Apple launched so many different things at its event on Wednesday that it was easy to miss some announcements. That includes the company’s new partnership with French fashion company Hermès, which was only given a few minutes at the start of the presentation.
Apple’s partnership with Hermès is actually pretty important. The world of technology journalism immediately dismissed the partnership as Apple fumbling around to try and get new life out of the Apple Watch by marketing it to high-end fashion types. My colleague Matthew DeBord wrote that the partnership “makes it clear the tech company has no idea what the Apple Watch is supposed to be.”
But here’s the thing: The Apple Watch is lots of different things to lots of different people. Forming a partnership with Hermès shows that Apple isn’t just focusing on the tech world with the Apple Watch. Any tech fans who were going to buy the Apple Watch have probably already done so. They’re convinced. Now it’s time for Apple to look elsewhere.
Apple sent a message to the fashion world
We can see Apple’s strategy for the Apple Watch more clearly when we look at the alliances the company has had with the world of fashion during the release of the device. Apple bought page upon page of advertising in fashion bible Vogue. It gave out devices to models and saw the Apple Watch take pride of place on fashion magazine covers around the world.
Apple even created a special gold version of the device that it gave out to celebrities like fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.
The retail strategy for the Apple Watch also differed from previous Apple hardware launches. It created pop-up stores inside luxury department stores and fashion retailers. One pop-up store was built in Selfridges in London. It wasn’t in the technology section, but in the Wonder Room, which is home to luxury fashion products.
The original launch of the Apple Watch made it clear that the product was as much about fashion as it was a tech product. Now Apple is stepping up its promotional efforts for the new Hermès Apple Watch.
This time it’s an even clearer signal
Apple has already rolled out its design chief Jony Ive for two interviews about the Hermès Apple Watch. Ive rarely gives interviews, but he has spoken to both The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times’ “How To Spend It” magazine. Those publications are significant: The Wall Street Journal has a friendly relationship with Apple and “How To Spend It” is mainly about lifestyle and fashion, not technology.
Apple has allowed Hermès to rebrand the face of the watch to look similar to its normal, non-smart watches, another sign that Apple really wants to start selling the Apple Watch to the fashion world.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Hermès Apple Watch uses three different Hermès fonts, making the fashion brand the only name on the digital watch face. That’s a big deal for Apple, as it obsesses over fonts like no other company. It even replaced all the signs in the part of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium where it held its announcement on Wednesday.
Apple is sending a huge signal to fashion companies here: “Work with us! We’ll let you take control of the look of your device, we’ll sell it in our stores, and we’ll get our executives to promote it.” That’s a good deal for fashion companies. They get access to a flagship product from one of the world’s biggest companies, and then they can work with Apple’s legendary designers to bring their brand to the product. And Apple wins too. It can gain even more ground in the fashion world by working with high-end companies. This way, Apple reaches an affluent audience that may have only been vaguely aware of the Apple Watch before.
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