s a personal philosophy that creating a studio environment where creatives from different departments communicate, vis-a vis daily, creates the most well-rounded thinking and solutions. This foundation provides the basis for timeless aesthetics that we often get recognized for. Working with us is an investment. We know we provide our clients with the peace of mind that their concepts will be unique and thoroughly considered as opposed to being cut/paste trendy. That’s an incredible reputation to uphold and something I’m very proud of.
2. What career path would you have chosen instead, had you not been a designer?
With my father’s business in Canada focused on beauty, I grew up around positive narratives around self-care. I loved science and math so a logical direction for me was to become a dermatologist and eventually design a line of my own skin and haircare. In my last year of high school, the head of Visual Arts convinced me to take a global internship with an award-winning Toronto interiors studio for 6 months. I never looked back from then.
3. Ronald Harris, your mentor, has had a profound influence on your love of interior design. How else has he influenced you that are reflected in the way you manage your own team and company?
Ron Harris was the most humble and down to earth person I have ever met in the industry. Whilst others experienced him as being a tough business man, I was always nurtured and encouraged to take risks and lead by example. He always surprised me with his ability to create beautiful hand renderings for projects in a single afternoon whilst still finding time to help me clean the sample room. I hope my own team sees how much influence this man has had on me and how I like to run a team that is able to identify ego, put it aside and want what’s best for the company and the projects we do.
4. What are the most profound moments in your life both personally and professionally?
Moving to Dubai on my own in 2006, set my entire life onto an unexpected path. Before then, I spent my childhood in one small city outside Toronto (that was 95% Italian diaspora) so my experience with multiculturalism was limited. As a single woman, I had to really step up for myself to ensure my safety/wellbeing as well as my worth as a designer were being recognized and prioritized. This whole shift in geography was where I finally found my courage and my voice.
5. As the child of fashion and beauty entrepreneurs, would you say you were meant to find yourself in this industry?
I definitely think that my creative abilities were nurtured not only because my family is predominantly creative themselves but also because the Italian culture idolizes artists and allows them to flourish. Italians have a way of identifying ways of monetizing their artistic skills so that they can truly do what they love and love what they do. It’s beautiful.
6. How has the humanitarian work you have done in the past changed you? What have you gained from your experience in Ghana?
I think I’ve made service to others an integrated part of my life because I identified early on in my career that design alone could potentially lead to a very shallow or privileged lifestyle or way of thinking. I saw the results of that first-hand the first years out of university. My soul was craving more and thankfully humanitarian work filled the void for me personally. Designers are constantly surrounded by beauty and luxury but design thinking has the power to solve the “messier” problems of the world. My experience in Ghana opened my eyes to the third world reality and extreme poverty this world suffers from. Learning how to work alongside village locals with their sustainable and creative solutions was so incredibly informative but also immensely humbling.
7. Compared to when you first got started, how would you describe your design style today?
I always say I don’t have a particular style, because in branding a design solution that is appropriate for one client might not suit my personal taste. When I first started out in 2003, the design world was plagued by stark white interior spaces devoid of colour and texture. What I will say, is that with time I’ve embraced a more vibrant, energetic aesthetic that feels layered in nature. All our work and project solutions give me joy. I feel each brand’s personality in our work.
8. What part of your job excites you the most?
I love meeting with people who have no idea how to proceed with a business idea. The formative months of a brand where we’re defining personality traits and stories is what I would call magical. I know what we’re doing will build business legacies for homegrown brands and many Emirati families. Their appreciation is heart-warming and encourages me to keep going.
9. What is your favorite part of the day?
I start 6 out of 7 days a week with hot yoga at 7am. It helps me decompress and connect my body and mind spaces so I can properly tune into how I’m truly feeling. It’s one hour where I’m unapologetically selfish with my well-being. Going to the office from the yoga studio invigorates my day. I breathe better, make better decisions and advise my team from a place of clarity and love.
10. Tell us something about yourself that our readers might find surprising?
Three years after founding Brand Creative, I was offered the chance to sell the business. The amount would have allowed me to retire by 40. I turned the offer down. I felt like I would be cheating myself and my team out of our chance to create amazing things on our own terms. Money isn’t ever the prime decision maker for me and I think that continues to surprise people.
11. Any particular item from Purity that has caught your eye and we might see in an upcoming project?
The beautiful customized surfaces from De Castelli have always caught my eye. I love the new collaboration with Paola Lenti which resulted in TELA – a copper metallic fabric. It has a colourful prismatic effect that allows a vertical surface to really live and breathe in a space.
12. What would you consider bad design, when it comes to interiors?
I detest copy/paste work that the entire design community is witnessing on Pinterest. Any interior that feels lacking in concept, probably didn’t start out with a real story but rather a mood board of different ideas that are supposed to convey emotion. I just don’t get it.