Is Apple Saying Goodbye to Fashion?

A sudden, striking influx of glamorous non-techies at a tech hub in California. Grumbles about NDAs. Excited, surreptitious glances. Gossip about disruption. A drumroll for a hitherto hush-hush, industry-upsetting announcement.

Sound familiar?

This is not a description of what is happening today at the Apple event in Cupertino, as the company unveils its new video service and television shows (among other things). It is a description of what happened on Sept. 9, 2014, at the Apple event in Cupertino, where the Apple watch was unveiled. For those of us who remember that day, the run-up to this week has provided an eerie sense of déjà vu.

Not to mention a question: What’s the deal with wearables and fashion? Five years on from the watch’s much-ballyhooed introduction, is the relationship over? Has technology found a new object for its affections?

For a brief, shining moment, there was such an intense attraction. The trend wheel turns so fast these days that it is easy to forget, but take a moment, please, to remember when. Because it is possible that there is a lesson for us all buried in the end of the affair (apologies to Graham Greene).

“There is this endless hunger in fashion for newness and what’s the next thing, and Apple and Silicon Valley really promises that,” said Mimma Viglezio, the editor of the digital platform ShowStudio. “So they” — we! — “just embraced it.”

In advance of the watch’s introduction, Apple — which, after all, had been built on some of the principles dear to luxury, including the allure of tactile design, and planned obsolescence — began seducing glossy executives right and left to come work for the company.

Most notably there was Paul Deneve, the chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent; Patrick Pruniaux, of Tag Heuer; and Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive credited with using technology to transform Burberry, who arrived at Apple to run its retail and e-tail operations with a gilded halo still fresh on her head.

Front-row denizens like Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, and Lauren Indvik, the editor of Fashionista, flew out to Cupertino in the middle of New York Fashion Week, suggesting that when it came to shows, the one in California was the one that mattered.

But the fact that all of those developments, which five years ago would have been trumpeted with drumrolls and bells and whistles, slipped in practically under the radar is reflective of the new state of … well, I wouldn’t call it estrangement, but rather a cooling off of the once heated relationship.

“The connected boot is playful and was just one of those things we kind of add on when it makes sense,” said Sandra Choi, the creative director of Jimmy Choo, who added that the boot has been well received. It was not included, though, in the company’s presentation during the most recent Milan Fashion Week because it was not considered core to the Jimmy Choo identity, or even indicative of future direction.

Paul Dillinger, the head of global product innovation at Levi’s, said much the same, noting that the connected jacket is positioned in Levi’s Commuter Collection, “which is a fairly niche area of the business.” When it came time for the next season’s release, instead of offering a new style or a new product, the company chose to offer the same product — with new applications.

“We put the creative energy of fashion design into the jacket’s digital collateral rather than physical collateral,” Mr. Dillinger said.

Mr. Galloway of N.Y.U. said the conclusion was simple: “There was only one wearable that was really a fashion statement, and that was your phone.” Which may have been the root of the problem. We thought that wherever that led, everything else would follow. Apparently not.

All of which suggests we are over the fashion-tech PDAs. We’re kind of platonic acquaintances now. Every once in while it’s nice to meet up again and air kiss.

So what have we learned from the last five years?

Maybe that the real future of fashion and technology has nothing to do with screens.

Maybe that the concept of a “hero product” that is so associated with the world of technology doesn’t really work in the context of an industry that already has its own hero products (Hollywood might take note of that one). Indeed, Mr. Dillinger said he was initially quite skeptical about the idea of the Jacquard. “I really value the objects of fashion for being what they are,” he said.

It’s possible we don’t actually want our clothes, or our accessories, to do much more than they already do, which is make us feel good and be tools of self-expression, symbols of membership in a group, clues to aspirations.

That’s what the phone did. And, though no one necessarily saw it coming, what AirPods and Vuitton earphones — which cost almost $1,000, but which, since their introduction in January, have sold three times more than the second-generation LV smartwatch released at the same time, and currently have wait lists — are doing: acting as visible semaphores of identity.

According to I.D.C., by 2023 “ear worn devices” will be the second-largest category of wearables, accounting for 31 percent of the market. (By contrast, it predicts that smartclothes will account for only around 3 percent).

In other words, that drumroll in your head? It’s actually hearables. Though personally I like “earwear” better.

Sahred From Source link Fashion and Style

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