We as a species have come a long way in refining the way we enjoy life, and the wealthy have elevated even that to lofty new levels. Whatever the common man can experience, the well-heeled can do with more pizzazz.
While the mark of affluence used to be defined by the ownership of exquisite items with exorbitant price tags, the luxury consumer has evolved. They not only know that an item is precious, but they also now know exactly why.
“Some things are best shared with friends and enjoyed in situ,” offers Christophe Bourrie, regional director of prestige business for Remy Martin Louis XIII. “To enhance our clients’ experience of our product, we want to bring them to where it all started and offer them access to some of the world’s most sought-after experiences. By leading our guests on a journey they’ll never forget, we are able to create lasting memories for them that will serve only to deepen their affinity with the brand.”
And so, in the face of the increasingly jaded upper crusters, various top-tier brands are following suit and focusing on reminding their favourite customers that luxury is more than just a commodity – it’s an experience.
TOASTS OF THE TOWN
There are plenty of wine labels out there with pretty illustrations showing off their grand mansions and estates. So you may be surprised to learn that champagne house Veuve Clicquot, famous for its picture- less egg yolk-yellow label, has a maison it doesn’t want just anyone knowing about.
Known as Hotel du Marc and located in the Champagne capital of Reims, the 174-year- old building underwent a full renovation from 2007 to 2011. With French architect Bruno Moinard at the helm
of the redesign, the building turned into a wonderland of history and modernity, showcasing works by artists such as Chiho Aoshima and Pablo Reinoso.
Despite its name, Hotel du Marc is not technically a hotel, as it is open only to special friends, business associates and family of the brand.
Things aren’t too shabby in the world of spirits, too. Remy Martin offers its friends “Louis XIII Experiences”. One of these is the Grollet Experience, which includes three days in France. The first night in Paris features a sumptuous dinner that finishes with guests sipping Louis XIII, while floating down the Seine. Guests will be taken to Cognac to visit the 290-year- old Remy Martin estate, and the trip concludes on the third day with a gala dinner in the uber- exclusive Louis XIII cellar.
Guests even have the option of extending this experience, such as by opting for a two-day tour of Bordeaux, with the chance to dine with owners of renowned wine cellars.
For something a little more exciting, there’s also the chance to walk down the red carpet at a Cannes Film Festival premiere on a two-day trip in Cannes, culminating in a dinner at whatever the hottest restaurant in town is at the moment.
Illustrious watch brands tend to sponsor sporting events that are in line with what their watches were used for in the past. So this has allowed the comparatively young Parmigiani to go ahead with something a little more unconventional: sponsoring the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Like any major music festival – and this is the second- largest jazz festival in the world and dubbed the “Rolls-Royce of music festivals” by Quincy Jones – it’s a massive event, lasting two weeks and drawing crowds of over 200,000 people. But you won’t have to squeeze with the masses if you’re a guest of Parmigiani.
Its VIP area spans a comfortable 970 sq ft and offers a stunning view of Lake Geneva, as well as the stage. Once the performances are over, guests will get to meet the artists, including musicians like guitarist John McLaughlin and composer Andre Manoukian. And to add to the fun, Parmigiani has also set up a hot-air balloon for the past seven years, to bring friends on a tour of the skies above the festival grounds.
Incidentally, Parmigiani is also a sponsor for the International Balloon Festival in Chateau-d’Oex, and has taken customers and guests on breath-taking hot-air balloon rides.
Football fans will want to get to know Hublot better, as the manufacture is the official timekeeper and watchmaker of the Fifa World Cup 2014.
For this year’s festivities, loyal patrons were invited to participate in a charity event and gala dinner hosted in Tokyo, graced by football legend Pele.
True petrolheads (with means) will never miss a chance to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The annual festival, held at the Goodwood grounds in West Sussex, England, features a race on an uphill course using everything from supercars to classic cars and motorbikes, some with over 100 years of history.
One of the reasons for the festival’s enduring popularity is the chance to get much closer to the track action than at most other motoring events, with only a few metres and some bales of hay separating guests from the cars. In fact, the crowds, amounting to over 100,000 people over three days, are so enthusiastic about the history of motor sports that they will happily turn up in period costumes to match their vintage vehicles.
Mega motoring events like this, of course, bring the industry’s giants and their guests along for the ride. Rolls- Royce has a Festival of Speed package that includes a two- night stay at a five-star hotel in London (with transfers in a Rolls-Royce of course), a tour of the Goodwood Plant – the headquarters, as well as design, manufacturing and assembly centre, for Rolls-Royce – followed by an exclusive dinner at Goodwood House.
The next day, guests are treated to a driving experience on the Goodwood Racecourse. Transfers to and from Goodwood are via helicopter – what else? Tours of the plant and racecourse are also available at its twice-annual event: the Home of Rolls-Royce.
Bentley has a similar offering for the festival goers, which includes a four-night experience that ends with a trip via private jet to the Paul Ricard circuit in France, where Bentley’s Continental GT3 will be racing in this year’s FIA Blancpain Series.
HOUSE OF CARDS
When it comes to treating VIPs right, credit-card companies are almost unrivalled. Since the physical product is technically just a piece of plastic, it’s all about the experience for these folks. For starters, clients are regularly invited to exclusive, extravagant gala dinners and events. Citibank’s Citigold Private Client and Ultima cardholders were invited to the bank’s Hong Kong Gold Cup held at the Shatin Racecourse earlier this year. Last year, at the re-launch of the Ultima card, the dinner that followed included appearances by local celebrities and champagne served by aerial acrobats. Nothing’s too much for a card that gives its members access to private islands as an advantage.
Of course, those presented with invitation-only credit cards have access to a mind- boggling array of perks.
Probably the most famous of these is the American Express Centurion, a titanium card that gives members a dedicated concierge, complimentary companion airline tickets, upgrades and hotel nights, as well as personal shoppers. Entire stores have even been shut down before, for the privilege of shopping alone.
There are also benefits tailored to different individuals’ lifestyles. Philanthropists will appreciate the Bank of America Accolades card, as it will match any donation up to US$2,500 (S$3,126) a year. The JPMorgan Palladium – which is really made of palladium and comes, rather comically, with a plastic spare – is a jet-setter’s dream, as it gives unlimited access to over 600 airport lounges, access to the world’s largest fleet of private jets, free first- class upgrades and companion tickets on British Airways.