Louis Vuitton Unwired, Jumps Further into Fashion Tech

Louis Vuitton, the French maison known for its iconic monogram and luxury luggage, delves deeper into the intersection of fashion-tech.

Voguez, Volez, Voyagez, the temporary 3-story exhibit in the heart of New York City’s financial District at 2018’s tail-end, catalogued Louis Vuitton’s historical traveller legacy–from rolling armoires on freight trains to in-flight hand satchels, and a display of red carpet looks that travel well in limousine drive-up. The fashion house has extended their humble beginnings from foot traffic into the technology sector. Enter: Louis Vuitton wanted to reflect their traveler’s heritage for life in 2017 with The Tambour Watch–because a watch travels with you. But more so, the cellular, or more fittingly, mobile phone, is arguably the go-to appendage before leaving the house. Enter: Louis Vuitton’s latest innovation, the Horizon Earphone, launched January 17, 2019.

Reflecting the Tambour’s shape, the Horizon wireless ear buds come in 4 color ways: black, white and red LV monogram, and blue and yellow LV stripe. These headphones aren’t just your run-of-the-mill tech accessories or fashionably non-functioning noise cancellers. Instead, they are equipped with Bluetooth technology. Take phone calls, listen to music, multitask and be alert without the stuck-in your-ear cotton-swab look of white Apple buds.

The Louis Vuitton Tambour watch includes an app accessing Louis Vuitton city guides and recommended nearby locales in seven cities based on your location and time zone.

Launching in early 2019 is the first update on Tambour Horizon Watch – a new design, material and color options with apps that include an agenda, pedometer, weather, and travelogue. The traveler’s location is now synced with hot-spots beyond seven capitals. The screen is improved using Google’s Wear OS technology and quicker real-time information.

This is all well and good, but unlike a smart watch, the smart phone is not only a timepiece but has a capacity to house data and connect with the web. You might as well purchase your phone at R.E.I. It’s ability to be swapped out for an upgraded edition, like leasing a Bentley, does not discount its permanency to store memories in photos or send email. It’s the compass not only to your life, but literally navigates you to shelter, food, and entertainment – your whereabouts concealed only with headphones.

Carelessly applied-looking Air Pods aside, the wireless headphones rank most popular Apple’s accessory, with an expected 100-110 million units to be sold. In 2016, The New York Times declared headphones a “status symbol on par with luxury watches and limited-edition Nikes,” and reported a predicted rise in headphone sales – $13.2 billion by 2018. According to TF International Securities Analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, the numbers have catalyzed the fabrication of a new model that features wireless charging.

Louis Vuitton is one step-ahead; The Horizon ear buds come with a portable charging case in tow. You have 10 hours proving that fashion and technology is not mutually exclusive. Picture this: A small black cylindrical case that from the top, is a window displaying the fashionable LV Horizon ear buds of your choice. The ear buds come in a combination of matte and glossy surface that reflect the grainy Saffiano and smoother leather hybrid textures quintessential to the luxury brand’s purses. The LV monogram text is metallic. Swapping out earrings for these is not a long shot.

What may be a long shot are the Swings– headphone earrings launched on a Kickstarter fundraising page in July 2018. Unlike the unisex androgynous aesthetic crafted by Louis Vuitton, this accessory that has since fallen out of fashion, so to speak, came in the classic jewelry options: silver, gold, and rose gold. Their formula: By women, for women, marketing to a distinctly isolated demographic, reducing their stake and possibly contributing to their demise.

In contrast, Louis Vuitton, like most luxury fashion brands, cultivated an androgynous aesthetic and culture, embracing all who have the fiscal means. The LV Horizon ear buds are priced at $995. But the cost does not just cover design appeal or even brand name. The price also covers technological innovation.

One charge provides up to 3.5 hours of listening capability. Volume adjustment is located directly on one of the buds. Audio quality is accounted for, developed by reputed headphones specialists at Master & Dynamic.

Master & Dynamic could be charged with spearheading the phenomenon of superior specialized headphone development and consumption among the fashion circuit in 2016. Jonathan Levine, a then 54-year-old investment banker at Lehman Brothers founded the company, introducing the concept of luxury style and technology coexisting.

In 2016, David Beckham was photographed sporting the $399 MH40 around Los Angeles. GQ thereafter listed the model as one of the “most stylish headphones money can buy.” That same year, supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kendall Jenner, starred in an advertisement alongside founder of Will.I.Am to help launch Buttons, a $200 in-ear bud. He had been a partner with the trendsetting Beats headphones.

But whereas these examples of audio literacy rely on sound innovation, Louis Vuitton, a fashion brand, prioritizes style but not at the expense of quality and user-experience – luxury, defined; One can really have it all. And instead of hiring fashion aficionados like Levine did when he hired a former executive at Barneys and Neiman Marcus to spearhead marketing or Will.I.Am, who requested the faces of fashion, Campbell and Jenner, Louis Vuitton hired a Chief Digital Officer in November 2018.

Former Director of Apple Music, and previously, CEO at Beats Music, Ian Rogers, is Louis Vuitton’s first CDO. He describes the role as reflecting that Louis Vuitton’s “customers’ behaviors have changed.” As a result, he was put on board “to elevate technology inside of the organization.” Rogers wasn’t far off when he said it s Louis Vuitton’s “belief is that privacy and luxury are synonymous.” After all, headphones reportedly provide “the experience of intense private listening in public settings.”

What sets Horizon ear buds, and the updated Tambour Horizon watch, is something Rogers learned in the music world: “people love personalization because it brings them tangible value. The exact same thing is true in the luxury world.”

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