“That’s 70 pairs of bespoke Christian Louboutins at £4,000 each. That makes £280,000, and that’s not counting the Diors. I’ve lots of those, but they’re only £600 each.”
I’m at our cocktail party at the Carlton, and am learning just how wealthy the Chinese upper middle class are. I am talking to a lady who grew up near the Shaolin temple in central China, was educated in Austria, and now works in London as a lawyer.
Remember that you can still buy a substantial house in many UK cities for £280,000. Now you see the spending power China brings to Central London. Don’t expect residential prices to fall anytime soon.
The Carlton is a charming fin de siècle creation; its twin towers topped with bronze spiked domes. Legend says they are modelled on the breasts of the architect’s mistress, La Grande Otero.
She was the Lionel Messi of courtesans, “la grande horizontale”. Dancer, early film star, sophisticated and intelligent, there was no one like her. But unless she had a strange condition that made her breasts look like giant Prussian helmets with lightening conductors on, then the Carlton’s domes are no clue to her decolletage.
Market’s back big time. I’m chatting to a 33 year old who’s doing 30 schemes in high end London residential (see Louboutins passim above), student housing and PRS. Importantly, they’re funded by debt (UK banks) and equity. They invest just a small stake, so they get maximum buck bang and a lot of schemes. I check my watch to see whether it’s 2005. It isn’t. So this must really be the recovery.
Duck, ginger, saffron and apple canapés, and unfeasibly generous gin and tonics are lightening the mood. A key client talks me in doing a duathlon – that’s cycling, running and no swimming (I swim like a lead duck) in October. I’m definitely up for it – at least until tomorrow morning.
I also discover my client owns a small olive grove in Kardamyli, a gorgeous Greek town, deep in the southern Peloponnese.
Patrick Leigh Fermor retired there after writing his brilliant travel yarns, and (amongst much other derring do) kidnapping General Kreipe, the German WW2 governor of Crete. Amazingly, it turns out Leigh Fermor was my client’s neighbour. I am promised a jar of olive oil from Kardamyli’s next crop.
That’s one of the great benefits of MIPIM – you have time to connect with your clients on a human and cultural level, rather than just banging on about deals and drachma. Or, indeed, Louboutins.
Bruce Dear is head of London real estate at Eversheds