By  on December 13, 2004

NEW YORK — Intel as a fashion brand?

The merging of fashion and technology was the point of a presentation the semiconductor company gave fashion editors here last week at Thomas Keller’s new restaurant, Per Se. The company’s chips are powering a new generation of sleek technology with appeal to women, such as fully loaded laptops with wireless Internet access that are small and lightweight enough to fit in a purse (of course, they start at $2,000).

Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist in Intel’s research and development group in Portland, Ore., spoke about her research into how people use new technology in Asia. Mary Alice Stephenson, former fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar and an Intel fashion consultant, walked the audience through an array of fashionable gadgets and accessories by high-tech and fashion brands.

“Throughout the world, women are embracing technology as part of their family and work lives, as well as for social, spiritual and romantic occasions,” said Bell. For example, mothers in India keep in daily contact with their children abroad via instant messaging, and in Singapore, cell phones display the direction of Mecca. In South Korea, cell phones are so small their owners decorate them with stuffed animals so they can find them, and it becomes an extension of their personality, she said.

In the last three years, Bell has interviewed more than 100 families in Singapore, South Korea, India, China, Indonesia and Australia about what they care about, and what technology makes them happy and what infuriates them. One of her goals is to help Intel design new technologies around these experiences, rather than simply designing technology for technology’s sake.

According to a poll Intel commissioned from Harris, 30 percent of men and 24 percent of women ages 18 to 27 feel that their computer “reflects their personal style.”

Stephenson began her presentation with a humorous video that showed women in New York struggling to walk down the street and up stairs while toting ugly black laptop bags that were obviously much too big and heavy for them. “You know those shots that we all ran of the woman jumping across the street?” Stephenson asked, referring to the clichéd women’s magazine image of a woman on the go with arms outstretched and three bags flying. “Those pictures are obsolete.”

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