In recent years, markets have become quite popular in the UAE for the anti-mall experience they bring to the country. One of the oldest and most successful markets is ARTE, the makers’ market. Showcasing handmade design, art, craft, and fashion, ARTE’s monthly markets have become a staple of the UAE social calendar.
Miriam Walsh, a crafter herself, identified the opportunity to launch a market to celebrate handmade wares in the UAE with a colleague a decade ago when art and craft markets were still not common. They gathered support of other local crafters and decided to develop a market that would provide a homegrown experience with high quality products to rival the polished mall scene.
Ten years later, ARTE is a well-established brand with an enticing formula for all stakeholders involved. The venues that are home to the market enjoy a regular increase in footfall and exposure, while the vendors are able to show their goods in an environment that attracts exactly the right type of customer.
For marketplaces, building an autonomous brand while also showcasing the participating artists can be a tough balancing act. When asked about how she ensures ARTE has its own brand identity, Walsh replied, “ARTE is the Maker, the Artisan. Without the people ARTE is nothing. We are a community of vendors and artists and we are bigger than any one single vendor.”
And community plays a huge role in ARTE’s success. The team goes to great lengths to ensure that each vendor that joins the market is welcomed, advised, and supported, even if she only joins for one session. This is no easy task considering each market usually features between 75 to 150 vendors, but it is essential to building the reputation that attracts these artists join the market.
Bhawna Sehra of Palmlights UAE is a regular vendor at ARTE and believes it is exactly the right environment for her brand. “Most of ARTE’s visitors are tired of the mall culture in UAE and come looking for a unique experience. At ARTE you can meet the makers, discover the story behind their creations and go home knowing that you have helped a small business by making a purchase,” she explained.
She feels that at ARTE her products are placed in front of the right customer who is looking for something of higher quality than mass-produced imports. Walsh agrees that this is one of the benefits of displaying wares at the market. “The local artisans and makers are talented people who devote time to get trained and money on buying awesome materials from across the world. It would not be fair to put their beautiful products next to cheap imports.”
Walsh and her team highlight the quality of the vendors’ products as part of their online content strategy. Whether it is through their blog, website or on social media, the team strives to always share beautiful photographs and interesting features about the market and its vendors. This strategy has organically attracted a large following of over 26,000 fans on Facebook.
ARTE’s competition has increased over the years, but so has its popularity. By staying true to the ethos of “we make what we sell”, strongly supporting local artisans, and keeping visitors interested both at the market and online, ARTE has managed to maintain a strong foothold the UAE market and continues to grow. When asked what was in store for ARTE in the future, Walsh quipped, “more of the same, but that means we will continue to provide more that is different!”