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Tonight at 7pm at the New York runway presentation of fashion designer Vivienne Tam’s Spring 2009 clothing line, many of the models will strut down the catwalk carrying tiny Hewlett-Packard laptops instead of handbags. These deep-red computers, emblazoned with brightly-hued peony flower designs, will be presented as “accessories” and were designed by Tam in partnership with the PC giant. They mark the first high-fashion collaboration for HP and the first high-tech project for Tam (whom we’ve named to our list of powerful people in fashion). They’ll be offered in a limited edition in early 2009. Here’s a very early look:
HP won’t disclose future pricing or even share the size or specifications of the PC, only saying that it is the size of a clutch-style purse. Could this be a sneak peek at future product lines? Yes, says David Roman, vice president, Marketing Communications, Personal Systems Group. “It’s aligned with and anticipates a product we’re developing in a new category that hasn’t been rolled out,” Roman adds. He will, however, say that the Vivienne Tam edition has a “smaller form factor” than most notebook PCs that HP has on the market today.
What’s intriguing about the Vivienne Tam project for HP is that Tam was involved in more than just the decorative aspects of the PC. She designed on-screen icons, a screensaver, and wallpaper for the computer, which are all currently available on Glam.com. The peony design on the exterior of the PC is also carried through underneath the keyboard. And she also designed the packaging for the future product, says Roman. Initially, he says, the deal was for Tam to just design the PC itself.
HP learned some interesting innovation lessons from Tam. One, Tam’s precise vision for the computer’s design helped its in-house industrial designers learn what was possible in terms of how complex patterns and chic colors can be achieved using HP’s current supply chain. “We use a technique that can build a design into the plastic, so it’s molded into the plastic as a computer is built,” says Roman. “It’s not painted on. We saw that we could use our sophisticated supply chain to do this and keep it at a competitive, aggressive price point.” Two, they also considered how to build buzz around a new notebook computer outside of the typical tech showcases (like CES) and target a specific consumer (in this case, “fashionista moms,” as Roman calls them, women who want a small, stylish, and affordable computer).
Of course, we all know that personal electronics such as iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Jawbone headsets are all rapidly becoming “lifestyle” accessories. But let’s stay tuned and see how HP’s flirtation with the fashion world pans out, and what surprising future innovation narratives the company might experience by its new focus on style.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.