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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower