It’s strange to think that Apple’s smartwatch is gracing the cover of Vogue China while other smartwatches are often dismissed for being clunky, unattractive devices, even though there’s little difference between the don’t-call-it-an-iWatch and all of its thick and heavy predecessors. Or at least it seems strange until you remember that Apple’s greatest strength is its brand, and that makes it uniquely suited to winning over a scene where the “who” is often more important than the “what” — assuming everything I learned from “The Devil Wears Prada” is still accurate.
Apple’s products were considered accessories long before the company introduced a device that was actually supposed to be worn as one. The iPhone is a smartphone, sure, but it’s also a status symbol. The iPod is as much about its multi-colored chassis as it is about playing music. The old iMac shipped with a semi-transparent monitor that came in multiple colors because it was supposed to be different from the drab, beige monitors that sat atop our desks up until the iMac’s release.
Now the company is taking advantage of that history — and all of the goodwill it’s amassed with consumers — in an attempt to make sure the Apple Watch succeeds where other smartwatches have failed. That means getting on the cover of fashion magazines instead of being the sole purview of tech blogs, convincing people that smartwatches can be attractive instead of looking like something found in a ’90s cereal box, and presenting the watch as jewelry.
How else would the product end up on the cover of Vogue China, or with the dissection of that decision appearing in the Guardian’s fashion section instead of its technology blog? It’s not a happy coincidence, it’s the result of careful planning and execution, as the Guardian explains:
Product placement is everywhere in fashion. The catwalks of every city are sprinkled with gadgets, mineral waters, crystals and furs that are there because their producers have paid to get them associated with those names. Apple made a point of being associated, instead, with people who can’t be bought, and therefore established the connection as real. The designer Azzedine Alaia hosted a Paris dinner for Apple Watch because he is best friends with Marc Newson, who has worked with Apple design guru Jony Ive on the watch. Karl Lagerfeld came to the Paris breakfast launch of the Apple watch because he is a huge Apple fan. (his cat Choupette has her own iPad.) Anna Wintour came because she’s a huge fan of Ive’s work. A profile of Ive in the new issue of American Vogue details his British tailor, Thomas Mahon (who also makes suits for Prince Charles), his collection of cars (Aston Martin, Bentley, Land Rover) and his London hotel of choice (Claridges).
Apple isn’t a technology company trying to masquerade as a fashion company. Instead, it’s focused on designing products that make statements in addition to being solid devices. And those efforts have allowed it to enter the fashion world in a way that its competitors haven’t. Apple has always been a jewelry maker insofar as its products are viewed as status symbols and admired for their form as much as their function; now it just so happens to have made a device that is meant to be worn as a piece of jewelry in addition to being seen as one. It’s gone vogue.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]