The fashion industry is secretly sick of being underestimated and under-intellectualized. There’s a pivotal scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Meryl Streep gives her assistant Andy a talking-to about the hypocrisy inherent in her disdain for fashion — as it’s given life to the blue drab sweater she is wearing. And it is a trillion dollar industry.
I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns.
And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of “stuff.”
Thus far, the fashion elite has been wary to give their blessing to the wearables scene, as the nerds developing these things have all thought themselves too erudite, too ascetic to kiss the ring.
Turns out that’s not so smart. In a world where an old picture of Kate Moss wearing white Birkenstocks can lead to international sell outs of that item, and a resurgence of the Birkenstock brand, you need to know where your bread is buttered or a more fashion apropo metaphor. Where your McQueen boot laces are tied?
There are legions that wait for the blessing of Moss or Cara Delevingne or Alexa Chung or Karl Lagerfeld or Anna Wintour herself before they buy an item. Formerly CEO of Burberry, Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, understands this more than any other executive in technology. Thus, Apple reserved seats for fashion bloggers at its last launch event, and model Lily Cole was in attendance. Word is that Wintour brought her whole Senior Editorial staff to Cupertino.
But Apple didn’t stop there. Jony Ive made a pilgrimage to Paris Fashion week last week, to win sartorially minded friends and influence stylish people. If Sir Jony doesn’t think he’s too cool to genuflect to Anna and Karl, what’s your problem, Jawbone?
For lovers of both tech and fashion, this is like watching two of your closest friends fall in love with each other. It was inevitable. All of a sudden Ive is wearing powder blue on powder blue. Lagerfeld is wearing a watch on each wrist! Everyone who’s ever been to the Colette boutique in Paris is wishing they were at Colette right now. After all, what is more “wearable” than a shirt?
Okay, it’s not all Champagne and roses. Fashion bellwether Chung panned the Apple Watch — “It’s kind of dorky” she said. Unlike the adult overalls she’s known to wear. A brigade of other fashion people were on hand to thumb their noses at the device and give press ready quotes to New York Magazine.
For what it’s worth, Vogue turned into The Verge when writing about the gadget, landing an enviable Jony Ive puff piece.
You’ve got to respect the hustle, even if it’s down a runway. Apple is doing what every other wearables company should have done, and what very few could have done because they are not Apple: They are making a peace offering to fashion.
And lest you think this extends only to the Apple Watch, as it only counts as fashion because you wear it on your body, remember that you display your phone, your laptop and your tablet as much as any item of clothing. And, I’m talking to you concert Snapchatter, this applies to software as well as hardware. “As technology becomes pervasive it moved from functional, to beautiful, to — at some point in the near future — almost… superficial” one person familiar with Apple opined.
In a world where trophy wives wave their iPhone 6 around like it’s a Chanel purse, tech is fashion. The same emotions and status anxiety drives the buys of Celine bags and sexy tablets.
I just got a shipment of iPad, iPhone and Macbook cases from Best Buy (#OnlyAtBestBuy), with the tagline, “Who is your iPhone wearing this fall?” This misses the point. I don’t want my iPhone or iPad or iMac to wear designs by Anna Sui, Nanette Lepore or Isaac Mizrahi or any other fashion designer. I want it to be a good design in and of itself.
The Watch, by Jony Ive. Spring/Summer ’15.
Image via JessC_M