Hey, Big Spender: The Exclusive VIP Perks Of Luxury Fashion Brands' Top Clients
“It is adorable of Chanel to be spoiling me with surprise presents on my birthdays,” says Lianne Lam, one of the label’s top clients in Hong Kong. On her most recent birthday, the French house sent a pair of sofa cushions accompanied by chocolates and flowers. If she stops at Chanel’s Peninsula hotel boutique during her birthday month, staff members bring out a cake, sing and serve tea.
The maison also sends personalised gifts for other occasions throughout the year, like Mother’s Day, Christmas and New Year. These may be flowers or cakes or not-for-sale fashion items, but such gifts are never repetitive, says the Tatler Lister. “They show [Chanel’s] love for their loyal customers.”
For Lianne, the label’s 2012/13 Cruise show at Versailles was an unforgettable experience.
“It was a public holiday and the visit was specially arranged for Chanel guests,” she says. “We were given an exclusive tour to areas that weren’t open to the public normally. Imagine viewing the palace’s hundreds of rooms with a private guide without crowds.”
This kind of personal attention, along with curated trips to see the runway shows and enjoy behind-the-scenes visits with the designers, are some of the ways in which luxury brands make their most loyal customers feel special.
“We sit in the best spots on the front rows, spoiled by the opportunity to be the first to view the new collections of the season,” Lianne says. “Of course, Chanel is always generous with its souvenir gift bags for guests.”
“I’m 5’2” [157cm] and height really, really makes a big difference for me,” says actress and artist Heart Evangelista. “So I collect Christian Louboutin shoes.” The Philippine Tatler regular often receives bags or other accessories from the design house, usually accompanied by a note or a sketch. “That makes it extra memorable.”
Evangelista met Christian Louboutin when he visited the Philippines, and they eventually became good friends. “It’s nice to discover how all these big-time designers are very humble; they welcome you to their home. He even cooked truffle pasta for me and some friends. You know, it was beyond something that you would ever think of.”
“Dior does a lot of gracious, thoughtful stuff,” says Wendy Yu. The house engraved her name on a bottle of perfume and also gave her a bag with her initials on it. Each year for the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Shanghai-based venture capitalist receives special mooncakes courtesy of Dior.
On a grander scale, many design houses stage elaborate events in far-flung locales, from runway shows in Capri to jewellery exhibitions in New York, and these present an opportunity to create unique experiences for their best customers. Yu recalls going to Cannes a few years ago for Dior’s Cruise show, held at an architecturally spectacular house.
“It was a three-day experience and they offered a very full package of services and experiences, and invited you to the best restaurants. They really treat you as family.”
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More recently, Yu found Fendi’s couture show at the Colosseum in Rome this July to be especially memorable. She stayed at Fendi Private Suites, the intimate hotel above the flagship, and guests were treated to two days of extraordinary activities, from access to Renaissance-era sites to picnics at exclusive locations.
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Yu also finds it rewarding to develop deeper relationships with fashion designers. Studio visits are often on the agenda for VIP clients, which she appreciates because she has an interest in the creative side of couture. “I enjoy the creative process and I’m interested in talking to the designers, and sometimes to co-design with them for a special occasion.”
Yu has a longstanding friendship with Giambattista Valli, who created her gown for the 2019 Met Gala in New York. “He knows me so well, we didn’t really meet face-to-face to design it. He was able to make it in such a short amount of time. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece.”
Louis Vuitton has treated top buyers to a variety of experiences, including its international high jewellery events, its international luxury watch event in Geneva, a shoe presentation with renowned podiatrist Bastien Gonzalez, Michelin-starred gastronomic experiences and private visits to its atelier in Asnières, France or to its fragrance atelier in Grasse, also in France.
The point? To set themselves apart by engaging their clients with different experiences, and to build a strong and long-lasting relationship—connecting with clients through personalised experiences and emotional connections, something that cannot be bought.
The strategy clearly works for fashion lovers. “I think being a fan of a certain brand, it makes more sense when you get to meet the people that make the dresses, or that you actually have a personal relationship with them,” says Evangelista. “You really feel appreciated when you invest in their clothes, and you really treasure what you wear and what they make. And in return you feel like you fall in love with the brand even more.”
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