Saturday, November 20, 2010

‘Luxury, Please’ fair draw crowds in Vienna

‘Luxury, Please’ fair draw crowds in Vienna

VIENNA: Amid sparkling jewels, gleaming cars and polished silver, the economic crisis seemed a distant memory at the fifth annual "Luxury, please" fair in Vienna this weekend.

Big international brands like Cartier, Rolls Royce, Donna Karan and Aston Martin, but also local manufacturers, filled the already grand rooms of the Imperial Palace, an appropriate setting if ever there was one.

Up a sweeping staircase and into halls lit by dozens of chandeliers, exhibitors displayed their finest, most expensive, and sometimes most eccentric goods.

A wooden bathtub, developed with Formula One technology according to its creator, was fetching upwards of 20,000 euros (27,000 dollars).

A glass table resting on two tree stumps, complete with leaves, cost between 30,000 and 40,000 euros.

But despite all the glitz, the organisers were keen to emphasise that not all revolved around a hefty price tag.

"I think the thing about luxury is that it's something special, something other than the ordinary," "Luxury, please" founder Gerhard Krispl said.

"But that's not always shown in the price, it's also an idea, a feeling."

Maybe because of this, one exhibitor advertised plastic surgery.

Siegfried Kroepfl of Vienna's famed "Steirerstuben" restaurant, one of the caterers at the fair's Gourmet Lounge, also eschewed "caviar, lobster, gold-leaf or whatnot."

"For me, luxury is also something sensible, something nice that tastes good: that too can be a luxury."

Between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors were expected over the three-day event, and while many were likely to whip out their platinum credit cards, others had simply come to have a look.

"That's also important: that means people are getting inspiration here and saying 'I'll buy this maybe in two years' time'. It gives them something to save up for," said Krispl.

And there was plenty to choose from: from jewellery and cosmetics to flashy artwork and furniture made from wooden wine barrels.

"Luxury doesn't mean I have to buy something for three million euros straight away. I can just buy some nice silverware, just three pieces and then buy more later," Krispl added.

The luxury branch has recovered quickly from the economic crisis, studies show.

And this has to do with the durability of its goods: luxury, after all, is about quality and craftsmanship, not mass production, exhibitors insisted.

"Taste is always in high demand and good quality also, even in times like these," said Hanni Vanicek, who has headed the Viennese fine linen shop "Zur Schwaebischen Jungfrau" for 50 years.

Some clients even flew in specially from Moscow to buy bedsheets and tablecloths or get advice for their homes, she said.

"Luxury is when 20 years later you still have a beautiful product and you've forgotten how much it cost," Krispl chipped in.

The crisis may have even helped the luxury branch, by purging it of hangers-on that have since gone under, leaving the quality brands behind, said Krispl.

And it forced the big names to lose some of their arrogance and reach out once again to their clients, he added.

In all, over 100 exhibitors took part in the "Luxury, please" fair, which Krispl hopes will turn Vienna into "Europe's most luxurious living room," even at the price of 39 euros per entry.

As Vanicek noted: "Luxury is quality, and quality is always justified"


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