A PERFECT SHOWCASE OF THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LUXURY CLIENTS
The Bling Empire is the Netflix reality TV show I didn’t know I needed. It was released on the 15th January and the first time I heard about this show was on Twitter. As a closet addict of a few of the real housewives series (RHOA and RHOBH, cough, cough, although in my opinion, for sheer craziness, RHOA wins hands down), I couldn’t resist having a little peek. Then just like that, I fell into the rabbit hole of binge watching Bling Empire for hours on end.
The series, a cross between the film Crazy Rich Asians and Keeping Up with the Kardashians revolves around the lives of wealthy East Asian and Asian-American socialites based in the Los Angeles area. The show is now a top ten watch on Netflix with the cast gaining a cult like following on social media.
I’ve often spoken about the different types of luxury clients I tend to come across in my businesses and to see a show with a perfect cast of such luxury clients was fantastic. The show featured many jaw dropping moments filled with couture, carats and clashes that beautifully gave us some insights into the psychological differences of luxury clients.
Allow me to introduce you to the cast of characters.
The Aspirationals - Kevin Taejin Kreider and Kelly Mi Li
Kevin is THE hunk of the series. Cast by Kelly after she saw one of his TEDx videos on Asian masculinity online, he possesses great abs, great guns and a great smile as expected of a fitness coach and lifestyle influencer. A mama’s boy from Philadelphia, he was born in Seoul and adopted as a child by his family. Described as one of the poorer members of the pack, his net worth is estimated to be at least $5m, although he vehemently disputes this figure.
The CEO of Taejin Entertainment LLC, he has modelled for Abercrombie and Fitch and has been featured in Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness magazine. His easy charm, empathy and protectiveness towards other cast members particularly Anna and Kim, has endeared him to many fans and he is a firm favourite of the series.
Naturally frugal and open about his limited disposable income, he gave us one of the funniest moments on Bling Empire with “E for Hermes” when he played the couture alphabet game on a private jet no less.
Kelly Mi Li is a TV and film producer who had the idea for the show. She then took it to Jeff Jenkins renowned for hits shows such as Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Mariah’s World and the rest they say is history. Her dual role of producer and participant is an interesting one. We get to see her current relationship being dissected under the gaze of the camera. There is also her involvement in a ‘faux’ love triangle of sorts and we also learn a little bit about a life defining event that led to the loss of her previous marriage, luxury lifestyle and money.
We should thank Kelly for a number of reasons. Firstly this show digs beneath a culture that likes to hide their emotions and give ‘good face’, so we get to see rare moments of real vulnerability. Secondly the show does not shy away from opening the door to a very different world, showing us a side of real diversity in action.
As aspirationals, Kevin and Kelly are strivers who embody portfolio working, with multiple complementary strands to their careers and they will keep going until they find their definition of success. Often motivated by their families, these aspirationals typically have a huge following on social media and see material wealth as a sign of their success.
The Innovator - Kim Lee
Like many Innovators Kim has had an eclectic and unusual career path. Currently a famous DJ (she was called the Calvin Harris of South Asia by a fellow cast member), she brings the cool bombshell factor to the group. Starting out as a model, the Vietnamese beauty has walked runways in Paris and New York for designers like Emanuel Ungaro and Martin Grant and brands such as Marc Jacobs.
She is also an actor, has appeared in music videos and collaborated with Kanye West, Kid Cudi and Lupe Fiasco. Her story line centred around her emotional quest to find her long lost father, who had sadly passed away before she could reunite with him.
It is interesting to point out that she committed a major faux pas by disrespecting the home of another cast member (Anna), which is one of the worst things you could ever do to that particular category of client.
Innovators as luxury clients are very exciting to be around but by their very nature they tend to be rule breakers and push boundaries due to their natural curiosity and non conformist attitudes, although sometimes, to their credit, they can be quite sensitive.
The Aesthetes - Cherie Chan and Jaime Xie
Picture perfect is what comes to mind when describing Cherie Chan. An heiress to a denim empire and pregnant with her second child, on the show, she had a very calm demeanour and she was always impeccably dressed. With her partner Jessey Lee, she also has a very beautiful little girl, Jadore who she dressed in the cutest outfits. However, beneath the perfect aesthetic, were real emotional issues of parental bereavement, specifically her mother’s death, with her raw feelings laid bare for the world to see.
Cherie was all set to have a successful pop career and was signed to Sony records until she decided to honour her mother’s wishes and give it all up, to focus on her family. She started a business, Religion Tequila and on the show, to help her cope with her bereavement, she leant on her friends and even consulted a spiritualist.
The second Aesthete of the series is Jaime, the trust fund-enabled influencer whose father, Ken Xie, worth $3.9bn, built the first firewall and VPN. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, she much preferred couture to tech and got into the top fashion school Parsons (which she ended up not attending) after her mother promised her a Birkin (which she did get).
She dropped out of the close-to-home Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles after a year to focus on being a full time influencer. One of the surreal moments on Bling Empire was when a fellow cast member (Christine), told Jaime that the $40,000 per collaboration she earns will not even pay for ‘one look’. An equestrian, she attended her first fashion show at 17 (Dior of course), and has a multifaceted sense of style, which ranges from the classic to the avant garde. Not letting anything get in the way of her aesthetic, when a Shaman gave her some advice on trusting herself more, Jaime responded by saying that she indeed had to make a hard decision that day about choosing between a nude colour or mist colour Bottega Veneta pouch bag. I’m glad we are all relieved to know that she chose the mist colour.
It may be easy to assume that the Aesthete is a luxury client driven just by appearance but there is much more to this assumption. Beneath the surface need for perfection is the craving for order and certainty which the control of their aesthetic affords them.
The Only the Best Will Dos - Christine Chiu and Kane Lim
At first glance it may seem that Christine is all about the diamonds, dinner parties and designer clothes. It may also seem that she is down for the drama. The self appointed Queen Bee of the show, she is an astute business woman and philanthropist whose tough exterior belies her vulnerability and dealings with her inlaws around infertility issues.
Christine certainly provided many ‘moments’ on the show, her (almost) one sided rivalry with fellow cast member Anna being one. Born in Taiwan and a graduate of Pepperdine University, after finishing her degree in business, she became a public relations executive in the beauty industry. Married to a plastic surgeon who is a direct descendant of a Chinese royal dynasty, her lifestyle is certainly worthy of a couture queen.
A typical “know and show” she reels off the names of couture designers with ease and she is not afraid to showcase her wardrobe in never ending photoshoots and dinner parties. Her philanthropy while commendable, is also public and a tad self serving. Her need to assert herself and impress led to Christine committing a faux pas that will forever be known as “necklacegate”. Her punishment was being sentenced to “social Siberia” for deliberately wearing a Louis Vuitton diamond and pink sapphire necklace identical to the one worn by her hostess Anna. And her response to the banishment to the far end of the dinner table away from her friends? “I was seated to the left of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, why am I all the way down here?”
Kane is the only Singaporean on the show. The 31 year old moved to Los Angeles eight years ago to study and decided to make his home there. Known for his love of shoes, he is a real estate developer, investor and philanthropist. The son of a billionaire, he actually played a key role when it came to the casting for the escapist entertainment show. Best friends with Kevin, in one scene, we get to see the incredible wall of shoes displayed in his living room, probably positioned so that’s the first thing you see! His shoe collection has been valued at over £250,000 and it actually includes a £10,000 pair of crocodile trainers!
However there is more to Kane who credits popstar Rihanna for propelling him to social media fame. He shows himself to be a good, kind and supportive friend and alongside Kevin can be seen hopping on a plane to help a friend find her long lost father as well as chanting beside a friend in their time of need.
As a luxury client it might be tempting to dismiss the “only the best will do” category as label obsessed but to them these labels are a signifier of quality and it helps them curate and make sense of things they purchase.
The Comfort First Anna Shay
We first meet Anna on the show, she is wearing a couture ball gown whilst wielding a sledgehammer in an attempt to remodel her closet. What becomes clear is that Anna lives in her own world and she is the natural Queen Bee. She doesn’t live by conventional rules because she doesn’t need to. Her power is in the soft power she wields as an authentic taste maker.
Anna, the half Russian, half Japanese daughter of late billionaire Edward Shay is reputed to be worth at least $600m and her air of mystery and Cheshire cat like smile makes her intriguing. Throughout the show, she hardly name drops fashion labels but instead, we see the labels come to her home for her private viewing and shopping. She also likes causing mischief and has ingenious ways of “punishing’ her rival, Christine, be it by not telling her the dress code for an event or changing the time on a dinner invitation and then seating her away from their mutual friends.
Thoughtful and welcoming, Anna is an archetypal “comfort first” putting safety, security and genuine friendships above couture and caviar. A lot of her philanthropy is also very quiet and discreet, as is her personal life. Despite being married and divorced four times, no one knows who her exes are.
As much as Bling Empire gives us a sneak peek into the kind of affluence many can only dream of, it also shows us that none of us are immune to emotional issues of life. I’ve always believed that in order to attract the kind of clients you want, you need to understand who they are and I hope this article has gone some way to explain the different categories of luxury clients.