Co-Founder, Affinity China | United States
China’s new rich are already an old story. Chinese consumers purchased 47 percent of all luxury goods sold globally in 2013; their fondness for Gucci, Bentley, and purebred Tibetan mastiffs has captured the attention of luxury goods retailers the world over, as well as inspiring derision from jealous observers.
But the arrivistes now want more than lining up to buy Chanel bags in sweltering Parisian heat. So Christine Lu is helping them part with their freshly minted renminbi in style. The Chinese-American moved to Shanghai in 1999 as a recent graduate of Boston University, and in 2010 co-founded Affinity China, an international company catering to uber-rich Chinese who aspire to sip private cocktails with designers at Bergdorf Goodman, jet off to the Hamptons for a weekend on a yacht, and snatch up a condo (or two) while strolling Park Avenue.
What Lu has packaged and sold with her “exclusive access” products isn’t a particular American cultural phenomenon per se, but rather parity with the global elite. Americans don’t have to reach back far in their collective memory to remember a time when their own nation, then an upstart, craved wealth and status (cf. Gatsby, Great). Even the more recent McMansions dotting some suburban communities hark back to a homegrown U.S. obsession with status. Lu’s start-up, in that sense, is quintessentially American.