The Devil wears Apple: Invites to Tuesday's event signal smartwatch's fashionable intent

Apple has invited prominent fashion editors and bloggers to its Sept. 9 product launch event

Apple has invited prominent fashion editors and bloggers to its Sept. 9 product launch event, according to a report by Reuters, strong signals not only that will it introduce a line of wearable devices but that it will emphasize form as much as function.

On Saturday, Reuters noted that Apple had invited "unprecedented numbers" of fashion experts to the Tuesday event, which will take place at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif.

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

Goldman is a first-time invitee.

In the last two years, Apple has used its September event to unveil new iPhones. Smartphones are still among the announcements analysts expect on Tuesday, with most convinced that Apple will tout a pair of new models, one with a screen measuring 4.7-in. -- up from the current 4-in. display used in the iPhone 5S and 5C -- another with an even larger 5.5-in. screen.

But in the last few weeks, speculation that Apple will also use the Flint Center to trumpet a line of wearable devices -- dubbed "iWatch" by wags -- has increased.

Few details of the line have emerged, perhaps because Apple will only unveil the wearables but postpone their on-sale date until early 2015.

Apple has used that tactic before. Former CEO Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone in January 2007, but the smartphone did not go on sale until late June of that year. Similarly, in 2010 Jobs unveiled the first iPad in January but his company didn't start selling the table until early April.

In both cases, the lag between introduction and on-sale was used by Apple to take pre-orders and finish its first run of product manufacturing, and by developers to prepare their Web apps (for the iPhone) and iOS apps (iPad) for the new hardware.

A delay between an "iWatch" line debut this week and sales in, say, January or even later, could be used for the same purposes.

Although the iPhone and iPad sold in relatively low volumes their first full quarter -- 270,000 iPhones, 3.3 million iPads -- compared to later sales, the months-long pause after their introductions gave Apple an opportunity to build buzz for the new devices. In the fives months before the on-sale date for the original iPhone, blogs and mainstream media websites were crammed with reports anticipating its launch.

Apple's motivation for inviting fashion editors and bloggers should be seen in that same light: Bringing them into the tent may prompt them to add to Apple's free-marketing strategy.

And while Apple has long implied that the iPhone is a fashion statement -- and millions of its customers believe that -- the fact that it has not brought the fashion industry to its hallmark event until now is telling. Apple will introduce more than just its usual products for one, and secondly, the firm clearly wants its new wearables seen as a fashion accessory as well as a technology geek's gizmo.

"It has to look good on a variety of wrists, not just larger men's wrists. It should be stylish, and recognizable as a fashion accessory and not just a gadget," wrote Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research last month on Tech.pinions.

Even as others questioned the likelihood of an "iWatch," they stressed style in their speculation of what Apple will reveal this week. "As a matter of fact, I don't believe Apple is doing an iWatch at all," said Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, also on Tech.pinions. "I believe they are creating a powerful and stylish health wearable designed by Jony Ive (emphasis added)."

Ben Thompson, an influential independent analyst who covers technology on Stratechery, pondered the iWatch months ago and argued that Apple's wearable would be fashion-esque in that it would be a portfolio of devices -- analogous to a clothing line -- rather than just a single, stock device as is, for example, Motorola's Moto 360.

A fashion angle for an Apple wearable has been proposed for some time, as even the secretive Apple cannot mask everything. Notably, it has hired several prominent people from the fashion and luxury accessories industries since at least mid-2013, when it brought on board Paul Deneve, the CEO of Yves Saint Laurent. Since then it also hired Angela Ahrendts, chief executive of Burberry, and Patrick Pruniaux, who led sales and retail at Swiss luxury watchmaker Tag Heurer.

Apple's Tuesday event will be webcast from Apple's site and is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET).

Join the Computerworld newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Appleconsumer electronicsapple mac

More about AppleBurberryClaireCreativeCreative StrategiesFlintGoldman

Show Comments