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From super yachts to luxury sportscars, China's nouveau riches are finding new ways to show off, and enjoy their blazing success. In the third part of our special series on luxury consumption in China, Haidi Lun takes a look at what China's super-wealthy are splashing out on.
It's been called the democratization of luxury.
As China's spending power increases, luxury brands are in position to reap the richly profitable rewards. The Chinese luxury goods market is expected to grow by 35 percent in 2010 - and there's no slowdown in sight.
Rupert Hoogewerf, Publisher of Hurun Report said "I think we're just seeing the beginning of it all. I think the magic word that everybody is using is the growth of the middle class. And the middle class is defined as somebody who's got spending money of sort of 5,000 U.S. dollars. You've seen Shanghai just hit it, you're seeing Shenzhen, you're seeing Beijing - these cities just now past that mark. And you're seeing spending start to sort of go up very significantly."
"China's rapidly emerging middle class is developing a voracious appetite for luxury. With a spare few thousand yuan, Chinese shoppers can now get a piece of the luxury dream. Thanks to clever marketing and growing prosperity, luxury is more attainable now than ever. But what of true luxury? And what are China's biggest spenders really splashing out on?"
Louis Vuitton is one of the key proponents of the Asian luxury phenomenon.
Now with 35 stores in 26 Chinese cities, it's doing roaring trade.
With such widespread availability, luxury is fast becoming more common than ever. Yet, to many, luxury by its very definition is a yearning for the unique and unattainable.
Christopher Zanardi-Landi, president of Louis Vuitton China, says true luxury is all about catering to a client's every whim and fancy.
Christopher Zanardi-Landi, President of Louis Vuitton China said "We have a lot of special order pieces. Customers come in and ask us to make a one-off piece for them. It take normally between six months and one year to create, depending on how complicated it is. But the customer is able to completely personalize whatever piece they like. This piece here is a caviar trunk, which is very very special, because not only you have a place to keep your caviar, so your caviar rests in a dish here. And you put ice around the outside to keep your caviar cold."
In an age when designer products have become largely about mass appeal and the bottom line, one French luxury institution is resolutely staying true to tradition. Hermes is renowned for its refined leathergoods and spirit of craftsmanship, as well as the long waiting lists for its legendary handbags. Global CEO Patrick Thomas says he's sticking to an old-fashioned corporate strategy.
Patrick Thomas, CEO of Hermes said "The Chinese love to be moved by beauty, by feelings, by things like that. It's not 100 percent about product specification, rationality. It's also a very emotional world, the world where we are. It's a world where you adhere to a style, to beauty, to your definition of beauty - which is not the same as mine. So a brand is a world, a brand is a sort a little universe in which people feel well, they like it, they don't like it...they relate to the object."
From carrying the ultimate status symbol, to getting behind the wheel of one.
Largely unperturbed by the global financial crisis, China's become the engine of the luxury car sector. And luxury auto makers are pulling out all the stops to impress their lucrative Chinese clientele.
Eginardo Bertoli, Country Manager of Lamborghini, China said "They come in, they walk in the showroom. They discuss for a short while. They pay the car, and they drive out. Done, in minutes."
And affluent Chinese are fast gaining an appreciation for luxury lifestyle experiences. An unprecedented number of the country's upwardly mobile are indulging in 5-star international holidays all over the world. And some of them are returning home, with a willingness to spend their hard-earned millions on luxury super-yachts to rival any along the French Riviera.
Helene Liu, COO of Sunseeker said "So when they come back to China, they have built their business, and they're successful enough they can afford such a toy. So they bought it, they can afford this lifestyle."
Whether its the need for speed, or tranquility on the high seas - China's newly minted magnates have global luxury brands poised to satisfy their every conceivable desire.
Patrick Thomas said "We all aspire to better quality of life, we all aspire to better time, to better products, to ourselves being better. The process is part of human nature. As long as mankind is on this earth, there will be a search for excellence."
China's love affair with luxury will inevitably reach saturation. But until then, there's always another Louis Vuitton caviar trunk or limited edition Lamborghini, to satiate China's rising super-spenders.