I recently started reading a book by Dana Thomas called Deluxe, How Luxury Lost Its Luster, which was recommended to me by a professor at the UCLA Law Department two weeks ago. The book is all about how fashion is now solely focused on commodification and increasing profits as opposed to creativity, design and style. It is a very critical look at an already controversial industry, but because it is so well-researched and well-written, I am trying to keep an open mind despite the fact that it is destroying a lot of my preconceived notions about the fashion industry. One thing that the book has not yet mentioned (but would fit in perfectly with the idea that designers are selling themselves out to big business) is the prospect of the designer cell phone. Even I can see that the phones are a blatant attempt to reign in more customers, enter new markets, and brand something that you had no part in creating.
The first designer cell phone I ever remember seeing was Motorola’s Razr “designed” (and I use this term loosely) by Dolce and Gabbana in 2005. The phone was gold and had D&G emblazoned on the back of the phone and on the screen's wallpaper background. No extraordinary features were included on the phone with the exception of the color and a special ringtone, yet the phone sold at prices that were sometimes triple the cost of a regular Razr in silver or black. Since then, the hype in cell phone technology has only increased by including better cameras, touch screens, bluetooth, GPS, etc. and fashion designers have not ceased attempts to snag a part of the enormous profits.
Since the D&G phone, we have seen the emergence of the Giorgio Armani cell phone for Samsung, the Prada phone for LG, a Diane von Furstenberg Sidekick, a Dior cell by ModeLabs... I simply don’t have the time to list how much the unbranded phones cost versus their logoed counterparts, but let it suffice to say that they are all overpriced. With an iPhone now priced around $300 dollars, it seems ridiculous to pay $800 for a Prada phone or $5,000 (no that’s not a typo, there are three zeros on the end of that 5) for the Dior phone. One blogger writes, “When is a cell phone worth 5,000 dollars? Hint: never.” And I completely agree. I found one cell phone designed by the famous French jeweler Boucheron for Vertu that is selling for $310,000. Yes, the phone is decked out in diamonds and rubies, but PLEASE! Whose ego needs stroking so badly that their phone has to cost as much as a down-payment on a house? Here is an idea - buy a ruby bracelet, a diamond ring, AND a cell phone, keeping each entity separate from one another.
In my opinion, the materialization of designer cell phones is the most transparent attempt by fashion houses to expand their customer base and drive up sales without contributing anything besides their name. It is true that some customers might be unwilling to spend 900 dollars on a purse but would spend that much on a cell phone. It is also true that we have entered modern times, and adaptation is crucial in order to remain relevant. That is why I am not ranting about the creation of cell phone holders and iPod cases – I can imagine Miuccia Prada’s expertise in leather and craftsmanship could result in a very elegant cell phone case, but until the media leaks that she got her degree in computer science and has become a cell phone programmer as well as a fashionista, I will maintain that the two creations should remain separate. Sure, if you have a lot of money, go ahead and buy a nice phone, but if the name brand is the only thing distinguishing it from a phone that is hundreds of dollars cheaper, then you have undoubtedly entered “fashion victim” territory. I know I said that this blog wouldn’t be a style guide, but in this case I can’t help but cry out, “Stay away from designer phones!" They simply aren’t worth the money and you look like you are trying way too hard.