In 2014, paparazzi caught Rihanna on her way out of Da Silvano after dinner one evening—it wasn’t her Dimepiece LA sweatpants, or her orange boucle cropped jacket that caught attention, but another statement piece: her T-Mobile flip phone. Months later, Anna Wintour was seen T9ingcourtside at the US Open. After a trip to Tokyo, Kim Kardashian sported a hot pink Ferrari-branded flip phone. The fashion world laid its claim on personal technology long ago, and now brings back the simplicity of aughts-era tech with the same ease it does low-rise jeans and baby tees. In 2020, the rest of the world is catching up—in the form of the newly re-released Motorola Razr, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.
The Motorola Razr may have been the first mobile phone to define itself as a fashion statement; it was, in its original form, a cult classic: Paris Hilton famously sported hers like a Birkin bag at the 2004 Academy Awards. It was the gift basket item that claimed the attention of every A-lister in Hollywood. It showed up courtside at Wimbledon, in the hands of the recently retired Maria Sharapova. Both David and Victoria Beckham had one, and soon, so did everyone else—Mischa Barton, your high school best friend. Had the designer phone eclipsed the designer handbag? Motorola levied the Razr’s fashion status by working directly with designers to remix the colorful clamshell design. A collaboration with Kimora Lee Simmons resulted in the Baby Phat i833, a baby pink version that was quilted and encrusted with 0.4-carat diamonds. “The new, limited edition Baby Phat i833 phone by Motorola is actually like a piece of jewelry,” Simmons said at the time.
That slim, sleek flip-phone’s fashion adjacency catalysed years of collaborations between mobile phone makers and designers. There was the limited edition partnership with Dolce & Gabbana, to make the gold-plated V3i; in 2005, Donatella Versace lent her name to the all-gold Nokia 7270—it came with a Swarovski crystal hand strap. In 2007, Prada designed a limited edition LG phone, the first mobile with a full-size touchscreen display. It was slated to revolutionize phone design, to become the hottest release of the year. (It was not. A few weeks later, Apple debuted the iPhone.) The following year, Samsung tapped Armani to design its take on a luxury touchscreen. The pinnacle was unquestionably the Diorphone, a clamshell design by Christian Dior, featuring crocodile skin and 640 Swarovski crystals. It retailed for $26,000.
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