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Living in the Lap of Luxury

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Luxury-brand awareness is growing among China's super rich, who recognize 20 percent more of the lavish brands than they did last year, according to the Hurun Report, released on Tuesday.

The 2011 Best of The Best Survey, which interviewed 401 Chinese mainland millionaires, each with assets of more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million), said the super rich in China are developing more sophisticated tastes in luxury products.

"Chinese entrepreneurs are getting more and more sophisticated, discerning and confident in their personal style, and what they aspire to, as they try to turn new money into old money," said Rupert Hoogewerf, founder of the Hurun Report.

"The time for China to learn from Europe is over. People here are becoming better educated. They are getting to know luxury brands that are not even familiar to some Europeans," Hoogewerf said.

According to the 2010 Hurun Wealth Report, released in April, there are 875,000 multimillionaires and 55,000 billionaires in China, or 6.1 percent more millionaires and 7.8 percent more billionaires than last year.

This year, Louis Vuitton was again No 1 in the top ten overall most popular luxury brands among China's super rich. Hermes rose to second place from fourth last year, and Chanel stayed in third place. Cartier was fourth and Gucci remained in fifth.

Cartier was the No 1 overall jewelry brand for the sixth year running, and Patek Philippe the leading luxury watch brand for the third time.

Luxury watches and jewelry continue to rank as the top collectibles for the rich, according to 44 percent of respondents, up by 10 percent over last year. Meanwhile, more of the wealthy prefer collecting red wine to luxury cars, the survey found.

"People are getting better educated about the intrinsic value of the international brands, for example, the history and culture behind them," said Judy Chang, marketing and communication director of Cartier in China. "Rich people in China are moving toward international practices."

There is also a growing trend for the rich to add siheyuan, or courtyard houses, and old villas to their collection categories.

"Aristocrats in the United Kingdom live in castles; this is a way for the Chinese wealthy to show they are moving from being merely rich to aristocrats," Hoogewerf said.

The report also found that the Chinese rich like to travel abroad more and four out of five millionaires consider educating their children overseas.

The average age of the respondents with at least 100 million yuan was 39 years old, and those with at least one billion yuan was 43, both a year younger than last year. Their primary sources of wealth were real estate and manufacturing, the report said.

"Luxury brands have a very special place in China, as there is strong gift-giving culture here. Lots of people like to receive luxury brands to improve their status. It's a noticeable trend," Hoogewerf said.

(China Daily January 12, 2011)

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