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Quiet Luxury: Exclusivity and Understatement

Wellness in the Maldives, skiing in the Alps or a luxury vacation in a five-star hotel? That's far too ordinary! The travel elite rely on absolute discretion, secret villas and secluded properties that are not so easy to reach.

February 9, 2024

Quiet luxury has been making the rounds in the fashion world as an aesthetic category for some time now: It's high-quality clothing that doesn't flaunt logos, but instead pays attention to minimalism. Only those who decode the brands behind it are aware of their exclusivity - Loro Piana, Tom Ford; every Japanese quality outfitter who abhors color as a slip into vulgarity. The HBO series Succession has brought quiet luxury into the mainstream. Or, at least, it has lifted the curtain a little on the sense of style of the top one percent.

Jason Busch

Now the trend is reaching the travel industry. Hotels that simply don't appear on; resorts where gold taps are frowned upon and fine natural stone walls are the standard; it's about villas that don't even appear on websites and tend to find their guests through word of mouth. Here, you don't want any bling-bling, only substance - the opposite of Abu Dhabi.

 Gate Lodge © beigestellt

Three decades ago, the Aman Hotels entered this (then still nameless) niche. The Asian chain focused on a small number of hotels, exquisite design and plenty of space. Its credo to this day is: no advertising, no testimonials. Room service hands each guest a simple name tag for their bags after their stay. These impregnated leather buckles are now regarded as collector's items. They are now a distinguishing mark for insiders.

 Gate Lodge © beigestellt

Not everyone should get in, not everyone is allowed in: several destinations are now making use of this principle. The Caribbean island Mustique is only accessible to those who have been screened by the resident owner company. For the spectacular private ranch of former Puma boss Jochen Zeitz, Rancho Alegre in New Mexico, only groups that stay at least seven nights and register with a specific booking agency in advance are eligible. Prices for the property with eleven bedrooms, a wine cellar and a pool house are only available on request.

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Discretion is just as much a part of quiet luxury as scarcity. This is why resorts don't actively offer every villa that is hidden away on the grounds. There are not even any pictures of some of them, such as the Owner's Villa on Laucala, the South Sea island that once belonged to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and is now home to a luxury hotel complex in the middle of nowhere. Inquiries should be submitted in person (or via assistant).

Tavoro Falls © beigestellt

A similar procedure applies to those who apply for the legendary Villa 11 of the Seychelles retreat North Island. You can find it on a cliff far away from the already extensive grounds; or try to apply for the spectacular Treehouse within the private reserve of the South African Ngala Safari Lodge - it's actually more of a four-storey tower surrounded by acacia trees, a few kilometers away from the main house. Or do you feel more like a lonely lord on a British country estate? Then you should call the Newt in Somerset to see if the secluded Gate Lodge might be available.

andBeyond © beigestellt

Some of the same secrecy rules also apply to the sea. On some sailing ships of the high-end provider Wind Star, there's said to be a door marked Staff only. Hidden behind it, you'll find the only suite on the captain's deck. The prices, it is said mysteriously, fluctuate, and however much they vary, they are accepted in these spheres. Quiet luxury requires that you never, but really never, demand a discount. If you do, you run the risk of ending up on the hotel blacklist - and then you have to try your luck with mere mortals on Black Friday.

Text: Ulf Lippitz

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Winter 2023/24.

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