World's fat wallets flock to Cannes Millionaire Fair

4th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, Sept 3, 2006 (AFP) - A Bentley, a new private jet or an 18-carat gold diamond-studded phone were some of the items on offer this weekend at a new fair for the very wealthy in the southern city of Cannes.

CANNES, France, Sept 3, 2006 (AFP) - A Bentley, a new private jet or an 18-carat gold diamond-studded phone were some of the items on offer this weekend at a new fair for the very wealthy in the southern city of Cannes.

The Millionaire Fair threw open its doors on the chic French Riviera on Friday for three days of glitz and glamour.

Ladies in evening dresses and men in black ties walked up the red-carpeted steps of the city's Palais des Festivals on the fair's inaugural evening as passers-by strained their necks in the hope of spotting celebrities.

"No. No stars tonight. Just people with fat wallets," a representative of the fair said.

A highly select group of affluent people were invited to the opening night while others had to shell out EUR 175 euros to get their toe in the door.

Once inside, visitors sipped champagne, feasted on rich culinary delights, ogled newly-launched exclusive products and services, and browsed through what is touted as a leading lifestyle fair and luxury shopping paradise.

"The Millionaire Fair is a specific concept of showing luxury items in an atmosphere of glamour and refinement, where you can try on jewelry in between two glasses of champagne, admire belly-dancers and then watch a cat show of fur clothing," said Yves Gijrath, the Dutchman who founded the fair.

First launched in 2002 in Amsterdam, the event already hit Kortrijk in Belgium, Shanghai and Moscow before setting up shop in Cannes.

"It's a logical destination," said Gijrath, who also edits Millionaire Magazine dedicated to luxury products. Cannes "is synonymous throughout the world with luxury and elegance".

"In the beginning, no one believed in the concept. People found the name too pretentious. But now, people are calling me from Brazil and the United States to set up similar fairs.

"The next one will be in Dubai and we are thinking about organising one in India," the Dutchman said.

While many of the products on show would make an ordinary mortal feel faint from financial inadequacy, Belgian architect Jan van der Smissen said the Cannes shindig was quite lowly compared with predecessors in Belgium or the Netherlands.

"It's very small. There are few exhibitors and most of the people are really 'mini-millionnaires'," he complained.

But Gijrath insisted the event needed time to establish itself and that France's jet set would come around to the concept.

"Rich people everywhere want the same thing — to be treated with respect and elegance," he said, adding that the fair would take off as it had in other cities.

Despite the Dutch nation's very down-to-earth reputation, turnover from the Amsterdam fair quintupled from EUR 40 million at the first edition in 2002 to EUR 250 million the following year.

In Moscow, the fair has tripled in surface area from the first Russian event in 2005.

'Mini' or 'maxi' millionaires, or why not just millionaires in the making, visitors gave the event the solid thumbs-up.

Many walked away with a wad of catalogues under their arm from the 100 or so exhibitors present, though most brandished brochures of diamond-studded mobile phones rather than leaflets from a dental clinic offering up a brand-new smile.

"There are many beautiful things, the atmosphere is great," said Susann and Sylvia, two Germans who declined to give their last names. It was well worth the trip down from Duesseldorf in Germany, they said.

As business cards were exchanged and handshakes sealed deals, the fair was also an opportunity for the wealthy to make some useful contacts among themselves.

"We probably won't sell anything this evening but we have made some very, very good contacts," Martine Julian, of the Martine Julian jewelry brand, said delightedly.

Those of more modest means, described on the Millionaire Fair website as the "spiritually rich", were also welcome to the event for a 35-euro entrance free, canapés not included.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news


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