Earlier this week as the news spread of Steve Jobs passing, epithets were tweeted out by the masses, extolling the virtues of this man who brought wide sweeping change and innovation to the way we humans lived and experience life (Jane Lynch’s tweet was probably the best: “Steve, we will miss you. Sent lovingly from my iPhone”). While there are many aspects of Steve’s vision to admire or marvel at, the ones that stand out in our mind were his ability to take something extraordinarily complicated, like a music cataloging, sharing and listening system, and turn it into a straight- forward and easy to use product like an iPod. Secondly, his ability to render competition useless by being the first to offer a newer, better, enhanced version of his own product. Steve knew what people wanted even before they knew themselves and by consistently delivering these products, before and better than anyone else could- Steve gained peoples trust and their hard earned dollars. These skills, combined with many other unique abilities help lead Apple to incredible success over the past decade and it got us to thinking, is there a Steve Jobs in the fashion world? A designer who exemplifies this same vision of design and ability to harness the power of a brand?
The answer is perhaps not obvious, but if you stop to think, it probably should be. While there are certainly designers who are known for extremely detailed design (Karl Lagerfeld is tribe leader on this one; Hand sewing mini pleats requires enormous skill and detail to attention), few present collections that look as clean, basic and simple as the Apple product line. We liken this ability to the infamous scene in Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy is negotiating her return home and Toto runs over to pull back the green curtain, revealing the flurry of frenzied activity required to make the Wizard mirage work. In the same way, an iPod appears to be simple concept because it is easy to use, yet it exists because of the “behind the green curtain” mind of Steve Jobs and Calvin Klein exists for the same reason- the mind of Francisco Costa.
When watching his collections come down the runway, it is easy to be fooled into thinking his designs are ‘simple’ or ‘not intricate’ because of the clean, straight-forward aesthetic. However, a well trained eye can recognize the incredible amount of sketching, draping, stitching, tailoring, fitting, restitching and finishing that goes into one ‘simple’ dress like one of these:
Precision, exactitude and an incredibly deep knowledge of fabric performance is required to even come close to created something as prefect as a Calvin Klein sheath dress. If Francisco is the Steve of design, then Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton is the marketer. Each season, Marc and his team create the new handbag that drives brand loyalists, fashionistas, celebrities and editors alike to almost hysterical levels trying to get their hands on one. With an average cost of an average LV handbag hovering around $1500.00, it isn’t quite as easy to just upgrade to the newest version as it is an iPod, but the marketing around the luxury brand is so well done, and the associated status so high, ladies around the world pull out the credit card and smile all the way to bankruptcy court if necessary. After all, how different are these twelve bags that one woman needs to have all of them, or more than say, three?
Yes, there are different features included in each bag (although why one is called Neverfull when clearly it can be, hence the need for additional size options), but functionality isn’t the only thing driving sales. The associated status of belonging to the elite LV brand is an extremely powerful tool that Marc and his executive team harness. After all, look who their most recent brand ambassador is:
Shot in Cambodia, Angie is wearing ‘no makeup’ (no comment) and is using her own bag. This ad had the fashion world talking months before it was released and sometimes all you need is enough people talking to drive interest, and the car, all the way to the boutique. Steve was great at this same task with Apple. Remember this ad?
No celebrity endorser, only 3 colors, extremely simple yet super powerful because who doesn’t know what it is like to rock out to music that only you yourself can hear!
If we had been able to get these three guys together, who know what would have been possible. Although I am sure the first task on deck would have been to convince the multi-billionaire to invest in a slightly more modern wardrobe for his global product launches. I mean, mock turtlenecks and ill-fitting jeans?