Focus on the immaterial


THE popular notion of luxury is changing, renowned designer Karim Rashid (right) told listeners at a conference in Dubai earlier this year.

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 investors in Dubai’s booming hotel industry must take note of this shift in attitude to avoid dated offerings. “There’s a big paradigm shift in luxury going on right now. Brands must move quickly into the contemporary world, that’s where the market is. The world of the consumer is moving ahead of manufacturers and developers,” he said.
In particular, Rashid highlighted the obsession with decorative luxury in the Middle East., questioning the notion of using luxury materials.He said ‘new luxury’ in the hotel sector includes a radical departure from the traditional check-in process, rooms that can be custom-ised 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.
He commented on consumer’s increasing focus on what he calls ‘immaterial’ luxuries. 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.”