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Brief Published: 4 Aug 2014

Tech & Fashion: The War On Talent

As smart, wearable devices become more of a reality for consumers, tech companies are increasingly tapping the fashion industry’s resources to establish a sense of style and desirability for their products. High-profile talent acquisitions by the likes of Apple and Google hint at big changes in the fashion, technology and luxury sectors.

From the moment technology became a wearable commodity, the two seemingly disparate worlds of technology and fashion collided. Tech giants are now poaching design talent with the purpose of shaking off the cold ‘tech’ look, and making their products sexy, beautiful, and truly wearable.

Google has been looking into this specifically for its Glass product, which has garnered much scorn for its cyborg-like design. Close association with Diane Von Furstenberg, a redesign to include more fashionable eyewear shapes, and a partnership with Luxottica Group – which owns Ray-Ban and Oakley – has put the company in good stead.

In a similar move, design-conscious tech giant Apple has hired Paul Deneve, ex-CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, to work on special projects, as well as Tag Heuer’s vice-president of global sales and retail, Patrick Pruniaux, to launch Apple’s smartwatch in October 2014.

Technology companies are also keen to draw from the fashion industry’s insight into marketing. Luxury executives who understand branding and consumer demand are highly prized. Former Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts has already started her new role as senior vice-president of retail at Apple, while Google has brought in top fashion marketing executive Ivy Ross to run the Google Glass operations.

Speaking to USA Today, Astro Teller of Google X (the company’s research arm) said: "Retail isn't one of our strong suits, and someone like Ivy can, more than a technologist, really help us understand how people experience eyewear, because in the end, this is just smart eyewear.”

With more launches, collaborations and high-profile hires announced on a monthly basis, the relationships between the technology, fashion and luxury industries are becoming more dynamic and intertwined. Keep an eye out for further coverage of developments over the coming year. 

For more on wearables, see our extensive coverage in Wearable Futures 2013, SXSWi 2014: Wearables & Fashion, and International CES: Fashion & Beauty.