Commercially available skin substitutes lack essential non-immune cells for adequate tissue regeneration of non-healing wounds. A tissue-engineered, patient-specific, dermal substitute could be an attractive option for regenerating chronic wounds, for which adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSCs) could become an autologous source. However, ADMSCs are multipotent in nature and may differentiate into adipocytes, osteocytes and chondrocytes in vitro, and may develop into undesirable tissues upon transplantation. Therefore, ADMSCs committed to the fibroblast lineage could be a better option for in vitro or in vivo skin tissue engineering. The objective of this study was to standardize in vitro culture conditions for ADMSCs differentiation into dermal-like fibroblasts which can synthesize extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Biomimetic matrix composite, deposited on tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS), and differentiation medium (DM), supplemented with fibroblast-conditioned medium and growth factors, were used as a fibroblast-specific niche (FSN) for cell culture. For controls, ADMSCs were cultured on bare TCPS with either DM or basal medium (BM). Culture of ADMSCs on FSN upregulated the expression of differentiation markers such as fibroblast-specific protein-1 (FSP-1) and a panel of ECM molecules specific to the dermis, such as fibrillin-1, collagen I, collagen IV and elastin. Immunostaining showed the deposition of dermal-specific ECM, which was significantly higher in FSN compared to control. Fibroblasts derived from ADMSCs can synthesize elastin, which is an added advantage for successful skin tissue engineering as compared to fibroblasts from skin biopsy. To obtain rapid differentiation of ADMSCs to dermal-like fibroblasts for regenerative medicine, a matrix-directed differentiation strategy may be employed. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.