From Classic Cars To Yachts, China’s Ultra Wealthy Seek ‘Memorable Experiences’

    In an interview with Jing Daily, China Rendez-Vous CEO and Founder Delphine Lignières discusses the company's recent Shanghai Bund Classic event and the growth of luxury lifestyle activities in China over the past decade.
    Jing Daily
    Yanie DurocherAuthor
      Published   in Fashion

    A classic car model on display at the second annual Bund Classic in Shanghai. (The Marginalist)

    Attracting over 10,000 visitors, the second edition of Bund Classic Concours d’Elegance took place on October 17th to 19th, 2014 at the luxurious iconic villa on the Bund No. 1 Waitanyuan. Bund Classic’s aim is to strengthen the reputation of classic cars while attracting an increasing amount of car collectors in China and overseas. The three-day event offered a unique networking platform to develop the car collecting community as well as introduce a world of culture, glamour, and adventure to the public. Seminars, gala dinners, and hospitality events offered to Bund Classic’s VIP’s were created around an immersive experience through classic cars.

    The jury for the second year in a row was led by Sandra Button, the chairman of the world’s most important classic car event, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It included 14 other judges from luxury brands across the globe including Louis Vuitton Ambassador Christian Philippsen, Richemont Asia-Pacific CEO Alain Li, Maserati scion Adolfo Orsi, and more.

    We had the opportunity to interview Delphine Lignières, the CEO and founder of China Rendez-Vous, which has been the event's organizer for the past two years. Created in 2009, China Rendez-Vous has become one of the leading organizers of exhibitions and trade shows for high-end events in China including yachting, classic cars, and more such as SO! Dalian, SO! Hainan, SO! Cannes, and Ski&Style.

    Delphine in also member of the Asia Pacific Superyacht Association (APSA), International Beach Polo Association (IBPA), and the French Chamber of Commerce in China (FCCI), as well as an advisor to the French Foreign Trade Minister (CCE).

    China Rendez-Vous CEO and Founder Delphine Lignières. (Courtesy Photo)

    In just a few years, your company China Rendez-Vous, a pioneer in very niche markets, became a leader and a major contributor in the development of new industries such as yachting, business aviation, and classic cars. How did you get started?#

    I started in 2003 with the boating industry. This was a time when people were eager to start developing their quality of life as much as their business. The sea was definitely a great federator bringing them excitement, adventure, and networking at the same time. The sea is indeed the best element to spent quality time on board a boat with friends, family, or potential business partners.

    I had the pleasure of meeting the organizer and the founder of the first boat show in China, who wanted to boost the presence of international brands in their exhibition. Mr. Yang Xinfa is a visionary that initiated the show, and Mr. Wang Mingliang launched the first boat show in China way back in 1997 (UBM Sino Expo).

    In 2003, only 40 booths took part in the show because most of the overseas brands did not consider China as a promising market. On the other hand, we had to convince some people here that sailing was a wonderful and accessible activity. We even had to remind some of them that China has had amazing navigators in the past and that the future for sailing was bright. When we see the great success of the China Cup today, everything is said!

    In 2009, I felt that it was important to promote the boating industry by creating experiences for people. I also thought it was important to have a boat show on the water to organize sea trials and sailing activities. We headed to the first marina at that time in Hainan to launch our new concept of boat shows in China. The Hainan Rendez-Vous was very closely associated with business aviation and boats. Sanya was also very well acclaimed overseas. While the island started to launch their international tourism destination, we contributed to put it on the map bringing top level overseas media to boost the destination and created a boat show at the same level as the ones we can find on the French Riviera. However, we faced issues with the owner of the marina in which we organized it and for various reasons, we closed the page of this event to create more cultural and lifestyle events. Thereafter, we launched the first Classic Car Concours d’Elegance in Shanghai in 2013 followed by China’s first Beach Polo World Cup and Marine Lifestyle show in Dalian. Each time, we have brought top-level experts from China and overseas.

    The next step for us is the development of a Marine Lifestyle and Cultural Festival in Yalong Bay using the beautiful environment of the beach and the sea as a very inspiring lineup to associate worldwide-recognized chefs, a music festival, and additional elements that we will reveal soon.

    A classic car model on display at the second annual Bund Classic in Shanghai. (The Marginalist)

    What are your thoughts on the high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in China and the opportunities in the market for the luxury segment?#

    While the HNWI group is developing fast in China, the luxury industry is growing rapidly, too. However, something has changed within the past few years. Nowadays, luxury is getting associated more and more [with] a search for quality of life and quality products. It is a whole journey offering memorable experiences, and that’s what we are creating through our events in China.

    People are traveling overseas more frequently and the luxury brands need to adapt in order to keep up with the globalization in the sales habits of Chinese groups. Our events are taking these changes in the society into consideration. A boat owner, a car owner, or a polo player belongs to an international community following the same passions and codes rather than being a Chinese, French, or American. They speak the same language—the one from the heart—and the one that will lead a group to buy this brand or that brand according to their identity. That’s the reason why luxury brands are completely associated [with] our events, and they bear similar values associated to art, innovation, tradition, sports, etc. [that] lead to emotion.

    How are the Chinese responding to the second-edition Bund Classic?#

    Classic cars [are] a new trend in China, but we can already foresee a growth rate similar to that for art or wine. When you invest in a classic car, you buy it because you like this feeling of collecting a piece of history of the automobile adventure. However, deep in your heart, you also expect that your car will have its uniqueness recognized and gain in value. For the second edition of Bund Classic, the international panel of judges was amazing. American, French, German, and Chinese experts were all present to judge the 20 rare cars on display. We have grown both in terms of quality and quantity compared to the last year and aim to grow the community of classic car collectors further. The [greater] the number of classic car collectors, the more cars we will showcase during the show in the coming editions! The second edition was very successful and very friendly. We were very glad to see the Chinese collectors and foreign collectors exchanging tips and advices over the three-day event and welcomed over 9,500 qualified visitors.

    VIP visitors stroll the grounds at the second annual Bund Classic in Shanghai. (The Marginalist)

    China's crackdown on corruption has led to a significant decrease in luxury goods spending. How does China Rendez-Vous manage and adapt to these current challenges?#

    What we have to realize is that the people who have acquired luxury goods by corruption may not essentially be the consumer of luxury goods tomorrow and therefore, the latest regulations are just correcting the market to change it into a real experience. In a way, we’re coming back to the essence of luxury that is more related to a real lifestyle, handcraft, innovation, design, and more. All our events are designed to share these values; this is what we are promoting through dedicated angles. For instance, there’s nothing better than a classic car to celebrate the authenticity, the tradition, and the heritage of a brand. It is elegant, glamorous, and absolutely unique. It has been built with love and passion, creativity, performance… and so [are items made by] watch manufacturers or Cognac producers!

    Are there any major challenges you face in creating HNWI events such as Bund Classic, SO! Dalian, SO! Hainan, SO! Cannes, Ski &Style?#

    China is a fast and an open-minded market. We are reaching out to people that are also sharing amazing values. These people like to discover new destinations, and new activities. However, at the same time, they love to go back to their roots, too. Each of our events is trying to balance this and I trust that’s what makes our events immensely successful. I came for the first time in China 14 years ago and the country has evolved so fast. In 2003, for instance, it was not possible to sail with a privately owned boat; 10 years later, over 200 marinas have been built along the coasts and thousands of yachts are berthing in different part of the country. The greatest challenge on our side is to be more and more creative and innovative year after year to keep a high attendance. We are also working a lot on the tertiary and secondary cities to recruit new sailors, new collectors or jet owners along the year.

    A model on display the Bund Classic in Shanghai. (The Marginalist)

    Can you share with us any details concerning your other events?#

    Maybe I can tell you a bit more about our SO! Hainan concept. This is the latest of our events, during which we will develop a whole new concept. We are launching an additional networking platform dedicated to promote ski as a destination, as a whole winter lifestyle event.

    Ski&Style is there to emphasize lifestyle, and in particular, the après ski lifestyle instead of the traditional sports angle. We believe that ski is both a destination and a lifestyle. We ski with friends during the day and love to share great times and memories when we are back at the chalet in front of a large chimney with a large fire and a great glass of wine! It is just amazing if the same community is meeting in summer on the French Riviera [and] in the winter in Courchevel, Val d’Isere, Whistler, Gstaad, or now Changbaishan!

    Yanie Durocher is a lifestyle and fashion blogger at The Marginalist.

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