Why Dubai is increasingly a magnet for luxury
By chance or coincidence, two of the world's most prestigious couture houses - Giorgio Armani and Chanel - are making an appearance in Dubai a few days apart from one another. Armani staged its itinerant ‘One Night Only’ event in the Arab emirate on Tuesday, while on November 2, Chanel will showcase in Dubai the cruise collection 2022, first unveiled in May in Baux-de-Provence, France.
Taking advantage of the newly opened Dubai World Expo, running until March 31 2022, for which nearly 25 million visitors are expected, and on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Armani hotels in Milan and Dubai itself, Giorgio Armani held a special event at the Armani Hotel Pavilion, staging a show presenting the men’s and women’s Spring/Summer 2022 collections, and a selection of haute couture Armani Privé looks for the Fall/Winter 2021-22. Among the guests, scores of celebrities, including actresses Sharon Stone, Lily James and Mélanie Laurent. Some 400 people attended the gala evening, which featured a performance by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
Dubai is a key hub straddling Europe and Asia, and has positioned itself as a benchmark in the Middle East with its flourishing economy, buoyant financial services and stable political situation, attracting a growing number of investors but also plenty of fashion and luxury names. For example, in Armani’s wake, Roberto Cavalli, bought in 2019 by Dubai billionaire Hussain Sajwani, founder and president of real estate giant Damac Properties, has chosen Dubai as the home of the Cavalli Tower, a luxurious 70-storey skyscraper that will be completed in 2026.
There are other examples of the Arab emirate’s current passion for luxury, such as the initiative in collaboration with Cartier, which saw a jewellery stand dedicated exclusively to women designed for the World Expo; and the presence of Dolce & Gabbana at the World Expo with an installation within the Italian pavilion, made of hand-painted clay pottery created by Sicilian artisans.
Dubai has notably become a new luxury Eldorado, attracting, beyond scores of tourists, a strong influx of high-income families and entrepreneurs through its policy of ‘golden visas’ targeting the wealthiest expatriates, and a tax system that is highly advantageous in terms of income and inheritance tax.
“Dubai is becoming a major hub, for its openness to foreign capital and as a focus for considerable investment, such as that for the Dubai Mall, but also thanks to the high quality of its public services, infrastructure and luxury opportunities, and is making its mark as an extremely well-managed corporation,” said Michele Norsa, executive vice-president of Salvatore Ferragamo, speaking at the Milano Fashion Global Summit 2021, organized this week by publisher Class Editori and held between Milan and Dubai.
“Between 2019 and 2020, [Dubai’s] airport managed to remain open, supplanting other Asian airline hubs. All the tourist flows to Europe, Africa and even the USA have passed through Dubai. It is hard for me to believe that, in the coming years, major Asian centres like Hong Kong will be able to reclaim their primacy,” added Norsa.
“Dubai has evolved from state-of-the-art hub for tourism and business to global destination for luxury retail and fashion,” said Patrick Chalhoub, head of the Chalhoub Group, a leader in luxury goods distribution in the Middle East. He added that “since the post-pandemic reopening, we are witnessing a rise in tourist flows [to Dubai] from all over the world, also from regions that had not targeted this destination before, such as India, Iran or North Africa.”
According to Chalhoub, Dubai offers plenty of interesting opportunities, provided that smaller brands are able to find local partners. “Many fashion and luxury brands have a strong presence in Dubai City, but they need to seek a better understanding of local consumers, especially the younger ones,” he said.
Also speaking at the Milano Fashion Global Summit 2021, Elisa Bruno, managing director of Level Shoes, the Chalhoub Group’s footwear chain, said that “the Middle East is setting the pace for the change occurring in the luxury market,” underlining that “40% of the population is under 30 years of age in this region, and is able to dictate new trends.” For example, with the widespread availability in local shops of luxury sneakers, “especially the most sophisticated and personalised models.”
Dubai is now especially attractive for the luxury industry, and is the most in synch with fashion trends among the Arab emirates, but the region has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. The economy in the United Arab Emirates was destabilised by plummeting oil prices, with GDP falling by 6.1% in 2020. However, according to a report published on Wednesday by the French Treasury department, “the country’s economic fundamentals remain strong, both budget and trade-wise,” and a gradual recovery is on the cards, with growth forecast at 2.2% in 2021 and 3% in 2022.
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