Reading all the (somewhat gleeful and ongoing) reports of the Nike Fuelband’s demise over the last few days, I’ve been struck by the fact that while they all seem to agree on the fact that it was maybe a defensive move in anticipation of the looming possible iWatch threat, they also seem divided as to what, exactly, Nike’s problem was: hardware (it didn’t have big enough margins)or software (it didn’t actually do enough). But let’s call a spade a spade: it didn’t look good enough.
Today’s announcement that Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts was leaving (mid-next year) to become Apple’s head of retail, and current Chief Creative Officer/designer Christopher Bailey was taking her place while retaining his design responsibilities has the potential to change not just fashion but tech, and the inter-relationship between the two. Hyperbole? I don’t think so. Consider the Butterfly effect:
Seems to me the big question hovering over Apple and Tim Cook – should they or should they not introduce a cheaper iPhone next month, perhaps for the China market? – is actually obvious, or would have been so to Mr Cook’s predecessor, Steve Jobs. Yes, they should, and it shouldn’t necessarily be for China. Or not just for China. Why do I think this? Fashion, my dear Watson.
We all know that part of Steve Jobs’ genius was taking the rules of fashion and applying them to technology, be it the importance of must-have seasonal design, or gadgets that are actually accessories, and hence identity totems. As Michel Kors pointed out to me recently, however, fashion has never exactly turned the tables; it hasn’t figured out what it should absorb from Apple. Well, today BCG is publishing a paper that suggests things might be changing. They have pinpointed a lesson. And they want the luxury world to learn it.
The news today that Blackberry was teaming up with Mercedes for some F1 branding because, RIM’s chief marketing officer told the FT, both are “at the beginning of a journey to reclaim the top position”, is interesting. But it seems to me, if this brand really wants to catch up with its competitors, especially Apple, what it needs is a creative director: a design mind, and, potentially, a famous one at that. Marc Newson, anyone? That would be a game-changer.
Jony Ive is not exactly a secret weapon: we all know how important his aesthetic skills were to Steve Jobs’ crafting of Apple’s identity and success in convincing consumers that electronics are actually fashion/luxury items. I never fail to understand how another company has not seen this and one-upped them by officially appointing a designer of their own.
I greeted my colleague Richard Waters’s column today on the new mini Ipad – Apple’s equivalent of a mini-clutch – with a roll of the eyes. Not because it demonstrates yet another way in which the tech giant is mimicking the fashion world (by filling out their accessory offering), but because a recent experience has me thinking that maybe Apple has not learned its fashion/luxury lesson as well as this might suggest.
Reading my newspaper over coffee this morning, I almost fell out of my chair while perusing a tech story on Google, Amazon et al, which ended with the following observation: “Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have the potential to adopt Apple’s vertical model of combining software, services and hardware to gain complete control over the design and function of future mobile devices.” Because the thing is, dear reader, it’s not “Apple’s approach” exactly – or it is, but Apple got it from somewhere else first. And where would that be? Fashion, of course.
The assertion that exclusivity is no longer a criteria for luxury came from PPR chief Francois-Henri Pinault when he opened our luxury conference last Thursday, and I have to say, it made me sit up in my seat. Not that that was the only striking insight to come out at the end of last week. Here, in no particular order of importance, are the top five items that stayed with me the most
And so Apple is getting the final ingredient in the arsenal of a luxury brand: a fragrance. Admittedly, it wasn’t developed by the company itself; it was commissioned from a scent manufacturer called Air Aroma by an Australian art collective called Greatest Hits as part of a gallery installation. Still, it pretty much confirms what we already knew about that brand: that it has transcended tech to become part of an individual’s socio-political identity — and hence open to artistic commentary. Now, what’s Apple going to do about it? After all, it may sound conceptual, but I think it has quite powerful real-world applications.
When the iPad 3 went on-sale at midnight last friday night it provoked the usual frenzy — miles of lines, ecstatic buyers — as well as one very interesting blog that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks over the weekend. It takes a good, analytic look at the general perception that Apple is a luxury brand and points out that it does tick all the luxury boxes save one: exclusivity. But here’s what I wonder: is exclusivity really a luxury value these days?