Brands are the best way to show off wealth, and there is a flood of new millionaires around the world who like showing off.
“The brands bought are actually more important than the level of money earned,” HSBC managing director Erwan Rambourg writes in his recent book, “The Bling Dynasty: Why the Reign of Chinese Luxury Shoppers Has Only Just Begun.”
Rambourg created a brand pyramid to show how major brands range in accessibility from everyday luxuries like Starbucks to ultra-high-end luxury like Graff diamonds. This is the luxury power ranking:
Brands or products associated with luxury of any kind can benefit from increasing affluence around the world.
Still, brands that become too accessible are less appealing to superrich buyers. Louis Vuitton, for instance, is considered a “brand for secretaries” by many wealthy Chinese.
“Louis Vuitton has become too ordinary,” a billionaire woman told China Market Research Group managing director Shaun Rein in 2011. “Everyone has it. You see it in every restaurant in Beijing. I prefer Chanel or Bottega Veneta now. They are more exclusive.”
Gucci is similarly suffering from a reputation problem, while bespoke goods and less-well-known European labels like Bottega Veneta are soaring.
High-net-worth consumers are particularly hungry for obscure luxury brands.
“I buy the brand Maison Ullens in Paris — it’s a French brand all made in Italy,” Sara Jane Ho, the founder of the elite Chinese etiquette school Institute Sarita, told Business Insider. “When I came back to China all my students were wondering where my clothes were from. Very naturally, my school became Maison Ullens point of sale simply because my students really love buying their stuff.”
Of course, bespoke items remain the ultimate luxury good.
“Whether it’s a bespoke Louis Vuitton trunk for Scotch and cigar fans or an exceptional stone at Graff, the ultra‐high‐end and bespoke category is a no‐limit segment where all the craziest dreams (and prices) come true,” Rambourg writes.