Why Angela Ahrendts to Apples is a natural move: Tech form now matters as much as tech function

Geek and chic finally become bedfellows on the catwalk

The dance between technology and fashion has always been a rather ungainly one, characterised by awkward stumbling, accidental toe-treading and unexpected knees in the groin.

Neither world is really certain what it’s supposed to be doing with the other. Products deemed to combine style with cutting-edge credibility tend to leave the public cold, whether that’s a celebrity-endorsed gizmo (will.i.am’s iPhone accessories, Polaroid camera glasses sported by Lady Gaga) or solutions to problems that don’t exist (Bluetooth glove-phones, rechargeable handbag chargers). But as technology shrinks, form and style start to become much more important.

In the old days, technology companies could chuck components in a black rectangular box, slap on a product code and launch it. Today you can get a 32-bit processor, flash memory, RAM and a clock in a chip less than two millimetres square; this has driven a mobile revolution that’s spreading from handheld devices to wearables. And wearables present technology companies with a problem, because gadgets that we’re happy to have sitting in our bags or on our shelves aren’t necessarily ones we’d have on our wrist, round our neck or on our face. Suddenly, technology finds itself experiencing a fashion crisis.

“You welcome gimmicks from your phone,” says Carrie Tyler, editor of online fashion glossy Never Underdressed, “but you don’t necessarily want gimmicks from your watch or your glasses. You just want them to look attractive and work.”

The fanfare heralding the arrival of wearable technology into the marketplace has been muted by this evident truth. There’s little point in making wearables that people don’t find alluring enough to wear, and while technology companies tie themselves up in knots over the functionality of, say, a smartwatch (Track your sleeping patterns? Take pictures? Monitor heart rate? Tell the time?) the fact is that we require very little from a watch. For most people, aesthetic appeal is more important. That’s why a team of 100 designers is rumoured to be working on Apple’s much-anticipated “iWatch”: while the mass adoption of wearable technology is primarily a social battle, it’s one that can be won a whole lot quicker if the product looks cool and feels desirable.

Small wonder, then, that technology companies are beginning to court figures from the fashion world like desperate singletons at a speed-dating event. The departure of Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts for a job at Apple comes only a few weeks after Yves St Laurent’s Paul Deneve made the same move. Google, still engaged in a long-term pre-launch battle for public acceptance for Google Glass, scored a coup when Diane von Furstenberg’s models wore the futuristic spectacles at last autumn’s New York Fashion Week. Samsung sent Galaxy Gears watches up the catwalk in Milan with Moschino; Kenzo designed covers for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet at Paris Fashion Week, while those on the front row at Roksanda Ilincic’s recent show in London were slipped a free pair of stylish Sennheiser Momentum headphones. With the attitudes of taste-makers so important in the often sniffy world of fashion, you can hardly blame those technology companies who suddenly find themselves plunged into the luxury accessories market for attempting such overt seduction.

But what do the fashion companies get out of this liaison? Does any kudos flow the other way? “The fashion and beauty worlds were very slow to the digital party,” says Tyler. “Until a couple of years ago there were barely any decent e-commerce websites, and luxury brands were in denial about what technology could do for them – mainly because they were steeped in heritage. But that’s changing.

“You may not be able to buy Prada online, but they now embrace digital with all their wonderful videos and associations with the art world.”

That developing link with technology was highlighted at Dressed To Code, a “fashion hackathon” hosted by Glamour magazine last month at New York Fashion Week, where coders (split 50/50 between men and women) convened to merge the worlds of technology and fashion through the development of mobile apps. It’s hardly a marriage made in heaven, but perhaps the geek and the chic are finally getting it together.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee