On the 30th of September 2014, during the Paris fashion week, the new Apple watch stole the show from some of the most important luxury fashion shows. How is this possible? It seems that Apple has the intention to transform its new creation into a real fashion accessory.
This however is not a surprise considering that Apple products have always been bought more for their design than for their technological features - but the explicit push in recent times is interesting.
Apple is a brand linked to fun, simplicity and diversity, so the gap between iconic product and fashion brand is a small one in any case. The choice of location for the preview - the famous Parisian boutique “Colette” in rue Saint-Honore’ - seems to confirm the fact even further. This is on the heels of the appointment of Angela Ahrendts earlier this year, the ex-CEO of British luxury group Burberry and former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent Paul Deneve.
Three different models of Apple watches were presented: the basic one called the Apple Sport watch, the Apple Watch in steel and the Apple Watch Edition in Gold. Each has different functionalities, like Siri, voice messages, heartbeat sensors and so on; most of them relate to the health and fitness fields. But six different finishes have been introduced, and more styles are forecasted. This certainly seems to be in-line with the recent strategy of offering multiple “looks” to customers.
Both fashion and tech blogs are talking extensively about the new watch. At the same time Apple does not want the product to be labelled as a smart watch, but just as a watch, thus competing in a completely different market. Technological features are being overcome by more aesthetic ones: the design, uniqueness and style of the product.
The new pattern undertaken by Apple can be explained by the fact that watches have become new luxury objects of desire, rather than useful products. As a proof of this, the supermodel Liu Wen appeared on Vogue China’s cover, wearing the new iWatch. A great jump from the products being featured in tech magazines!
Moreover wereable technology is becoming really popular nowadays, even if generally the contrary happens i.e. generally the fashion houses are the ones that want to enter in the technology sector, putting hi-tech inserts on their creations. According to research firm Future source Consulting, the wearable-electronics market reached $8 billion in sales last year, and is expected to hit $20 billion by 2017. Approximately 600,000 applications for design and utility patents were filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year, a 24% increase over 2009. It seems that the two market segments are overlapping and that this produces great advantages for both the industries.
Entering the fashion market is a desirable challenge for Apple, but the question that we are grappling with is that can this strategy be applied all around the world?
Indian luxury goods market appears to be on a lower growth trajectory; even if until 2012, India was the leading Asian country in terms of growth for the luxury market. This increase is mostly due to young Indian people (below 30 years), which represents more than half of the Indian population. Young people have always been the main target for Apple products too, but according to the surveys conducted by the Times of India, teenagers are not interested in buying the watch, and this is a big problem for Apple.
Moreover Indians are disposed to pay a high price if the product has a high value or is considered an important brand in Indian fashion world, but at the same time they tend to plan expensive purchases and don’t want to spend money on useless products. With this premise, Apple is facing a trade off: sell the watches as a mainstream product, or make the watch a new Indian fashion accessory.
The solution might rest with Bollywood? after all, they are the ones that are the trend-setters for Indian fashion and the ones that the masses look to for style inspiration. Becoming a technology driven luxury fashion brand can be tricky and is a risky strategy at the same time. Is Apple ready to lose current consumers in the attempt to acquire new ones? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know what you think!