Meanwhile Dolce & Gabbana, which used to display huge logos on its watches and shoes, has sensed this change and put out an extremely understated new collection.
The Chinese value scarcity. As Trinity's Wong adds, the super elite "have moved beyond expensive but widely available brands to names that are associated with scarcity."
Such labels would include Hermès, which as this paper from INSEAD outlines, "Even when it is unable to meet market demand for its iconic Kelly bag, Hermès prefers not to expand production."
And because China is not a place where environmental concerns are high on the agenda, limited-edition designer bags made out of rare animal skins are always a hit, adds French. If a designer retailer "found the very last Yangtze River alligator and made a handbag out of it, this high-up group would want it," he says.
They buy financial products sensibly. From "I kill you later" to "make my money last, please".
Before the autumn 2008 stock market crash, a wickedly complex product called an "accumulator" was sold widely by Hong Kong private banks to wealthy mainland Chinese customers. The accumulator gained the nickname, "I kill you later." It was a highly leveraged structured derivative whose value depended on the price of an underlying security. When the security rose, the accumulator rose more. And when it fell, losses were extremely heavy. The Bao Fa Hu licked their wounds and stopped buying such things.
"The appetite for heavily leveraged products is much reduced, " says Keith Pogson, Ernst & Young's managing partner for financial services across the Asia Pacific region."The wealthy Chinese have become a lot more sophisticated, in the most part. Since the 2008-9 financial crisis, this appetite for exotic products backed away."
Popular right now, Pogson says, is the "discretionary mandate." This is a product that simply involves the rich person handing his entire nest egg to an investment manager in a private bank, who does his best to invest it broadly and sensibly and not to lose it.
China's one-child policy has also influenced the move to sensible banking, French says. "The early entrepreneurs are getting old. They have only one child. If that child is not interested in or incapable of continuing the business, you have to list or sell the business and stash the money somewhere it can grow to keep your family rich for two to three generations."
The leadership shift in China is convincing the wealthy elite to manage their money better too, French adds. "There is a sense that the period in China of just being able to accumulate vast sums of money is coming to an end. Someone in the party might even take your business away."
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And they are -- very slowly -- starting to sip American wines. Demand for Chateau Lafite has been feverish in China for several years. And Chinese counterfeiters have been doing a brisk trade in "Chateau Lafake" too. Still, green shoots of diversity are apparent. This paper from Wharton outlines how the Chinese are beginning to sample US wines.