There are more ways to access luxury than buying, for example, a $3,000 handbag or ordering a $7,000 couture gown. There are affordable perfumes, sunglasses, and creams. And there is another possibility: a Gucci salad for 88 yuan ($15) or an Armani Italian bombolone for five. Because luxury can also come in the form of food.
The Far East is a paradise for gourmands, be it Shanghai or Tokyo. This is where the leading brands erected entire buildings to ship all their product lines to the most coveted customer: Asia. The Chinese account for over 30% of global spending on luxury and the Japanese have been major consumers for decades. In the larger Asian cities, there are gastronomic spaces to pause and replenish forces after shopping, which can be quite exhausting.
Travelers will find the Furla Café and The Aquarium, Alfred Dunhill’s cafe lounge in the Ginza district of Tokyo. This menswear brand also sponsors Alfie’s restaurants in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Dubai.
Last March, the Italian brand Marni opened its first Flower Café on the third floor of Osaka’s Hankyu Umeda department store, decorated with a blue sofa and small bronze and green marble tables, all handmade. Here, guests can enjoy traditional cakes and Italian specialties like focaccia, or buy a range of Marni products.
Also last year, the British designer Vivienne Westwood opened her first coffee shop in the K11 Art Mall shopping center in Shanghai. With seating for 60 diners and decorated with her ubiquitous tartan, it serves pastries that show the spirit of the firm.
Months later, in the luxurious IAPM shopping mall—also in Shanghai—Gucci opened its first full restaurant (the firm already had coffee shops in Milan and its Florence museum). The 1921 Gucci Café offers dinners inspired by Tuscany in a 6,500 square-feet space that includes a restaurant, bar, lounge, VIP lounge and an outdoor terrace for spring and summer months. Even the napkins and silverware show the Gucci logo.
Located inside a new building that opened last June in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, Dior opened what is considered the largest store of the firm in Asia. It includes a coffee shop managed by the renowned French pastry chef Pierre Hermé. It is a chic place designed by architect Peter Marino, where you can enjoy ice creams, chocolates, cakes, drinks and —of course—traditional macaroons.
Chanel also aims high in culinary matters. To manage its Beige restaurant, located in the Chanel tower in Tokyo, it selected the renowned French chef Alain Ducasse—who holds 19 Michelin stars divided among more than 20 establishments he directs. When enjoying good weather in the Japanese capital, the Chanel Building also opens the coffee terrace, Le Jardin de Tweed.
In Europe, Milan is the enclave with more proposals. In this fashion capital, Dolce & Gabbana opened their Bar Martini and Martini Bistrot, both of which cater to the international fashion elite. Designer Roberto Cavalli opened a Cavalli Club, which now joins similar ones in Dubai, Ibiza, and Marbella. Further north, in London, Burberry has made a space in its establishment at Regent Street for Thomas’s, a casual restaurant with a menu that offers classic British dishes including lobster, fries and of course, tea.
The pioneer in this blend of luxury and gastronomy was Giorgio Armani, who opened his first Emporio Armani Café 20 years ago when the relationship between fashion and fine food was not as popular as it is today. Given the satisfactory response to that first café, over time, the Italian designer has opened nine other Emporio Armani Cafés worldwide.
At a time when the customer with purchasing power is hungry for experiences that transcend the act of purchase— and the aim of luxury shopping centers of is to attract affluent customers— anything goes: from art exhibitions to activities for children and, of course, the best cuisine to pamper your palate. ■