Bugatti-branded Damac villas in Dubai more than just adding a badge

Bugatti’s alliance with Damac to create houses bearing the luxury car maker’s name should not merely be viewed as the Italian brand “putting a name” to the project, says Bugatti’s brand manager Massimiliano Ferrari.

Although Damac already had agreements in place to build branded villas and apartments with the fashion houses Fendi and Versace, as well as deals with the movie studio Paramount and The Trump Organization, Mr Ferrari argues that the deal to create the first Bugatti-branded villas in the world is in keeping with plans by the company’s founder, Ettore Bugatti, “to create an ultra-luxury brand lifestyle”, says Mr Ferrari.

“He was a visionary. I call him a Leonardo da Vinci, because he created many things,” said Mr Ferrari. “Some happened – the automotive is one example. But he also did the first TGV – the engine was a Bugatti engine. He was designing aeroplanes, yachts – many, many things, including a pasta machine.”

Mr Ferrari explained that Bugatti came from a family of artists. His father, Carlo, studied at the Brera Academy of Arts in Milan and was an architect and furniture designer – an ebonista, who created wooden furniture pieces. His brother, Rembrandt, studies at the same school and was a bronze sculptor.

“There is 100 years of history we are taking in a modern way,” said Mr Ferrari.

Mr Ferrari has been in charge of extending the reach of the two prestige brands owned by parent company Volkswagen – Bugatti and Bentley. To date, collaborations have included Bentley handbags, eyewear, cufflinks, wallets and a collaboration with the watchmaker Breitling.

Bugatti also has handbags, watches, wallets, cases and clothing lines, including suits and outerwear.

Mr Ferrari agreed his first deal for branded villas with the Kleindienst Group, which will build Dh55 million Bentley-branded homes on Sweden Islands at Nakheel’s The World islands.

Damac, meanwhile, is building Dh36m Bentley Villas overlooking the Trump World Golf Club as part of its 55 million square feet Akoya Oxygen scheme in Dubai.

The seven-bedroom villas were unveiled at the Cityscape Global exhibition in September, with most of the focus given to the glass box in the centre of each one which serves as an elaborate display case for owners to show off their Bugatti cars.

Mr Ferrari is keen to point out some of the subtler features, such as the “codes” and detailing of Bugatti cars that are reflected in the villas, starting with a sun shade in the shape of the grille of the Bugatti Veyron.

He said that the world of fashion has borrowed such “codes” and lines shaping appearances from the high-end automotive market for years.

“We said: ‘We own this code, we created them and we don’t use them. We’ve had Ralph Lauren and other designers using them. So we said let’s use them ourselves.

These designs – and accompanying ranges of spectacular furniture made from hand-stitched leather and carbon fibre (one chair at the Cityscape stand cost $20,000) – will help to create some of the exclusivity that Bugatti is looking for from this project. For instance, one of the carbon fibre desks currently being developed takes two years to mould. “And carbon fibre is not easy to shape unless you are a Formula One company,” Mr Ferrari said.

Another distinguishing factor will be that Damac is limiting the number of Bugatti-branded villas it is selling to just eight.

“Someone asked me what happens if we sell all eight,” said the Damac Properties managing director Ziad El Chaar. “There is always a market for eight more, but we would not launch the same design – to keep the exclusivity of the first eight.”

Mr Ferrari insists that Bugatti owners “are very interested” in the villas.

“I showed it to one of our customers when it was in development and he thought it was an amazing project.

”The Middle East in general and Dubai in particular is one of the top markets for us. We have many, many customers here. Not only here, we have international customers who have properties in Dubai. This product is very attractive to them.”

John Dalton, a director of the London School of Public Relations, said he found the idea of Bugatti-branded villas in Dubai “initially unsettling”.

“But upon further reflection, the idea seemed congruent with the core brand and actually quite a logical and appealing brand extension. It may, however, be somewhat male-focused, as one might expect for Bugatti.

“There are always risks inherent in such brand extension strategies, the principal risk being diluting the heritage and pushing the extension too far away from the core product,” he said.

However, he added that there was “a logical connection” between luxury houses and cars, and that in the case of Bugatti it is logical that if you appreciate the craftsmanship of one, you were likely to appreciate the other.

“What is clear is that people want exclusivity, and Bugatti-branded villas are [a] very good example of such strategies.”

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