What do you gift a wealthy person who can buy themselves almost everything?
A majority of rich Kenyans are now hiring expert shoppers to help them get the perfect gift for their loved ones, items that are particularly challenging to find locally, and over-the-top experiences that money can buy.
BDLife spoke to four personal shoppers on what rich Kenyans are buying and from where.
Mike Mwai, a luxury expert with a penchant for cars, shoes, and scents, says gifting is always tricky because there is a need to have a deep knowledge of the recipient.
His list of gift orders has watches, artisanal scents rarely available in mainstream shops such as Mûre et Musc, Passage d’Enfer, Oud Attar, or Patchouli Patch, legendary legwear, candle sets, and Pampeano belts, which are handmade from Argentinian leather.
“I’m being requested to source customised scents, clothes, shoes and bags. Gifts must have a significant emotional impact that cannot be easily recreated,” he says.
“Using carefully identified perfumeries in Europe, we develop unique scents that combine the recipient’s favourite notes to create a fragrance that is not available on any shelf,” he adds.
For clothes, the gifter sends the measurements and the clothing is customised and monogrammed with their loved one’s initials.
A bag is added a special patina and the inside flap can have a message either laser-engraved or embossed.
“For shoes, a person's initials are laser-engraved on the heel or special designs printed on the toe, side, or sole,” he says, adding that all the gifts are uniquely packaged.
Sourcing for a bespoke, special gift takes planning.
“It takes weeks to create these gifts and they cost a little more than walking through duty-free and picking them up,” Mr Mwai says.
Anesu Sagonda, who lives in London and owns a luxury lifestyle management business, Sagonda and Company, says most of her clients are buying watches, jewellery, cashmere jumpers, and loungewear as Christmas gifts.
“They’re ordering for something unique, and this is not always the most expensive but most thoughtful, an item that stands out. They’re getting the most luxurious of whatever they are looking for. Covid-19 made them increasingly conscious of buying quality and the long-term benefits of it,” she says.
Ms Sagonda is mostly contacted by customers living in Kenya, South Africa, and the US.
Her biggest single gifting spree since she took up personal shopping as a career?
“A 40-year-old customer bought gifts worth £40,000 (Sh6 million) at a go,” she says.
Are there clients who gift a total closet overhaul? “Yes, especially men in their 50s going through a midlife crisis and wanting to revamp their image,” she says.
Ms Sagonda says most wealthy people engage personal shoppers because these consultants know what is coming out first, have immediate access to the products, and often at a discount.
The top picks she would recommend as gifts for a partner in his or her 30s include high-ticket luxury items like watches and jewellery. For 40 to 50-year-olds, gift them experiences.
Connie Aluoch, a fashion stylist and fashion curator who has been personal shopping for the who’s-who in Kenya recommends the following as top picks.
For a female in her 30s, get her a gym subscription, and if it is a man, buy him an Apple Watch. If your partner is in his or her 40s, get him a golf club set and body scrubs respectively.
If you are looking for a perfect gift for a 50-year-old, get her a spa voucher and him an aged whisky.
Ms Aluoch started her career as a personal shopper while styling private clients for photo shoots.
“They were happy with the looks I created for them and requested personalised shopping services so they could invest in classic functional pieces for their wardrobe,” she says.
The unique requests she gets include human resource managers requiring shopping services for senior management teams who need to project and communicate authority in the way they dress and present themselves.
“Parents who need assistance in guiding their children who are transitioning from college to the corporate world also request help in creating a capsule collection for workwear. I also get requests from clients who are moving abroad and require personalised shopping and to create versatile wardrobes for spring/summer and fall/winter,” she says.
In her list, she also has children’s gifts such as wireless headsets, rollerblades, board games, superhero outfits, and hoverboards.
The rules of gifting, she says, are simple. “Gifts must be suitable for the gender, age, environment, and requirements of the person. For instance, you would not buy a winter coat for a female or male friend who lives in Mombasa and rarely travels out of the country. A more practical gift would be a coffee machine, scented candles, plants,” she says.
How do personal shoppers deal with picky clients?
“I always listen keenly and I'm patient with clients as sometimes they change their minds about purchases and they need to return or exchange items,” says Ms Aluoch, whose clientele base has grown to include customers living in Uganda and Botswana who come to shop in Kenya.
“I also have clients in the US, and I assist them with online shopping. I select online stores that have great sales and classic pieces and guide them on styles that will work for their body silhouettes,” she says.
Maryanne Maina, a luxury concierge expert, says this Christmas season, your gifting list must feature items such as timepieces that will always be a favourite.
For the men, buy A.Lange & Söhne, a luxury brand with beautiful, sophisticated timepieces. These are perfect gifts for people who work in more than one country. It shows home time and the time in a second zone at a single glance.
A good A.Lange & Söhne watch costs about $49,000 (Sh6 million).
Patek Philippe is the godfather of watchmaking and a Patek Philippe 5711/1A-014 Olive Green Dial Diamond Baguette Bezel which is a limited edition would be another perfect gift.
It costs about $600,000 (Sh74 million).
“It is in very high demand from clients,” Ms Maina says.
If someone enjoys cigars and whisky, order a Rolls-Royce Cellarette.
ALSO READ: On starting an African gift shop
“It is a bespoke whisky and cigar chest. It is lined in leather, and the bottle holder accommodates an array of bottle sizes. Its price starts at $61,085 (Sh7.5 million).
For women, Ms Maina recommends a Pasha de Cartier watch. You can choose one with diamonds or without.
The cost ranges from Sh1.6 million to Sh2.6 million. A Piaget Altiplano Tourbillon Limited Edition is also a good option.
“It’s an ultra-thin watch, hand-wound mechanical tourbillon movement. The price ranges from Sh14 million ($115,000),” she says.
The famous Birkin bag is the most gifted. “We supply Birkin bags in various materials: crocodile, alligator, ostrich, lambskin. It’s one of the most recommended items, which can also be purchased as a non-traditional asset,” Ms Maina says, adding that others are requesting the 24-karat edible gold chocolates going for Sh65,302 or Dom Perignon, or Veuve Clicquot champagne.
The most requested gift purchase for children is a Bugatti toy car, the Baby Bugatti, she says.
A gift recommendation for a lover of travel?
“This person has several options ranging from an away-from-the-crowds holiday at Arijiju Retreat in Kenya, to a visit to the Chateau de Saran, or a suite at the Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo in Monaco. And if you detest commercial flying, I recommend the Falcon 10X by Dassault. Deliveries start in 2025. The price starts at Sh9.2 billion. This is an absolute luxury, with a living room, bed, and shower,” Ms Maina says.