Dubai hotels ‘must rethink luxury’

Rashid: a need to transcend the idea of Materials

HOTEL developers in Dubai must change their approach to luxury to keep pace with the global trend and consumer preferences, according to world-renowned designer Karim Rashid, a guest speaker at the Hotel Show at Dubai International Exhibition Centre

Rashid, who won the Sleep05 European Hotel Design Award for his work on the iconic Semiramis Hotel in Athens and counts Swarovski, Umbra, Prada, Miyake and Method among his clients, says the world’s attitude to luxury is changing – and investors in Dubai’s booming hotel industry must take note if they’re to avoid dated offerings.
“Luxury brands are struggling with change. There’s a big paradigm shift in luxury going on right now,” said Rashid. “Brands must move quickly into the contemporary world, because that’s where the market is. The world of the consumer is moving ahead of manufacturers and developers.”
In particular, Rashid highlighted the obsession with decorative luxury in Dubai.
“This notion of using luxury materials – marble on floors, gold gild on columns, heavy woods – I don’t want to get philosophical, but in 1953 Roland Barthes said we have to transcend these ideas of material. Dreams are becoming reality in Dubai, but now the question is, are they the right dreams?”
According to Rashid, ‘new luxury’ in the hotel sector includes a radical departure from the traditional check-in process, rooms that can be customised through technology for individual guests, “plug in and play”-style ease of use, and connectivity to the world outside the hotel room.
The 21st century approach to luxury should also reflect a greater awareness of a hotel’s impact on the environment: “Make it ecological, self-sustainable, make the whole hotel solar,” said Rashid.
Before addressing delegates on the Future of Hotel Design at The Hotel Show’s Seven Star Conference, Rashid commented on the increasing focus on what he calls “immaterial” luxuries among consumers. Among the top 10 Christmas gifts in America, five – software, video games, music, food and beverages, and massage and spa certificates – were immaterial.
“That’s the change that’s taking place among consumers,” said Rashid. “The physical stuff has to provide an experience, too. If it’s not, then it’s not necessary.”
The US-based designer, who has had 2,000 designs put into production and currently has 85 projects underway in 30 countries, also called for greater architectural diversity.
“There’s a lot of similarity in Dubai. The renderings of new buildings, they’re all similar, and that’s bad. It’s like the old ‘me-tooism’ in the US in the 1950s, with everyone following the same trend. There’s an obsession with steel and glass,” said Rashid. “Diversity is critical. Eclecticism makes the urban fabric.”
Commenting on Rashid’s participation in The Hotel Show, Maggie Moore, project director for the event, said: “Karim Rashid is a leading figure in the fields of product and interior design, fashion, furniture, lighting and art, and his opinions matter. His keynote speech on The Future of Hotel Design, Design and Architecture Within The Middle East has been one of the talking points of the show and could well impact the future of hotel design in the UAE.”