Day in the life: Dubai design and production manager at the cutting edge

David Sprakes has been working as the design and production manager for A Ronai, a uniform and hospitality supplier based in Al Quoz, Dubai, for eight years; he previously worked for its UK supplier. Mr Sprakes, 45, from the UK, studied fashion and textile design and has been a designer for more than 20 years.


It’s fair to say I’m not a morning person; it takes me a while to get going. I’m usually awake by 7.30am but, by the time I’ve had a couple of iced lattes – I don’t really do breakfast – and decided what to wear, a couple of hours will have passed. I dress to suit my mood and, not surprisingly, I love clothes – and particularly shoes, of which I have quite a collection. I had fun dressing up in a white tuxedo jacket, with a black and white silk pocket handkerchief, when I presented at the Hotelier Middle East Awards recently.


I have a 10-minute commute to Al Quoz from my apartment in Al Barsha. I live on my own and would love to get an Alaskan Malamute dog or three, but not in an apartment and probably not in the Dubai climate either.


Mornings are when I take care of admin. We have a UK office in Tunbridge Wells in Kent and work with suppliers worldwide, so there are usually email queries coming in overnight. It could be approving artwork for a new label, confirming fabric or trim colours or ordering samples from our fabric mills.


I bring along manufacturing-side staff to meet the commercial manager for a meeting to discuss ongoing projects and new inquiries. We launched a full catalogue last year for smaller or simpler uniform requests – there’s a range of stock items, and customers can also build their uniforms from a menu of colours and features – so meetings now tend to focus on larger, bespoke projects, say for hotels or large service companies such as facilities management.


I’ll sit with our tailoring supervisor and pattern cutter to discuss samples they are making – we usually have 15 -25 on the go. These could be bespoke designs, simple alterations or new garments for the catalogue. We review the toiles – basic mock-ups of the garments, made to check style and fit but from cheaper materials than the finished product, which will be thrown away – and make changes where necessary.


If I’m in an organised mood, I might bring in a sandwich or leftovers from home. If not we order in – unfortunately, that often means something bad like a burger. I normally eat at my desk and do a bit of online shopping. Then I may follow up with a packet of crisps from the stash in my cupboard.


Afternoons I devote to design. I generally work on five or six projects in parallel, with each at a different stage of development – revising designs, garment sampling or completing specifications ahead of production. From the brief, I create mood boards of ideas and then work through a selection of styles, before sitting with the customer to discuss the designs. When I’m designing, I turn off email and mute my phone so I can concentrate, although I always play music – normally streaming BBC Radio 6. I have a huge record collection at home, and order a new album every week. I’m in the finishing stages of an airline uniform: most of the samples are approved, so I’m writing the technical specifications – fabrics used and details such as stitching, pockets, panelling and any logo embroidery or print. Another project is the redesign of a range of 16 garments for a travel and tourism company. Because of our climate and more challenging laundry processes than in Eur­ope (like hotter water), sourcing the right fabrics is key. With Gulfood at the end of February, I’m also working on designs for the display stand garments and for the uniforms we will wear.


I leave the office by 8pm. A couple of years ago I started walking around the Barsha Park track, but I’ve been lax recently. Suppers are quite simple in the week, often something from a Nigella Lawson cookbook – pasta, noodles, a pie. While dinner’s cooking, I’ll get the washing machine on or water my plants – I have almost 40 inside and on the balcony. I usually watch TV while I eat. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek and Nordic Noir series like The Killing. I might also have a Skype catch-up with friends in the UK or US. Until recently, I was kept busy in my free time with more design – I have made three wedding dresses, for my sister and for two friends.


I head to bed reasonably early. I’ve always got a book on the go and am obsessed with music autobiographies – it’s Grace Jones’ memoirs right now.

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