Let me give you a somewhat disappointing fact, most of the high fashion brands are actually never bought by ultra high net worth individuals.
About 1 – 2% of wealthy like to spend their cash on luxury items of any kind. As a statistical majority, most people who get rich in their lifetimes are predominantly frugal.
An extremely small fraction of those who can afford it actually shop for high end brands, and among those who do, the brands are very different than what the mainstream would have you believe. The most expensive clothing brand in the world has until this year never ran a single ad. And most of those you’ll find on our list also hardly ever run ads. This is because only a few minority need know about them. This is how they like it, this is how they prefer it. They are if you like to put it in layman terms the snob of brands clan.
A person earning a million USD a year we don’t think would qualify as ultra just yet, even if they have a passion for super fine things.
Ok, how is this point useful?
“So there’s this rich guy here showing stuff most people can’t afford”, how “nice” of him . If that’s on the tip of your tongue, We can understand, but it’s really not our goal. We are relaying the experience of people who earned all their pennies and who have been around the block to have done every stupid thing in the book in this segment.
We are hoping to convince you that you should become immune to branding and learn to discern solely based on merit. And a few tricks of the trade:
* Don’t become a regular customer to any pricier than average brand until you are at a level where you are truly unaffected by what you buy. Let’s say what your family spends in a year on luxury is at most 5% of your after tax pay, at most, ideally not even that.
* Buying status is a dangerous never ending game no matter how affluent you are, and if you “exceed” your peer group in “bling” it’s just a short term kind of “fun”, but in the long run it only places useless strains on relationships. In a way it’s like making jokes at someone else’s expense, that never ends well. Say you met an ultra high net worth guy on the street, do you think he leads the conversation with “Hi, I’m Steve, I earn £10 mil a year”? Similarly, maybe status symbols which lack the quality and financial reason behind them are just misleading and should be avoided. Some will look “up” to your Chanel gear, Steve is looking at you thinking you could probably do with a bit of financial discipline and lessons in buying quality over marketing.
* The truly wealthy educated people don’t play the bigger pocket game, instead you talk to your friends to discuss preference not remind that you are x% more affluent. If you want to go to a place where no one truly cares one second about how much or how little you have, go to Eton (the UK version of St Paul’s School in the US).
* The wealthy acknowledge the fundamental notion of human preference uncorrelated to wealth. E.g I can tell my friend I bought an expensive suit and he can tell me about his new Ferrari, none of us would ever spend as much in the vertical of the other, but it’s great to learn what things cost on a statistical basis, feeling bad over what one can or cannot currently afford doesn’t help. Money is just as an important of a fact as the colour of the car, e.g. it’s one of the many things, but no matter how rich you are, odds are your respect for money is very deep and you are more frugal than the majority of people, in the sense that you will only ever spend big money in a category that you truly care about and you know will bring you the most benefit.
* None of this is universally true, earning money doesn’t buy you packs of all the world’s wisdom, or taste, so there are as always exceptions to all rules, especially related to what brands people buy and so on.
The high end brands
The following are luxury brands who exceed the “I can save up” threshold, and a single shopping session can trivially cost several times the median yearly pay-check without you even trying too hard, so it’s impossible to be fake wealthy and shop here. For those who really like to spend, which make up less than 2% of the wealthy population, here are some of the most popular brands:
By very very far the most expensive brand, the median price of a coat is above $5000, and can reach $200K. This brand is unique as you can also shop other notable brand gear from its billionaire shop. Offering both bespoke items and ready to wear ranging from banal clothing to outrageous items such as embellished human skulls. You’ll find almost everything under the sun that is possible to buy here, consider this the Amazon of Luxury.
This is the supreme “connoisseur brand”, most people buy fashion for the status that it gives them, customers in this store buy for their very high taste palette, and to be recognised only by other customers, so it’s got a private club mentality. Still a sense of self fulfilment, but more niche if you will. People who buy those outrageously priced coats generally have more of a collector mentality than anything else, and the secluded nature of the brand is what gives the brand its appeal. Indeed the brand offers membership as part of its shopping experience which gives only members access to discounts and updates of new items, a VIP solid metal status symbol card, a black master card, plus access to its ever green magazine. Members can also share content in a social network setting plus introduce other ultra wealthy to the club to earn monetary rewards. This membership again has an eye watering fee range of $12,000- $60,000 a year.
An incredible soothing, smooth and beautiful collection of items, with no visible branding. The very best customer service of any brand in the world. Will repair a coat years after you’ve bought it, free of charge. They cultivate and reward loyalty by diminishing cost of ownership. Les bon gout is well at home in Loro Piana boutiques. Their collection always feels like an art museum.
A rare fashion show, after being acquired by LVHM in 2013 the face of the brand has changed the model of the brand and their appetite for marketing has gradually increased.
Kiton is a lot like Loro Piana in many ways, and specialise in ultra high end fabrics, though a touch more modern and less conservative. Their collection is not easily mistaken for Gucci’s new season for sure, but it’s a hint more modern. It’s still selling the same secluded vibe targeted at very private truly wealthy individuals who spend time thinking how their next few generations of offspring will do in life, not about revving their Ferrari in the high street.
Used to be better, now selling low quality items with H on them, a brand with history. Their iconic bags remain a favourite with the ladies in the really high leagues, as they remain untouchable to people who “save up”. While Loro Piana truly does or used to until recently be an homage to quality, Hermes fakes exclusivity by creating artificially low supply of their iconic items(e.g the Kelly bag), so when you finally drop £16k on something that cost them £400 to make you are thankful for the privilege.
Some of their luxury home items are more worthwhile. Clothing is most of the time just money set on fire, homeware and decorative items won’t depreciate as much and it’s more common that many generations of your offspring will enjoy the benefits of art than of clothing, depending on how well you look after things.
A brand with a long standing tradition of shoe craftsmanship, with a £1400 starting price for a ready to wear pair, that can go up to £15k for a bespoke crocodile piece. Their items are very beautiful, classical and timeless, and their iconic shoes are nothing more than variants of pieces they made for Marcel Proust, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Alain Delon and so on. Many many famous artists lend Berluti their patronage, as their items are not also stunning, but the service level is to die for. Soles, recolouring, waxing you name it, whatever you need will be done for you for free forever, so your loyalty to the brand is rewarded.
Most of their leather items are superb, though extremely hard to own as they are highly sensitive to water damage. We have heard of clients taking their shoes off an running bare footed through the rain with their shoes covered inside their jackets to avoid water damage. It’s probably hilarious but not so much considering the price.
They also got acquired by Louis Vuitton causing them to produce lower and lower quality items, and sell at obscene margins for no apparent reason, including £100 shoe trees that are no longer included with most of your purchases. Mr Arnault is trying hard to go out of business, and We are afraid he will succeed in a decade or so.
Charvet, which is like a historical version of Brooks Brothers, before it was all mainstream and mass produced.
A very blue blooded brand, and most of the people infatuated with this brand have at least 5 forenames. It produces ultra high quality pieces of out Paris, little respect is given to price per say. Their shirts and ties are very famous, and very popular in the older moneyed circles especially. Retains its boutique, family owned, secluded, refined luxury, non corporate appeal of nearly 2 centuries ago when its first shop opened in Place Vendome. It’s the kind of image other brands like to sway you with, but obviously something like Chanel is as far removed quality wise from Charvet as Chrysler is from Rolls Royce.
A more modern, 40% cheaper version of Loro Piana. They differ as their designs are not conservative and they don’t use 100% natural fiber. Even watching the brand video makes your blood gradually change colour from red to blue, with subtle voices and charming Italian with the Flower Duet playing the background.
Yves Salomon, where coats can easily go up to £100k for Sable, a rare long fur considered to be the highest and most exclusive. Highly effective if you want to really show the world just how much cash you can blow, or if you want to increase your weekly exercise by means of PETA activists chasing you.
Cornelliani, business attire. For the 30 year old and above successful man in every trade, who appreciates sartorial finesse. People who watched Money Never Sleeps in their youth that heard Gordon Gecko say “You can’t come in here looking like that kid” and took it to heart.
Facconable, business attire, combined with a bit of French Riviera chic and La Dolce Vita vibes. Yacht ready attire included. For the dandy in you, while attending the Cannes Festival, includes elements of lifestyle clothing.
Brioni, business, corporate. Ultra over priced, uses a lot of low quality materials and has become a bit Prada-esque. £6000 for a 60% wool 40% cashmere coat is the last item We remember looking at in their stock, which is a joke even at this tier.
Historically it does have a reputation for impeccably tailored suits, and there are many many top executives in the world who wear nothing else.
Ermegildo Zegna, Probably the most humanely priced of the lot, produces quality suits, and strikes a note with many customers ranging from well to do lawyers to bankers and so on. Other brands fit in here, Scabal, Saville Row tailors, and so on, there are a few boutique suit makers. Has enlarged their repertoire to include all sorts of fun lifestyle things.
Stefano Ricci, a very Italian Mafia kind of lavish, retains some of the 70s power broker/Godfather style image. If you are attending a meeting of the five families in New York, this is what you want to be wearing.
It feels as if the head designer was a member of the Corleone family who went out of the family business and into attire, but image aside the price/quality combination is not lacking in Stefano, a lot of their items use the most lavish and expensive exotic leathers available, and they don’t expect their customers to be what you would call price sensitive.
We have walked into a fair share of expensive boutiques, so an £18,000($22,000) handmade crocodile belt is no element of novelty.
The price is “justified” as it has a diamond eagle in the middle, because as the head of the Corleone family you wouldn’t show up to “work “ in anything less would you?
Patek Phillipe, a Loro Piana of watches, focused on art form and quality product, with no respect for price. When you think about $100,000 USD, you may think you’ve won the lottery. The proceeds would barely get you past an entry to medium level Patek watch. They are more justifiable as assets, vintage and rare watches retain their value and can be sold, unlike high fashion, so you are financially smarter buying a $100k Patek than say a $5k Chanel bag, if you know what to look for.
As the saying goes, “you never truly own a Patek Philippe, you are merely looking after it for the next generation”.
So what does luxury mean to these people?
If you can truly abstract through the details, you will notice all these brands fundamentally sell the same thing: exclusivity through supreme quality of materials, perfectionism, craftsmanship, seclusion, and the absence of time. That really does capture the imagination of people in this league, they are often united in an unhealthy level of expectations and perfectionism, and these brands are creating a world around them that reflects their inner nature.
Ford and Toyota are the most popular car brands, Mercedes follows.
Bentleys, Ferraris etc, are again very rare hobbies that pertain very specifically to sports car enthusiasts, not all rich people have the eye sight and coordination of Michael Schumacher, and most prefer laid back or quality comfortable driving. A “Lambo” feels like driving a cardboard box, it’s super fun but you would loathe the day you ever drive that in a city like London.
The Mercedes S Class is probably the only car more common in this segment, as it can be bought used for around £35k 2 years old, and it costs £1k – £1.5k per year to run. It’s a low maintenance item that ticks the boxes for a lot of people, and it’s likely the most common car in neighbourhoods like Knightsbridge and so on. Ferraris and Veyrons stand out, but next time you go, count the S classes, there’s 100 of them for every sports car.
Waste is not acceptable
Price leads to a fundamental distinction between high end buyers and others, people who shop in these stores do not throw away. Ever. Instead they think of how many generations a coat can last for. Seriously, a lot of people especially the older money inherit most of their wardrobe and feel no need to express status by wasting more on the newest Prada pieces. Waste is generally a fundamental distinction of 2nd generation wealthy, e.g the children of those who just became rich in their lifetimes. The parents themselves are extremely rational, but the children aren’t always like that. Wasting money in old moneyed circles is pure sacrilege.
That’s why looking after your clothing is some sort of sacred ritual. The perfect amount of cashmere soap, hand washed. The fortnightly nourishments of all your leather shoes performed with great pleasure. You’re not buying a H&M coat which you will throw away 1 year from now, you are buying in hope that you will wear the shoes for the remainder of your life, and hopefully generations beyond can also enjoy them.
And if the brands are truly good, they know this is how their customers think. Service, cleaning, alterations, replacing shoe soles or whatever kind of repair you can think of, can be free (although not so much these days) from the moment you buy to the end of your life. Nothing is wasted and the cost of owning an outrageously expensive piece it outweighed by a cheaper cost of ownership and longevity of the item.
This is only true if you are loyal to the brand and making the shop clerk your personal friend will also help tremendously. Look after people and they will look after you. The biggest irony? Odds are on an average in 30 years most people will have paid more than These wealthy people on shoes, they just think they are being sensible and frugal because their upfront cost is low.
We have seen people at low levels of income who seriously frown at some of splurging choices of the super wealthy, yet they happily pay £100 on a new pair of Nikes every 2 – 3 months, and they replenish everything yearly: shirts, coats, trousers t-shirts etc. Most of the ultra wealthy haven’t shopped for most categories in years, the items They bought in 2010 are still in perfect condition almost 7 years later, and hopefully long beyond. So over a 3 – 4 year period it costs less to buy at the highest level, bar the truly outrageously priced collector pieces, than it may cost to be “seemingly” frugal, as long as you are extremely sure you take great care of what you buy. For men it can be cost effective to think like this, for ladies who constantly welcome change, it may be slightly financially dangerous, speaking with the experience of someone sustaining this “continued appetite for novelty”.
Cost of ownership > buy price. Expensive things cost a lot to maintain
Sports cars have horrendous mpgs and more importantly enormous running costs, £30k per year and up, which will scare away 99.99% of all those who can trivially afford it. No disrespect to any petrol heads intended, if you truly enjoy the driving and have the means to indulge, have at it, our argument is financial. It’s important to understand that as a statistical rule the kind of person to buy a Ferrari or similar is a) too rich to care or b) born to privilege. Best case, category c) is people who are well off without having tens of millions, but they have saved up for their retirement, put their kids through college, e.g done their bit in life and they can afford to dispose of that cash.
It sounds super counter intuitive, but those people who seemingly “have the means” have lived so far below their means and avoided liabilities their entire lives, money rarely changes something so deeply ingrained.
The economical reality of the fashion business
High fashion brands like Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Prada, are very rarely a favourite of the most affluent citizens as they are very poor quality. They have more to do with Wallmart than to do with the companies of 100 years ago in the lifetime of their patrons and founders. All they care about is profit at your cost, because they have learned people just buy because it’s expensive and they feel there is status and prestige “perceived” by owning these items. Usually, the real association is a lot of credit card debt, which can be harmful to anyone’s financial well being. Anyone who tells you Chanel produces quality is severely misguided.
If you think a single real self made ultra high net worth individual will bin something worth over £100 without looking at it 5 times and probably feeling bad for days, you’d be dead wrong, no one becomes that well off without a deep value and respect for money. Thankfully life is so insanely busy you need to forget everything about “yesterday” very quickly, which is sometimes a blessing in disguise.
About brands like Gucci, Burberry etc We don’t even know a lot as we’ve never owned anything from them, but We go by the words of a store manager who changed jobs from Gucci to one of the real high end ones. We don’t mean it the derogatory way, this is a verbatim copy: “I went from dealing with drug dealers and people who save up to people who have so much money £5000 for a shirt is like shopping at Zara for them”.
The one trench coat We bought as a gift for a lady from Burberry is unwearable after one year, the famous quality English coats are part of the same folklore red phone boots are, they are part of history.
Chanel is another level of overpriced garbage, literally there isn’t a single trace of high quality material in anything they produce. Their “dreamy” bags are at best lamb skin, yet their interior is fully cheap textile or synthetic. Only one or two of their items have leather interior, which is beyond ridiculous for a silly bag priced more than a decent car. It is one of our ultimate ambitions in business to one day have a marketing department as good as theirs, because their ability to generate so much revenue for overselling items that are so incredibly bad is astonishing.
When you’re that successful, you want to be invisible
Odds are the really wealthy also don’t want highly branded items which these fashion labels specialise in. They are seriously more worried about security than about impressing some random passer by that they will never see again.
These brands are more prone to sell to emerging middle to upper class who want to come across a certain way. In fact if you see it in a magazine, it’s probably not that high end, sorry to disappoint anyone reading this.
Very rich people value their time a lot, are extremely loyal to a single sales person for decades, and to the same brands. On occasion we attend private functions organised by such brands for loyal clientele, the richer the people at the table the more you have to be in the know to realise their seemingly cheap jacket is a £25k Vicuna piece. Once you develop the true eyesight and sense for touching fabrics and you know how quality cashmere looks like from a mile away, these people become easy to spot. Shopping for quality is first and foremost a tactile experience, more than a visual one.
The secret to spotting a billionaire in Belgravia is to look out for someone wearing super fine fabrics getting into an old Volvo. The more frugal people are generally the wealthier they become, so if someone steps out of Eaton Square in a Volvo, watch out, it could be a Slaylebrity Rich List member, and those people couldn’t care less about named brands.
If you have 55 million GBP lying around(70 million USD), you too can dress like these non Chalant people 🙂
There’s a secluded world for these brands
More over, if you’re that loyal to a brand, you won’t go to the store anymore, as soon as the new collection is out your friend the shop clerk will have deep knowledge of not only your taste but also the taste of anyone else you buy for. They will often pick everything they think you will enjoy, send it over, and you just send back what you don’t want. Harrods for instance does private appointments for top clients where you are taken to a private suite and things are brought to you, so you don’t really hop from shop to shop anymore.
The old money rule says it must take someone at least 5 minutes to realise how well dressed you are. We once confused for a street beggar a man wearing an outfit with, retail price around £22,000.
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