China’s rich are forking out seriously big bucks on experiences that will bring their mental wealth up to the same affluence as their bank balance. The ability to simply have is no longer enough as the rich spend absurd amounts—accounting 55 percent of the global luxury spend—on experiences that will improve their intellectual finesse and allow them to talk the talk as well as walk the walk.
The idea that one cannot buy class may be an outdated theory as wealthy mainlanders in China have developed a strong interest in learning about the luxury they surround themselves with. The highest of the high end companies such as jewellery maker Van Cleef & Arpels, artistic auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s as well as fine wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd, are cashing in on these desires for exclusivity and greater cultural intellect.
Van Cleef & Arpels chief executive Nicolas Bos announced earlier this month that the L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels Hong Kong edition would be offering an exclusive two-week course on jewellery making at PMQ in Aberdeen Street. Anyone who can afford the potential 6,200 HKD price tag will be taught “how to sketch designs, identify gemstones, polish gold or set a stone”. Scheduled to run from October 16 to November 1 this year, numbers are limited to 12 per class and allow students to take their design away with them at the end as well as a certificate to allow for maximum bragging. Making this even more exclusive is the fact that this is only the second time this experience has travelled outside Paris. Touché Van Cleef & Arpels.
Also jumping on the bandwagon is Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd, whose venture plays into the hands of China’s booming wine market, insiders of which have only admitted their lack of vino knowledge. They are following suit by offering their Chinese clients a winemaking experience in Bordeaux.
The wannabe specialists will travel to Chateau Lynch-Bages “to make their own vintages and can try out every step of vinification, from grape-picking to bottling, including designing a customised logo and bottle label”.
BBR has already signed up 12 wine lovers. Depending on the grapes and the barrel wood one chooses, the experience costs between £6,900 (HK$90,800) and £12,500 for a barrel, not including the cost of travelling to France.
The package taps into a desire for something completely unique, which is the ultimate luxury, Berry Bros & Rudd sales director Adam Bilbey said.
As well as learning ropes as far as wine sniffing, tasting and spitting, is that fact that at the end they can of course offer ’round their very own bottle of wine. Money can’t buy you love, but it can sure do a decent job at making you feel pretty special.
The luxury experiences have grown 14 percent this year, trumping the the luxury goods spend growth which only increased by 11 percent. “The passion and appetite for learning in Hong Kong and mainland China is incredible to see. We have clients who started buying wine a year ago who now have a deep understanding and knowledge of fine wine” Bilbey said.
The Chinese interest in learning about the luxury they lavish in far exceeds that of the Europeans and Americans. Way to go for conforming to the arrogant and dumb stereotype.
By Sophie Regan