Luxury brands look to cash in on Chinese New Year

Story highlights

  • International brands use year of the dragon to tap into China's growing market for luxury items
  • A symbol of good luck and prosperity, the dragon lends itself to bold imagery
  • Watchmaker Piaget's "Dragon and Phoenix" pieces cost from $25,000 to north of $100,000

The holiday shopping season might be over in the West, but in Asia, international brands are hoping to cash in on the Chinese New Year with products commemorating the year of the dragon.

Luxe brands including Rolls Royce, Piaget, Versace and Michael Kors are tapping into the growing appetite for brand-name goods among China's upper middle class, which accounts for about 12% of the global luxury goods market, according to a 2011 McKinsey report.

With that share expected to grow to 22% by 2015, the timing couldn't be better. Much of luxury's allure comes from the opportunity to share in the cultural heritage associated with a brand, the McKinsey report found. A revered symbol of good luck and prosperity, the dragon lends itself to bold imagery in jewelry, cars, even coffee makers.

Watchmaker Piaget created more than 20 pieces exclusively for its Dragon and Phoenix line, which honors the dragon and its mythical mate. Items from the collection range from $25,000 to north of $100,000 for its Altiplano Double Jeu, a 43 mm watch in 18-carat white gold set with 78 cut diamonds, with an enamel dial and a white alligator strap.

Shanghai Tang incorporates the dragon motif in its Nespresso Dragon Collection, which includes a shiny red coffee maker, a box to hold Nespresso coffee capsules and a cup-and-saucer set.

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Instead of starting from scratch, Rolls Royce's Bespoke Team incorporated imagery and colors of the year of the dragon to put a new spin on its classic Phantom automobile.

While most of the lines are available only in Asia, dragon enthusiasts in the Western Hemisphere need not despair -- products including Burberry's red Dragon Collection and Tiffany's Chinese zodiac charms are available in the United States.

There's even a market for those who don't have thousands of dollars to spare on a gimmick. Just $18 can get you a Hello Kitty 2012 Year of the Dragon gold compact from cosmetics dealer Sephora. Going a bit upmarket, Cartier has Happy New Year stationery in a dragon motif for $75.

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