The release of Apple’s most customisable piece to date has sent a ripple of excitement throughout the luxury fashion industry, especially since Chanel visionary Karl Lagerfeld has been spotted wearing the exclusive gold version. Wearing the watch at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Florence today, he said “look how digital I am – I am wearing the first one.” So it was fitting that Apple Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive and renowned industrial designer turned Apple Design Advisor Marc Newson opened the Conference this morning. We look at what impact wearable technology will have on the luxury fashion industry….
Newson started by explaining that the Apple watch did not deliberately set out to replace the classic timepiece, but that the wrist was the next organic step for technology. When questioned by Suzy Menkes why we would want to wear what is essentially a machine, Ive stressed that as we are already a generation that relies on technology, an Apple iWatch is an ergonomic evolution.
Apple has taken the most successful aspects of the luxury fashion industry and translated them into technology. Firstly, the importance of personalised design: luxury luggage and leather companies have long offered monogram services to make classic designs unique. Apple has observed this and moved their products away from a solid monolithic device by introducing several aesthetic options.
Secondly, the Apple iWatch has embraced the fashion industry’s multi-pricing segmentation. From the sporty rubber strap to the classic quilted leather, you can mix and match straps and metallic finishes until you’re happy. All this comes at a cost, with prices starting with the entry level Apple Sport at £299, and ending with the ultra-exclusive Apple Edition priced at £13,000. This means everyone can aspire to own the very latest that Apple are offering.
Is this good news for the fashion industry? On the whole, the reaction seems to be positive with Hermès declaring publicly at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference that they think it’s great. Positive reaction means that luxury fashion houses can now start planning collections and accessories that will compliment wearable technology; leather straps and travel cases for a start.
What effect will the Apple iWatch have on hard luxury, brands that sell classic watches that are seen as both a beautiful object and an investment? The news isn’t as bad as it might seem, as Ive noted this morning that Apple’s target audience – the under thirties – are not a generation who feels the need to wear a watch if they want to tell the time, as they simply check out their smart phone. With the introduction of the Apple Watch, the younger generation might start to pay attention to what someone chooses to wear on their wrist, whether it be wearable technology like the Apple Watch or a classic timepiece. The opening up of a new luxury market place can only be a good thing.
Additional reporting from Florence by Antonia Peck