What’s Good For Qatar is Good For… Europe?

You’ve got to hand it to the government of Qatar. Over the past decade, they have transformed the capital of Doha into a regional artistic and cultural powerhouse through ambitious initiatives funded by a strong supply of cash reserves. In 2008 I.M. Pei’s austere Museum of Islamic Art opened to great fanfare, an event that marked the opening salvo in a long courtship of global luxury brands to base their Middle Eastern operations in Doha.

From May 1st – May 2nd, Italian luxury companies mingled with Qatar’s chic elite at the first ever Italian Haute Couture event at the St Regis Doha. Executives from Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Ferrari mingled with local officials, experts and designers with the goal of establishing Doha as the Middle Eastern center for global fashion.

In a time when Europe’s domestic markets are struggling under the weight of recession, the opportunities for global luxury brands in Qatar cannot be understated. As odd as it sounds, the saying “what’s good for Qatar is good for Europe” might soon enter the lexicon of European companies looking to grow.

But this focus on luxury also points to a sign of maturity in Qatar’s economy, a development that has broad implications for the Middle East as the tastes of its varied consumers continue to evolve—albeit slowly. This maturing trend is playing out all across the Middle East and North Africa as the region sifts through the Arab Spring’s aftermath. In a way, the market itself is the one picking the winners and the losers of last year’s uprisings. There’s still a long way to go, but the collective signs are already pointing to a way forward for the next generation of upwardly mobile—and highly fashionable—youth.