When Henry Ford began mass producing the Model T Ford he famously said "the customer can have any colour he wants, so long as it's black".
Other personal technology manufacturers have also hitched their wagon to fashion brands, while handset manufacturers, such as Korea's LG Electronics and Samsung, have scored big with phones bearing names such as Prada and Armani respectively (see below). "The Prada phone has been very successful for us, particularly in Europe," says Jeff Hwang, president of LG Electronics Mobilecomm. As mobile phone penetration has edged towards - and in some cases passed - 100 per cent, handset makers have begun to emphasise design, styling and marketing.
"Phones are very individual, personal items," says Bill Ogle, Samsung's US marketing manager. "The phone you carry says a lot about you."
Younghee Lee, who worked at French cosmetics maker L'Oréal for a decade before joining Samsung as vice-president of marketing in July, agrees. Ms Lee, Samsung's first female vice-president, says her job is to orient Samsung more closely around customer needs. "Design is the DNA of mobile, it is the essence of the business," she says.
High-tech Reaches a New Age of Style
Just as technology manufacturers have realised the benefits of adding a fashionable dimension to products, so fashion has also embraced technology, writes Vanessa Friedman,
After watches, costume jewelery and wellies, the latest trend in product diversification is the cellular phone.
Nokia started it with the launch of its "fashion" line of phones, a designer group of handsets in bright colours and patterns that changed with the seasons. But other designers soon saw opportunities, with Dolce & Gabbana teaming up with Motorola in 2006 to create a blingy gold Razr, Prada following with a super-slick, touch-screen LG in early 2007 and Giorgio Armani and Samsung launching a sleekly understated, credit card-sized number at Christmas.
Meanwhile, Samsung has also worked with Ted Baker, Anna Sul and Diana von Furstenberg, while Sony Ericsson entered the market with a limited edition Julien MacDonald number.
The reason why fashion has jumped on the phone bandwagon is simple: the age of the "it" bag is drawing to a close, with a recent forecast from market research Mintel predicting that luxury handbag sales, while grew 30 percent year-on-year for the past three years, will slow significantly. Brands are hoping the era of the "It' phone will begin.
Financial Times (Print Edition)
How Fashion has Embraced the Cellular Phone Revolution