From 80s athletic wear to collaborating with Hermès, revisit Apple’s forays into fashion
The world that Apple has built for itself is nearly untouchable. The tech giant has managed to package wonder, innovation, and mystique into minimalist products without ever seeming to break a sweat. But, while Steve Jobs and company have certainly had their hits: iTunes, the iPod or the iPhone, for example – there has been a few misses: Apple Maps, The Pippin (Apple’s attempt at a gaming console), the Puck mouse. One endeavor that seems to fall in the murky unidentifiable area between a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’ is The Apple Collection, an apparel line the company released back in 1986, way before the brand was a household name.
Although not a runaway success when initially released, the range of now-vintage clothing slowly, but somewhat unsurprisingly, became cool as a generation have embraced tracksuits and retro-inspired T-shirts as daily staples within their wardrobes. As the company continues to reign supreme in Silicon Valley, here’s a look back on their past attempts at entering the world of fashion – in all their weird and wonderful glory.
THE APPLE COLLECTION
Perhaps a perfect snapshot of 80s attire, the full range of clothing included neon graphic prints, popped polo collars, athletic wear and plenty of dad caps – long before the distinct hat style would become an actual trend. If the actual designs didn’t ooze enough corporate cheesiness, then the product descriptions surely did. The catalogue was full of laughable write-ups; some highlights include “these polo shirts are perfect for the courts or the club” and “after a rough day windsurfing, the Apple sweatshirt is just the thing.”
The debut offering even managed to include a few key accessories: beach towels, coffee mugs, watches, umbrellas, and even a windsail for your sailboat. Luckily, the team at Apple was smart enough to enlist the likes of both Patagonia and The North Face when it came to producing some of the apparel items within the collection. The two outdoorsy brands produced button-up shirts and poly/cotton vests – both items that paired oddly well with the bold, bright colors used throughout the entire collection.
THE CLOTHING CONTINUES
The Apple Collection was just the beginning. There was never an official corporate uniform for Apple employee – although Steve Jobs did unsuccessfully try – but the company would create a variety of sartorial options in the years to come. After being inspired by a factory tour on a Japanese business trip, the bold entrepreneur tried his hardest to introduce a uniform but was met with much resistance. “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests,” he recalled in an interview. “Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”
So, with uniforms out of the question, the company set its sights on providing Apple-branded apparel they hoped their employees would want to wear. Some of the items included a Fred Perry velour tracksuit, an orange nylon windbreaker, and mix of varsity and denim jackets.
WORKING WITH FASHION POWERHOUSES
As wearable tech trend continues to rise, Apple has made a deliberate effort to align itself within the fashion industry. Back in the fall of 2014, the company held an event at Colette, the trend-forward Paris retailer, to introduce the Apple Watch to a more style-savvy audience. More recently, in 2015, the tech innovators partnered with the French luxury brand Hermès on a limited-edition version of their Apple Watch. The collaboration featured a Hermès-branded face, stainless steel case and three different choices of caramel-colored leather straps.
Apple upped the ante the next year and partnered the 2016 Met Gala, aptly titled “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” The company’s Chief Design Officer, the fashionable Jony Ive, even served as one of the co-chairs alongside Anna Wintour.
THE DRAKE AND CELEBRITY CO-SIGNS
During the 2015 WWDC, the current king of mainstream hip-hop Drake took the stage to speak during the presentation for Apple Music. Having celebrities speak during corporate keynotes is nothing new but Drake, true to character, was visibly excited to be speaking. If that enthusiasm wasn’t enough, he walked out on stage wearing a vintage Apple jacket that was as cool as “Hotline Bling” was catchy. The rap mogul’s choice of outerwear, not the details of the newly announced music platform, seemed to steal the show and the Internet went wild. Searches on websites like eBay for vintage Apple gear spiked and similar jackets were being listed with starting prices in the thousands. Past and present employees of the company were unloading forgotten corporate swag hoping to cash in on the sudden boost in interest.
Drake’s not the only fan of Apple’s style either. In a recent interview with Vogue, designer Tom Ford mentioned how he views Apple products as fashion accessories, and how he has created silver and gold pocket chains for the Apple Watch. Even the iconic Karl Lagerfeld has been known to sport a $25,000 USD version that the computer company had custom made for the legendary designer.
THE POSSIBLE FUTURE OF APPLE CLOTHING
It’s probably unlikely we’ll see Apple release a clothing collection on the scale they did back in 1986, but stranger things have happened. Within the last two years, the company has poached top executives from fashion heavyweights like Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and Burberry, and launched a fashion channel on their streaming service Apple Music. By no means is the company planning to show a collection at NYFW, but the moves clearly indicate a respect for the way fashion industry operates.
The company has also been quick to sign exclusive distribution deals with a number of stylish musicians, perhaps most notably Drake and Pharrell. It’s not hard to imagine how quickly a clothing collection co-signed by either artist would fly off the shelves. Both artists have previously lent their star power to design shoes and apparel for the likes of adidas, Uniqlo, G-Star RAW and Nike, so the concept isn’t totally unfeasible. Only time will tell if Apple will bring their trademark sense of design and functionality to the world of fashion, but one thing seems certain: it will probably be bigger than that first attempt, way back in 1986.