Remember When Prada Made a Cellphone?

Remember When Prada Made a Cellphone?

Nor would the Prada LG be the last of the designer cell phones, even as the iPhone became the standard mobile device. LG’s development of a touchscreen phone had left Samsung worrying about a once-distant competitor, so they decided to make up for it by collaborating with Giorgio Armani for a premium branded touchscreen phone, released in the fall of 2007. Electronics companies were itching to collaborate with fashion brands for phones; when Dior released their unit, the $5,100 quilted flip-style Diorphone, the brand’s president told WWD he had fielded calls from multiple tech partners before deciding to produce the phone on their own, taking “a luxury approach.”

Giorgo Armani with the Armani Samsung.Bloomberg

Though the idea of a fashion branded phone seems almost perversely appealing in a world in which Supreme collaborates with Post-Its, why were these luxury houses so desperate to make cell phones?

As Dana Thomas wrote in her book Deluxe, which was released in 2007, at the height of the fashion cell phone craze, “Brands [were] expanding their reach by licensing their names on anything and everything once again,” mentioning the Versace and Prada phones as examples. She quoted a Prada spokesperson as saying that “a mobile phone is more and more an accessory…an object of design and style, a status symbol which almost defines a person—definitely one of the most important objects in a woman’s handbag.” In other words, cell phones were still a luxury object, but they were quickly becoming something else, and fashion, at that moment entering a new age of pop cultural relevance, felt poised to market products at that sweet spot: the things that you want so much that you end up needing them. A phone might not be as expensive as a handbag, but it’s certainly more necessary.

The iPhone, of course, quickly won out, and fashion brands responded by ceasing to compete. Apple had beat them at their own game of the alchemy of consumer desire. Whether they copied the LG Prada or not, Apple built upon a very mid-aughts idea created by the fashion industry: the luxury masstige product. Apple realized it didn’t need a fashion brand to create a “premium” product. The iPhone was the first luxury product that felt accessible to everyone, that everybody wanted, and that, most importantly, everybody could have.

The iPhone also won out, of course, because it was a superior product. By May of 2007, about a month before the iPhone arrived in stores, Gizmodo decided it was “settling this iPhone vs LG Prada nonsense,” and wrote that the LG’s browser was pitiful and the phone didn’t have WiFi. In sum, they wrote, it’s “just like a regular phone.” Which, in retrospect, sounds like the ultimate luxury.

Source : Rachel Tashjian Link

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