Wealth in the wild: how the natural world became the new luxury frontier
Luxury has always been concerned with the attainment of extremes. So, it follows that the natural world is the ultimate ultra-high net worth playground, with ‘The Outdoors’ making it into the top five interests of the UHNW male. A historical reading of attitudes to nature sees it positioned as something to conquer; as such, it is hardly surprising that our members frequently request activities like winter sports, safari and boating.
However, as the climate change narrative evolves, a new perspective is emerging.
This new vision is one in which harmony and immersion in untouched horizons prevails over dominating them through physical prowess, from rewilding projects and species protection to conservationism and use of sympathetic design and materials... Deference to nature is increasingly fashionable.
Owned land is increasingly becoming something to preserve and restore. The demand for rural estates with ranches or agricultural land is high and rising, offering both seclusion and small-scale regenerative impact. Interest in sustainable land management is no longer the passion of a few, but instead a status symbol for any high-performing individual with land as part of their portfolio.
With fashion trends like gorpcore (a style focused around wearing utilitarian, functional, outdoors-inspired gear) and luxury houses selling alfresco time as an aspirational and stylish activity, there is capital (social and financial) in being ‘outdoorsy’. Following a COVID hiatus in growth, travel requests to far-flung, uncharted places are also recovering their popularity. Sure, going ‘off grid’ has its challenges for wealthy business owners, but for the UHNW community, the prestige attached to relentless ‘busyness’ has been replaced. It is no longer a badge of honour, but a marker of disdain for time badly managed. Instead, cutting off for the weekend to explore on four wheels – or with four sails – is the new status symbol.
Scientific developments towards understanding both physical and mental health are leading to the increased prescription of time in the wild as part of holistic health and wellness activities for HNW individuals. Further, as the technology world around us progresses and city life becomes homogenised, the need for immersion in ‘untouched nature’ is also increasingly requested by female clients. The ubiquitous popularity of yoga retreats, too, is also becoming challenged by hiking and horseback holidays where itineraries offer moments of meaningful connection to the environment as part of an exploration of the self.
Trends in property design also speak to an enhanced connection to the natural world; one only has to think of how indoor-slash-outdoor living environments became a staple of during and post-COVID life.
Further upstream, during architecture planning phases, where once there was a thirst for contrast and domination, we see a desire for construction and landscaping to be in harmony with the natural world. From city apartments to holiday homes, yacht design and interiors, the integration of natural, softer materials with integrated planting and views opened to the horizon is prevalent
Brand and hospitality experiences have tapped into this new thirst for seclusion in nature. With remote pop-up locations and off-the map hospitality experiences, luxury is increasingly found in unusual places where the environment does most of the talking.
As the HNW community moves away from anthropocentrism and towards a healthier relationship between people and the planet, the luxury industry is stepping in to show how living with nature should be done. It looks, and feels, good.
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