FLORENCE — Karl Lagerfeld doesn’t keep anything on a computer, only in his head; Jonathan Ive doesn’t think the Apple Watch is competing with luxury timepieces, and Antoine Arnault believes fashion is late to the digital revolution.
These were some of the highlights of the first day of the two-day Condé Nast International Luxury conference here, which began Wednesday and explored the impact of technology on hard luxury.
Speaking about whether the company’s new watch is out to compete with high-end timepieces, Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, said he does “not think in those terms. We focus on developing products that are beautiful and useful. We did the iPhone because we couldn’t bear our phones and wanted better. With the watch the motivation is different — we love our watches, their mechanical systems. We didn’t do it to design a better watch. The wrist is a fabulous place for technology.”
Ive and designer Marc Newson highlighted the “care and attention in the development” of products.
“We put [the smartwatch ] together through machines. Like tools of craftsmen, the machine is a tool, we all need the help of tools,” said Newson. “This is a craft, philosophy exists in products for the mass.”
“We take huge interest and joy in the process of making,” added Ive.
Ive and Newson drew parallels with the computer and how technology developed it into “something more personal.”
“This is the best endorsement for watches in general — my daughter didn’t grow up knowing or yearning for a watch. There are two or three generations that will be reintroduced to the world of watches,” noted Newson.
Lagerfeld proudly showed off his own smartwatch. “How digital am I? I have the first one with Beyoncé,” he said, but he admitted he had “no time to fix it for features.” Lagerfeld entertained the audience with his trademark sense of humor and pithy remarks.
A few examples:
• “It’s dangerous to have stuff on the phone or my computer. I have nothing, everything is only in my head.”
• “I am against dialogue against furs. Do those people eat meat? To be against it is easy. But who will pay for the unemployment of people losing their jobs if you don’t have to propose anything else? In some countries, hunting is the only means of survival.”
• On refusing to visit an exhibition on his work in Bonn: “I don’t have to take knowledge of my past, it’s unhealthy for me but interesting for others, I have no reason to go. I am not vintage myself. Me take inspiration from the past? No. When looking back, you look at your old work. I don’t even know where the archives are.”
• About working for 50 years at Fendi, which is now under the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton umbrella. “I am a 100 percent LVMH person. But I have no contract, I love the idea of freedom and think it’s very bad if a designer is in an ivory tower. I never want to own a business.”
• On Chanel: “For me, Coco Chanel is the idea of the first modern woman, a timeless icon of modernity.”
• On his namesake brand and his target customer: “I am a kind of cartoon but have nothing against it. I am not obsessed by youth, [but] I want to offer a less expensive product. I already do expensive products for Fendi and Chanel. Fendi is my vision of Italy and Chanel of France, with Lagerfeld, of myself.”
• On his sketches: “My sketches are not too bad, every technical detail is there. I would die for boredom if I had to fit other people’s sketches.”
• On young designers: He remarked on the “gifted” J.W. Anderson and said: “Give people help to become a designer? No, everyone has to find their own way, there are different circumstances, I don’t think my advice has meaning. Just work, work, work.” He chastised those young designers that just “want to be artists,” urging them not to be “pretentious thinking your work is art. It must be something people want to wear.”
• On not believing in marketing: “They make things more difficult to justify their salaries.”
• On his 50 years at Fendi: “No celebrations, paradise is now.”
Antoine Arnault, chief executive officer of Berluti, said “luxury and technology seem unrelated, but they are starting to merge, and the digital revolution is infinitely more impactful than luxury. Technology companies are entering the luxury space, there is an Apple store between those of Chanel and Dior.”
Arnault underscored that the luxury industry is “back to the two-way relationship before the globalization,” closer to the era of the Louis Vuitton founders, for example, where “interaction, understanding customers,” was key. “Is fashion missing the technological revolution? Yes, let’s face it, we are quite late. But our industry is catching up and this is not an excuse not to change.” Arnault noted the “thrill of stores will continue to resonate, [as well as] the feel and touch of products.” He also underscored that it would make no sense to have one single digital strategy for the LVMH group, given the diversity of its brands.
“Luxury is timeless, technology is time-full.”
Tory Burch said she would “love to do men’s wear but it would take away the focus [from women’s wear]. Maybe in the future, but not anytime soon.”
About rumors of an initial public offering: “As long as I am here, 100 percent no. I have no interest in being a public company. I like to think decisions long-term, that is a luxury to me.”
Frédéric Cumenal, ceo at Tiffany & Co., showed a trailer of a still-unnamed upcoming independent documentary on the company. “It’s not a commercial, it’s 90 minutes of movie. We opened our doors, had no control and accepted it. We’ve learned the impact about certain things. Could we have invested and become producers? No.”
Michele Norsa, ceo of Salvatore Ferragamo, said, “Luxury is moving at an unbelievable speed and is surprising the industry, analysts and politicians. We had been predicting Brazil and India were the rising stars, but they do not represent more than Macau for most companies. I joke that it’s more important to have a good fortune-teller than a good ceo,” citing variables such as foreign exchange volatility and geopolitical uncertainties.
He highlighted that China has produced “its first homegrown regional jet, and will create 92 new airports, connecting 100 new cities. The potential perimeter of growth is bigger than anywhere else. I am very confident long-term. The Chinese are still in love with gift-giving and gambling, it’s in their DNA.”