Courting the Ultrarich With Chateaus and Chefs


EPERNAY, France — In rolling vineyards underneath rosy skies, a four-course dinner by two Michelin-starred cooks was held in entrance of one in all the grandest 19th-century properties in Champagne this week. The tennis star Roger Federer was there, alongside Natalie Portman, Kate Moss and Uma Thurman. They sat at the desk of Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France.

They, and about 100 different company, had all steamed in from Paris aboard a specifically commandeered Orient Express practice earlier that day for the unveiling of the Château de Saran, the centerpiece of the Moët & Chandon empire.

Built in 1801 for Jean-Rémy Moët, a grandson of the model’s founder, the chateau has undergone a five-year, multi-million-euro refurbishment venture. Officially, the renovations have been touted as a 150th anniversary celebration of the firm’s signature nonvintage Brut Champagne.

Unofficially, they’ve allowed Moët Hennessy, the wines and spirits division of the luxurious items firm LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, to advance one other, extra bold agenda: sustaining an aura of super-exclusivity in an increasingly inclusive luxury industry.

So this might mean an oligarch’s daughter who hasn’t spent a dime yet — but might. Or an airline or hospitality group that buys 10,000 cases per month. A celebrity ambassador could get the call, as could a wealthy businessman for whom $2 million a year on wines is still not enough.

This approach is at stark odds with another trend: the apparent democratization of luxury, embraced by some leading brands.

When it comes to retail experiences, the French jewelry house Boucheron raised the stakes in January when it reopened its Place Vendôme flagship. The Hôtel de Nocé now features a large one-bedroom apartment with Eiffel Tower views, where only V.I.C.s, or “Very Important Clients,” are invited to stay overnight (served 24/7 by a butler from the Ritz hotel, just across the square).

Brunello Cucinelli, the cashmere philosopher king who made a fortune selling the Slow Movement — a philosophy of putting the brakes on life — alongside $3,000 sweaters, has invited his most valued customers and investors to his medieval hill town of Solomeo, Italy, to enjoy homemade pasta and olive oil with his family. Yoox Net-a-Porter offers its Global Ambassadors and E.I.P.s (“Extremely Important People”) front-row seats and backstage access at fashion weeks, meet-and-greets with high-profile creative directors, and intimate tea parties with its buying directors (the level of access is dictated by just how much they buy).

The company has said that about 3 percent of clients generate 40 percent of total sales, which were over €2 billion for fiscal 2017, the last reported results before the company was acquired by the Swiss luxury group Richemont.

According to Lucie Greene, the worldwide director of the Innovation Group at the creative agency Wunderman Thompson, consumer tastes have evolved significantly in recent years, particularly among the superrich, for whom time is the greatest luxury.

“Some just want to curate a specific identity of themselves on social media, or show off flashy status symbols,” Ms. Greene said. “However, many also want to feel culturally or spiritually enlightened by their purchases. That’s more likely to come from an experience than it is from a watch or a handbag.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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