Nearly five years ago, at an event in San Francisco, Apple surprised everyone when it announced a special edition of Apple Watch in partnership with Paris-based luxury company Hermès. Vogue’s Lucy Hutchings called the Apple Watch Hermès “a truly collaborative line”, while Hodinkee’s Benjamin Clymer said Apple and Hermès created “a fascinating luxury-tech hybrid that plays on Apple’s reach, Hermès’ legacy in luxury.”
The coming together of Apple and Hermès – perhaps the biggest names in tech and fashion – further elevated the idea of how tech is reshaping the luxury fashion industry. This is also part of a broader push to combine tech with fashion to create products that are a fusion of design and innovation.
Over the last few years, the bond between tech companies and fashion houses, has only thickened. Major companies like Samsung and LG, have made partnerships with the likes of Hugo Boss and Prada to create special products. If it all looks crazy that’s because there are infinite opportunities for both tech companies and luxury fashion houses.
Below is a list of tech collaborations with fashion houses that are worth a look.
Apple x Hermès
Apple has been collaborating with Hermès since 2015 on a special Apple Watch model, and their relationship seems to be going strong. The French luxury brand has a rich legacy and its partnership with Apple makes a lot of sense.
Apple has always positioned the top-end models of Apple Watch for consumers who love elegant and minimalistic style. Apple Watch Hermès Series 5, the latest venture between the two iconic brands, combines the sophisticated design aesthetic and the heritage leather band with high-tech technology. There is a Hermès stamp all over the watch. Take the example of the Della Cavalleria bands, which are leather printed with the Della Cavalleria scarf design. Those who are familiar with Hermès will immediately recognise the iconic Della Cavalleria scarf design.
Apple Watch Hermès was born out of a clear vision where Apple wanted to present a smartwatch not just as a tech product but as a fashion product as well. That’s exactly why the Apple Watch Hermès exist in the first place.
LG x Prada
LG’s partnership with the Italian fashion giant Prada was more than a marketing exercise. The two brands collaborated thrice to create a premium smartphone that pushed the design and aesthetic of the device at the forefront. The Prada phone by LG, in particular, was unique in many ways. In true sense, it was the representation of cutting-edge technology meeting high fashion. From its design to the user interface to packaging, LG and Prada made sure to create the best mix of Korean technology and Italian design.
In fact, the first Prada smartphone by LG was so successful that it sold more than 1 million units, which helped break the myth that designer phones have no market. The first-generation Prada phone has been part of collections of both New York’s Museum of Modern Art as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, China.
The last Prada smartphone was launched in 2012 and we’ve never heard about another model since then.
Samsung x Hugo Boss
Samsung is another smartphone brand that has a history of teaming up with top fashion houses in the past. The South Korean major had partnered with German fashion brand Hugo Boss – best known for fine men’s suits – to create special-themed smartphones.
Its first collaboration with Hugo Boss was in 2008 when the two companies made a Hugo Boss-themed version of the Samsung F480. Later, in 2011, the two brands once again joined forces to release a revamped version of the Galaxy Ace Android phone. The intention was to create a designer edition of the Galaxy Ace, complete with ‘Hugo Boss’ branding above the screen, a matte black finish, a subscription to Yacht Fancy, and Hugo Boss wallpapers.
We don’t know how successful the two designer phones were in terms of sales. Still, the collaboration with Samsung and Hugo Boss for a smartphone was a clever marketing strategy. Will there be a Hugo Boss version of the next Samsung flagship?
Louis Vuitton x Master & Dynamic
There are a few brands that can rival the status Louis Vuitton has in the world of luxury and fashion. So when the French luxury label decided to launch the brand new $995 Horizon wireless earbuds (designed in collaboration with Master & Dynamic) last year, all sorts of opinion started pouring in. Some called it overrated, others called it “too expensive”. Truth to be told, the Horizon wireless earbuds went out of stock within days of launch.
While many would have not anticipated, Louis Vuitton and Master & Dynamic have collaborated for the second time in a row on a new pair of Horizon Earphones. This time around, they are priced at $1,090, around $100 more than you had to pay for the original model. But the Horizon Earphones do offer better features built-in like an Active Noise-Cancelling and an Ambient Listening Mode. Plus, the earbuds can get up to 10 hours of listening on a single charge and up to 30 hours in total. They are eye-catching and also the most beautiful wireless earbuds in the market.
Louis Vuitton x Royole
There is no better example of the fusion of fashion with cutting-edge technology than Louis Vuitton’s flexible display handbag. During Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020, the top French fashion brand showed the world’s first handbags with fully flexible displays. To create its new collection called “Canvas of the Future.”
Louis Vuitton tapped in Royole’s patented flexible display and sensors and embossed them on the front of handbags. It may sound bizarre and to some extent even pointless, but there are certain use cases that Louis Vuitton would like to tap in. For instance, you can use the handbag to create a number of digitally created design combinations.
If foldable smartphones and tablets can exist, then why not the handbag? Louis Vuitton may be right that foldable is the way of the future and which is it has reimagined the handbag with a flexible screen.
Google x Yves Saint Laurent
Last year, search giant Google and haute couture fashion house Yves Saint Laurent teamed up to create the $995 smart backpack. The bag features multiple touch sensors in the strap so that the wearer can access a connected phone. The backpack connects to any Android or iPhone via the Jacquard mobile app. The idea behind Yves Saint Laurent Cit-e backpack is simple: let the user change turn the volume up and down, listen to text messages or access Google Maps without touching the smartphone.
Otherwise, the bag is made of black nylon with canvas lining on the inside and padded straps. The high price of Cit-e backpack is inline with the backpack from any designer label. The only difference between this backpack and other backpack is that both Google and Yves Saint Laurent have worked together to blend fashion and tech together and used their expertise to simply tech like controlling your smartphone just by tapping the strap of your backpack.
The Cit-e backpack is just the second product under Google’s ambitious Project Jacquard. Since 2015, Google is working on a project that aimed at making connected clothing a reality. In 2017, Google chose to work with Levis when the two brands launched a $350 “connected” denim jean jacket featuring gesture-sensing sensors allowing the user to handle calls and messages or adjust the volume tapping on the sleeve.
Motorola x Dolce & Gabbana
The Motorola Razr was the most innovative phone of its time. It was seen as the first status-symbol flip phone and Motorola rightly did what it was supposed to do to make the Razr V3 an aspirational product. It teamed up with the Italian fashion house Dolce&Gabbana to create the limited-edition gold-plated version of the Motorola V3.
Only 1,000 units were made and the phone was released in a handful of countries. The luxury phone came with an eel skin case, a D&G strap, on-screen graphics, and special ringtones selected by Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.
BLU x Supreme
Supreme has come a long way from being a small skate shop in New York to a billion-dollar global brand. The brand controls the supply with limited runs and charge high prices for even as a T-shirt. But for fans and “hypebeasts”, Supreme now sells a feature phone…a real phone.
It’s actually a Blu-made (known for selling affordable phones in the US) that has been rebranded in collaboration with Supreme. The device has a 2.4-inch display and a built-in camera with the Supreme logo on the back.
We don’t know the price yet, but expect the feature phone to cost as high as the iPhone 11 or even more, considering the brand’s reputation of creating scarcity with every new release.
Honor x Moschino
Two years ago, Honor began partnering with the Italian fashion house Moschino to capture the luxury smartphone market. The sister brand of Huawei worked with Moschino on two devices; first in the form of the Honor View 20, followed by a Moschino Honor 20 Pro last year. The latter phone has a deeper footprint of the Italian brand with a special design on the back, alongside a Moschino-designed phone purse, case, and special themes.
Chinese smartphone vendors like Honor are trying really hard to make an impression among influencers and young affluent consumers at home as well as Europe. These players are experimenting with designs, materials and associating with designers to create astoundingly beautiful smartphones. The big takeaway is that fashion-tech is playing a crucial role in pushing the smartphone industry forward.
Hermès x Leica
It could be marketed as a trend in the luxury market, but there have been collaborations where the motive was to develop products to demonstrate quality craftsmanship and deep relationship between two brands. Take the case of Leica M9-P Edition Hermès, the limited edition camera costing $25,000 for the single-lens kit, and $50,000 for the three-lens kit.
Launched in 2012, the M9-P Edition (Leica and Hermès had partnered in the past but on film cameras) is still so cherished even this day. It may not be quite at par with Leica’s current-generation digital cameras, but the M9-P Edition will always be remembered for being made handmade, just like fine Swiss watches.
It’s said that only 100 of these were produced, making the M9-P Edition extremely rare. Leica M9-P Edition Hermès is a fine example of how some cameras have stayed so true to their name.
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