Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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In Fashion…Mobile flirts with style

When men and women grow tired of clothes, jewellery and skin as well as hair care, they turn their attention to accessories such as footwear, belts, wallets and handbags. But I suppose the world must have got a trifle weary of these as well. I am not surprised therefore that the mobile telephone instrument is now the focus of fashion.

I saw the other day a journalist walking around with a smart phone hooked to a chain hanging from her neck. A doctor friend never tires of shopping for the latest mobile pouches that he attaches to his trouser belt.

The cellular instrument discovered and improved for communication now makes incredible style statements. Designer chic is the latest in mobile phones, with majors such as Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, LG and Samsung, launching ‘limited edition’ handsets this festive season.

Those who make cellulars – much like car manufacturers –are capitalising on the latest trends, working hand in glove with the fashion industry. Stylish phones are an increasing fad with especially the young. Of the 180 million mobile subscribers in India, there are 108 million young users, a whopping 60 per cent. It is this group that vendors are planning to lure with premium, designer or special edition phones in the coming months.

And this segment has money to splurge. With the salary of a 25-year-old man or woman averaging Rs 30,000 a month, there is enough cash for luxuries like fancy phones. This class of spenders has little commitment: they usually stay with parents, are not married and are not inclined to save, at least for the time being.Naturally, these men and women change their cellulars as often as they do their clothes. Retailers say handsets have the same shelf life as designer wear.

Samsung — along with Giorgio Armani, an international fashion label — recently unveiled the new Giorgio Armani-Samsung luxury mobile instruments. “Starting with the Giorgio Armani-Samsung mobile phone, we will launch an innovative range of portable consumer electronics such as LCD panels under the Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani and Armani/Casa labels, based on Armani’s design aesthetics and Samsung’s cutting edge technology,” said a Samsung India spokesperson recently.

Also, teaming up with the luxury electronic device brand, Bang and Olufsen, Samsung has launched Serenata, a music portable phone for those willing to pay Rs 69,000 for sheer design. “This is an exclusive product that will be retailed by Bang & Olufsen stores in India, and Armani phones should be launched in Asian markets by early next year,” the spokesperson said.

The luxury unit of Nokia, Vertu, now sells an instrument styled along with Ferrari for about Rs 100,000 at its stores in London, Paris, Singapore and Hong Kong. It may not be long before it is seen and sold in India.

LG’s Prada phone, a result of the Korean giant partnering with the fashion label, Prada, will be available in India soon and is expected to retail over Rs 25,000.

That is quite a range for a device which began as a mere walkie-talkie. The mobile is clearly getting into the mini mode as it flirts with fashion.

(Webposted October 10 2007)