China's rich have insatiable appetite for haute couture

Updated: 2008-05-29 13:58

Models present creations by Italian designer Raffaella Curiel during Rome Fashion Week Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2008 show January 30, 2008.[Agencies]

European and American fashion designers feeling the pinch from the credit crisis can look to the growing ranks of China's nouveau riche to boost sales.

China's millionaires' club is expanding rapidly and many new members are women who don't even blink when asked to pay a cool $10,000 for a cocktail dress from a top international designer.

"The Chinese are the newcomers to the global market," said Sebastian Suhl, Asia-Pacific chief executive of Italian fashion house Prada, which has nine stores in China.

"They're very hungry to learn about fashion. Fashion represents obviously status, but luxury is also a kind of bridge to the modern world for them."

As the Chinese economy surged more than 10 percent annually over the past five years, the country boasted 345,000 U.S. dollar millionaires by the end of 2006, a third of whom were women, according to a report by Merrill Lynch and consultancy Capgemini.

Some 5,000 mainland Chinese had assets exceeding $30 million, accounting for a third of Asia-Pacific's super-rich.

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