Dragon Week NYC provides shopping extravaganza for wealthy Chinese

Dragon Week NYC, a seven-day luxury trip for wealthy Chinese, just hit Manhattan Sunday. Named for the Chinese astrology Year of the Dragon, the adventure overflowed with spectacular exclusive events and shopping opportunities, reported WWD.

The affair included a private tour of the J.Mendel atelier led by Gilles Mendel and an exclusive performance by Lang Lang, an internationally recognized pianist, held at Montblanc’s Madison Avenue store. Linda Fargo, the senior vice president of Bergdorf Goodman’s fashion office, hosted an exclusive fashion show at the boutique, complete with cocktail shindig and dinner. The affair was attended by Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Naeem Khan, Zac Posen, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, VBH’s Bruce Hoeksema and Peter Som.

“It was a learning experience for everyone,” Christine Lu, a co-founder of Affinity China, the firm that organized the excursion, said to WWD. “The story is not finished yet.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put in an appearance at the Empire State Building during a party and lighting ceremony. The top of the building transformed into gold and orange hues in honor of Chinese New Year. Fashion labels celebrated by holding privileged shopping affairs – including Ralph Lauren, Piaget and Coach – and Estée Lauder held a reception at its international headquarters, hosted by the label’s style and image director, Aerin Lauder.

But despite all the extravagant events, fewer Chinese shoppers than expected ended up taking part. Affinity China, a concierge service for traveling wealthy Chinese, reported that 300 RSVPed. Many Mainlanders had plans to attend, but abruptly canceled owing to visa issues (the United States require interviews that can take 30 days to schedule) or a desire to spend Chinese New Year with their loved ones. Some events, such as the Montblanc pianist event and a private dinner at Yue Sai Kan's house, were packed.

“This was our kickoff for our strategy, and I think it was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Bergdorf Goodman general manager Bill Brobston. “I think we will continue to get good press here and in China. We made a lot of friends, and that is a very important start for an area of the world we are just not that familiar with. I think it was great.”

Several of those who participated were United States residents, often second-generation Chinese attending colleges in the U.S., and some were not Chinese at all.

“(We) had the impression that it would be people coming to the States for the first time,” said Daniel Annese, Estée Lauder’s senior vice president and global general manager of market development. “I would say overall it has been a fantastic event.”

Fashion labels, however, appeared unconcerned by the lower-than-expected attendance. Instead, they seemed to want to create images of Chinese shoppers hobnobbing with celebrities at their stores, hoping that attendees would share their trip with their Mainlander family and friends. Many Chinese media companies documented the excursion.

“It was never about how many sales you can bring in for us,” said Affinity’s Lu. “It was about how can [brands] position themselves to a demographic that is starting to travel the world, who are coming into stores and brands don’t know how to reach them. Word of mouth is going to get out. Honestly many of the Chinese did not know who these brands are. No one had heard of J.Mendel. No one had heard of Bergdorf Goodman.”

A great deal of designers, especially those with a small or zero presence in China, maintained they participated in Bergdorf’s affair – which was attended by more than 70 shoppers – for the chance to interact with Chinese shoppers and spread the word about their labels in China.

“It is intriguing for me to understand the prospects of the business [in China] and for them to understand who I am and what I do,” Khan declared during the Bergdorf cocktail party. “The media and the press will carry this forward from today’s event that there is a Naeem Khan that exists and who does these kind of things. I just believe that is how I build my brand.”

For those who showed up, there appeared to be some surprise that such an experience – which did not include tour buses full of Chinese shoppers purchasing huge quantities of luxury items – even was on the radar.

“I think in the future, when I tell my rich Chinese friends, I will have a lot of rich friends who want to come and will be interested in this kind of event,” Lina Li, a 36-year-old from a city in inland China, said. “They want to feel good. I am going to tell them if you want to experience a new lifestyle and feel privileged and experience some local culture and have someone to take care of you but not like a regular tour, then this will be the best thing to do.”

Affinity has scheduled similar vacations later in 2012 to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

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LadyLUX via WWD

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