Apple courts fashionistas as smartwatch expectations mount

  • Reuters, San Francisco
  • Updated: Sep 06, 2014 16:53 IST

Apple Inc has invited top fashion editors and bloggers in unprecedented numbers to its Tuesday launch gala, further evidence that the iPhone maker is preparing to take the wraps off a smartwatch.

Apple is forging closer ties to the fashion world as it plots its foray into the fertile field of wearable technology, trying to win over a critical crowd that may prove crucial to the success of consumer gadgets worn around the body.

A smartwatch would represent Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook's first real new product since taking the baton from Steve Jobs. Several fashion media editors told Reuters they received invitations for the first time to an annual September product-launch, which they took as confirmation of a wristwatch
in the wings.

"I assume it's because they are unveiling a wearable," said Lea Goldman, features and special projects director for Marie Claire magazine, a first-time invitee. "This suggests Apple is serious about tapping into the fashion world, which often sits on the sidelines."

Apple declined to comment.

The iPhone maker, known for its sleek aesthetic, has made overtures to the fashion press in the past. It typically opts to host a separate event in New York where editors meet the team and review products, two fashion editors say.

That courtship has grown more aggressive. Last month, the company hosted what it called a "first-of-its-kind event" at an Apple Store in New York to showcase fashion and retail apps to a group of style editors, according to an invitation seen by Reuters.

Fashion site Refinery29's health and science director Kelly Bourdet said the decision to include fashion editors on the invite-list is a "nod to the fashion crowd."

Apple seems poised to network with the who's who of the industry. In the past year or two, it has hired Patrick Pruniaux, former vice president of Tag Heuer's global sales and retail; Angela Ahrendts, former chief executive of Burberry Inc; and former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve joined as vice president of special projects.

It is not just Apple. From Google Inc to LG Electronics Inc and Intel Corp, technology companies are beginning to forge fashion ties. On Friday, Intel announced a tie-up with Fossil Group on wearable technology.

Sonny Vu, chief executive of Misfit Wearables, expects more tie-ups as tech companies ramp up the fashion quotient in smartwatches, given that the current crop of watches has received mixed reviews.

The challenge for technology companies is to make something "fashionable off the bat" that is not clunky, said Eric Wilson, fashion news director for InStyle Magazine.

He and other editors said they harbored high hopes for Apple and planned to monitor Tuesday's event.

"It confirms that they have a play in wearables and that they want to appeal to the fashion world, and not just technology consumers," said Lauren Indvik, editor in chief for Fashionista and another first-time invitee.

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