Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Isles and Elixirs Fit for the Rich

The Millionaire Fair, an expo of the most extravagant luxury goods and limited editions, returns to Moscow this weekend. But some say mega-rich Russians are not the most sophisticated of customers.

"There's no luxury culture in Russia," Gijrath Media Group's Yves Gijrath, the fair's founder, said by telephone from Amsterdam last week. "You need a culture that understands a brand and admires a brand. I think it will take 10 years for a culture of taste to develop. ... I don't think yet you can compare it with the taste of millionaires in France or Italy."

Still, exhibitors hit the mother lode at the first Russian show last year -- unofficial estimates put the turnover at about 500 million euros. Organizers predict more this year, with the number of visitors ogling jewels and jets at the Oct. 27-30 event expected to hit 40,000, up from 22,000 in 2005.

The fair is brought to Moscow together with Independent Media, which publishes The Moscow Times.

Star offers last year were a Dubai island that sold for 24 million euros and a suit and gown sewn out of $1 bills, 500 ruble bills and 100 ruble bills. Millionaires and billionaires in attendance at the weekend -- and anyone else who can stump up 1,000 rubles for a ticket -- can fondle a 1.4-million-euro diamond-encrusted phone, slide inside a similarly priced Bugati or take a chance on an unguent that claims to be a miracle-working elixir of youth -- a skin cure called Perfect Age.

If you ever quite fancied the chandeliers at St. Petersburg's Winter Palace, your time has come, because replicas will be on sale. There's property on Moscow's celebrity-studded Rubylovskoye Shosse, as well as some Batman- and Superman-themed jewelry sets.

And French cosmetics company Guerlain has made a one-off perfume, complete with a one-off bottle, for 35,000 euros.

"It just acts straight on your brain -- the only words you can find if you want to describe it are very feminine and sexy," said Yelena Kudozova of Independent Media.

"I think [the Millionaire Fair] is a kind of day for women," she reflected. "This amount of millionaires will make any woman's heart melt."

The glitter of stardom and royalty has rubbed off on some items to make them even more valuable. Sophia Loren's vintage Mercedes is to be there, along with the sheikh of Bahrain's Maserati. Madonna's influence is being felt, too: The security firm that worked her September concert has been drafted in, and is seeding the crowds with over 100 plainclothes officers.

Igor Tabakov / MT
An exhibit at last year's show. Helicopters and private jets will be on display this time, as well as a jar of 35,000-euro perfume.
Gijrath, who wouldn't say whether he himself was a millionaire, advised Russian shoppers to spend more time over their purchases, and to not impulsively go for the most expensive items.

"Definitely, the biggest boot at the Millionaire Fair is not the best boot," he said.

Marcello Prospato, founder of Red Spot, a Moscow personal concierge service, said the event would probably be popular with his clients. But he sounded a philosophical, almost melancholy note.

"What the human being needs is a hero. We don't have heroes anymore, now we have luxury, brands, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferrari."

Millionaire Fair, Crocus Expo Pavilion 1, 65th-66th kilometer of the MKAD, Krasnogorsk, 232-3200, Fri. 8 p.m.-1 a.m., invitation only; Sat. to Mon. noon-10 p.m.