NEW YORK — It wasn’t that Dragon Week NYC did not go off as expected, but rather that those involved with the weeklong luxury trip for rich Chinese to Manhattan didn’t really seem to know exactly what to expect.
“It was a learning experience for everyone,” said Christine Lu, a co-founder of Affinity China, the company that organized the trip, which began in New York on Sunday. “The story is not finished yet.”
The tale of the excursion was that it was one filled with nothing short of impressive, exclusive events for those who signed up to take part in Dragon Week, named so due to the fact that 2012 is the Year of the Dragon according to Chinese astrology.
Gilles Mendel gave guests a private tour of the J.Mendel atelier, while Montblanc invited Lang Lang, an internationally renowned pianist, for a private performance in the brand’s Madison Avenue boutique. Linda Fargo, the senior vice president of Bergdorf Goodman’s fashion office and store presentation, emceed a private fashion show at the store, which was followed by a cocktail party and dinner attended by designers including Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Naeem Khan, Zac Posen, Marchesa’s Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, VBH’s Bruce Hoeksema and Peter Som.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a brief appearance at the Empire State Building for a gala and lighting ceremony in which the building’s top turned to hues of gold and orange to celebrate Chinese New Year. Yue-Sai Kan, a Chinese-American TV personality, and Luo Zilin, China’s entrant in the 2011 Miss Universe pageant, made frequent appearances throughout the week. Ralph Lauren, Piaget and Coach held private shopping events. Estée Lauder had a reception hosted by Aerin Lauder, the brand’s style and image director, at its world headquarters.
Those were the main attractions. The side story of the week was that not that many Chinese actually showed up. Affinity China, which bills itself as a concierge service aimed at reaching a growing demographic of a more affluent, culturally discerning group of Mainlanders traveling overseas, said 300 access cards were given out. While some events capped the number of people who could come, the average attendance numbered, at best, around 20, and, at times, fewer than a dozen.
Many of those who attended already live in the U.S., are second-generation Chinese studying at American colleges or are not Chinese. Affinity China said more Mainland Chinese were slated to come but canceled at the last minute due to visa issues or because they preferred to stay home with their families over Chinese New Year.
The fact that not that many Mainland Chinese attended didn’t seem to matter to the brands that participated. Instead, it seemed the overarching goal was to leverage an image of Chinese-looking faces in their stores mingling with celebrities, as well as an expectation that those who took part would share their experiences with family and friends back on the Mainland. A number of Chinese media outlets, including the state-run China Central Television and Xinhua news agency, covered the trip.
We “had the impression that it would be people coming to the States for the first time,” said Daniel Annese, Estée Lauder’s senior vice president and global general manager of market development.“I would say overall it has been a fantastic event.”
“This was our kickoff for our strategy, and I think it was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Bergdorf Goodman general manager Bill Brobston. “I think we will continue to get good press here and in China. We made a lot of friends, and that is a very important start for an area of the world we are just not that familiar with. I think it was great.”