If you had it, would you flaunt it?
That’s the question at the heart of “Crazy Rich Asians,” Kevin Kwan’s new novel about ways and woes of the wealthy in Singapore, where the nouveau riche and the moneyed old guard are opposites when it comes to opulence.
The island republic has the highest concentration of millionaires anywhere on the globe. It’s the kind of place where everyone shows up for a party in their private jet.
Much of the wealth is new money, and those who have it like to show it off. Vuitton this, Prada that. Closets stuffed with Burberry, the dresser spilling with Hermès scarves.
“They like to spend money and they like to be seen spending it,” says Kwan.
Then there’s the old money, the dynastic fortunes made by what are known as the Overseas Chinese — families that built incredible wealth through as many as 30 generations. They dress drab and hide their gems.
“They spend their money covertly. They are never ostentatious,” says Kwan.
“One woman I know will show up at major events dressed like a stodgy librarian, wearing some trinket like a wooden African necklace. Meanwhile, she has this simply unbelievable collection of diamonds and Chinese jade.”