SYDNEY: Increased Chinese tourism has helped to drive luxury markets around the world, but in Australia the presence of a growing number of wealthy Chinese expats has emerged as a significant factor.

Edwina McCann, editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia said she became aware of the shift after meeting VIP shoppers at events hosted by luxury brands.

"We realised that the majority of them were not tourists driving this trade, they were Australians, many of whom had been to university here and had stayed on and got jobs and had families," she told Others live in Australia and commute to China for work.

"We've never had a wealthy immigrant population come in like this," she added. "We were hearing stories of students in Australia who were going in and spending $16,000 on a handbag and we had just never seen that before."

Brands have been quicker than fashion journalists to make the connection, with a number of fine jewellery stores opening, including names like Van Cleef and Graff. "These are not stores that I think would have come to Australia if not for this very significant purchasing power," said McCann of the Chinese expat market.

She also felt that local designers and retailers could tap into this spending, noting that Angelica Cheung, editor of Chinese Vogue, had told her that "Australia needs to work at its marketing pitch" with fashion and luxury goods of its own.

The market is certain to evolve in unexpected ways, as the laid-back Australian lifestyle that has attracted these expats also begins to subtly alter their tastes. As one entrepreneur of Malaysian heritage noted: "A person who lives in Asia is very different to an Asian person living in Australia – what they find interesting or fashionable is different to what appeals to us."

And McCann echoed that sentiment. "This next generation could be incredible for Australia but it is coming from huge privilege," she said.

Data sourced from; additional content by Warc staff