Although Dubai originally made headlines for its 5-star bling and record-breaking architecture, it has now also established a reputation for innovation, culture and the arts. As the market continues to mature at an exponential rate, it also broadens, with a more diverse demographic attracted to Dubai.
The allure of ostentatious opulence remains and has its place in the market, but demand for a more understated and genuine form of luxury is emerging. ‘Quiet luxury’ is a growing movement among the ultra-high networth community, of which 4,500 extra millionaires will relocate to Dubai this year.
Subtle shifts to what wealthy residents want
The notion of quiet luxury is not new, but typically associated with the fashion industry and has gained recognition globally - and in Dubai. Though capturing the attention of the international tourist remains central to premium brands, long-term residents of Dubai is a key demographic in their own right. And a growing desire for a quieter, more genuine form of opulence is steering the agenda.
This has, equally, been driven by the city’s increasing population of high networth individuals, which has risen to 67,900 in June 2023 compared to 54,000 in June 2021.
Google searches for the quiet luxury term has grown by a staggering 614 per cent in the last year, while terms like ‘old-money outfit’ gathering more than 74,000 searches per month. Quiet luxury has now extended into all aspects of life, including hospitality, architecture and retail.
A different sort of experience
But it is Dubai’s ability to listen and adapt to the market trends that have placed it at the forefront of international tourism and led to its success as a global economic hub.
The city has recognized the importance of sustainability in the luxury industry, from environmental-friendly architecture to hyper-connected living. Dubai is focusing on providing eco-conscious practices and embracing a more responsible - and harmonious - approach to luxury living.
Equally, consumers are increasingly looking for destinations with history, flair and understated sophistication, seeking to travel consciously and engage in community initiatives that make the world a better place.
The Covid pandemic has played a role in this transformation, making people see that flaunting wealth lacks substance, personality, and human connection. Celebrities and influencers have faced criticism for their obsession with 5-star bling, which often fosters feelings of disconnection and superficiality.
Easy with the bling
In contrast, quiet luxury places importance on meaningful experiences and products that enrich life on a holistic level. The UAE's affinity for Snapchat exemplifies the shift towards luxury being about exclusivity and authentic endorsement, rather than publicized sponsorships.
This change also drove a deeper yearning for authentic hospitality experiences of understated sophistication, greater simplicity, and emotional fulfilment and the global hospitality and dining sector has seen a significant shift. In Dubai it’s a move away from gold-frosted drinks and truffle-layered menus to more genuine experiences, rich in depth and character, not just in the price tag.
While Dubai's Michelin-starred restaurants and hidden gems have rightfully garnered global attention, the dining scene is evolving to also cater to those who appreciate understated sophistication. Diners are now willing to pay for menus featuring locally sourced ingredients, fostering experiences that engage all the senses.
Within the retail industry, logo-mania has been eradicated and priority has been placed on exclusivity and craftsmanship. It is no coincidence that the beacon of quiet luxury, Loro Piana, recently opened a new flagship in Dubai Mall. In fact, a BoF Insights study found that as much as 50 per cent of high earners in the UAE spend $1,000 on luxury fashion per month.
Although the city is known for its luxury malls and high-end boutiques, there is a notable flourishing of smaller, independent stores that offer unique, handcrafted and ethically sourced products. Ultimately, quiet luxury clearly prioritises quality over quantity.
Cultural destinations have also grown significantly in Dubai, with world-class museums, art galleries, and cultural districts celebrating both the city's history and the global art scene.
Places like Dubai Design District (d3) and the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood provide insights into Dubai's rich heritage and artistic expression, fostering a deeper appreciation for the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of luxury.
Dubai's transformation towards quiet luxury is a testament to its adaptability and foresight. Agile as ever, Dubai is setting new standards for a genuine, subtle, and refined form of opulence.
Although there will always be a demand for 5-star bling, by simultaneously embracing sustainability, authenticity, and a connection with its traditional luxurious culture, Dubai continues to resonate with the evolving desires of a global audience.