June 3, 2010 / 7:46 PM / 9 years ago

Austerity drive? Not for luxury execs

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sluggish stock markets may have spooked regular shoppers, but luxury’s tastemakers are boldly splurging on everything from fine art to holiday retreats and swanky cars.

Alain Crevet, Chief Executive of ST Dupont, attends the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in Paris June 3, 2010. ST Dupont, one of the last remaining independent French luxury pen and lighter makers, sees 5-10 percent sales growth for the year to March 2011 and an operating margin of 5 percent, its head said on Thursday. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Top executives from design houses and high-end store chains told the Reuters Global Luxury Summit in Paris, London and New York this week that recession had not crimped their appetite for spending, though quite a few say the ultimate indulgence is a little more free time.

Their latest shopping lists run the gamut of a $170 Hermes giraffe-pattern tie to a house worth 4.5 million euros ($5.5 million) on the island of Ibiza.

Alain Crevet, chief executive of French luxury pen and lighter maker ST Dupont’s (DPTP.PA), shelled out about 3,000 euros for an Eric Clapton-style replica of a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.

Aaron Simpson, executive chairman of Britain-based lifestyle manager Quintessentially’s, rewarded himself with the Ibiza retreat. Stephen Sadove, CEO of Saks Inc SKS.N, treated himself to a black Mercedes E-class 350 car after cutting back

on his watch collection and foreign vacations in the recession.

Others had more exotic pursuits.

“I buy art. The price doesn’t mean anything. It’s totally emotional and what we need today is emotion,” said Jean-Marc Jacot, CEO at Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier. “I like traveling for fun. I like very much to travel. My last travel for fun was Zanzibar.”

Alex Bolen, CEO of U.S.-based fashion house Oscar de la Renta, likes his indulgences to keep bearing fruit.

“I am desperate to have a nice garden. I have spent large sums of money on plants for my garden. I bought some fig trees,” he said.

FAMILY, TIME - PRICELESS

Many top industry executives have been more generous while spending on their families too.

“While I try to spoil my wife and my children, I am a tremendous cheapskate when it comes to myself,” Bolen said.

Barneys New York CFO Vince Phelan recently splurged on a Balenciaga bag for his wife. La Prairie CEO Dirk Trappmann gifted his wife a “very expensive” watch from Dubois Depraz, a Swiss brand whose chronograph functions are more status symbols than practical tools, but demurred at discussing the price.

Bulgari BULG.MI CEO Francesco Trapani spends most of his money on buying nice holidays for his wife and children.

“This means that Christmas, summer and Easter are expensive times for me,” Trapani said.

CEO Jean-Claude Biver of Swiss watchmaker Hublot upped the ante with a new Porsche, a grey turbo cabriolet, for his wife. The company is part of luxury group LVMH (LVMH.PA).

While all the executives interviewed by Reuters acknowledged the allure of well-made material things, some offered a different idea of luxury in an era of 24/7 business.

“For myself it’s more time I see as luxury, to buy space for myself ... I am working nearly every weekend. It’s seven days a week since a long time,” said Stephan Winkelmann, CEO of

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Lamborghini, Volkswagen’s (VOWG.DE) high-end sports car brand.

William Taubman, COO of upscale mall operator Taubman Centers Inc (TCO.N), also touched on the theory of time.

“To be able to go to Kathmandu to study yoga or whatever. That’s sort of the ultimate luxury in a world where goods are proliferated,” he said.

Additional reporting by Mark Potter in London, Antonella Ciancio, Astrid Wendlandt, Eva Kuehnen, Pascale Denis and Silke Koltrowitz in Paris; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Matthew Lewis

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