Before Apple dominated the smartphone landscape, fashion branded collaboration cell phones were a thing — specifically, a very 2000s thing.
Wind the clock back to the early 2000s: Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me” is ubiquitous, endless collars are popped, and people are wearing trucker hats with no sense of irony. Also, society is living rather obliviously to the impending financial crash of 2008 — so the idea of a diamond-encrusted Baby Phat flip phone is not by any means frivolous, but simply a meaningful extension of your aesthetic, and a totally worthwhile purchase.
In the last 12 months, phones have been associated with fashion once again, but as accessories. Balenciaga models walked with them held in hand at the Fall/Winter 2020 show, as if to simulate real life. Even more recently, there was a Thom Browne x Samsung release that proposed a flip phone revival that will probably (and sadly) not come to fruition under the current economic conditions.
So, as a means of remembering a completely different status quo, here are five of the most ludicrous fashion x cell phone crossovers that could have only existed in the 2000s.
Release date: May 2007
The Prada LG was the world’s first phone with a capacitive touchscreen and was basically the blueprint for Apple’s iPhone, which would be released a few months later.
It is maddening to think why someone might have wanted a Prada cell phone in 2007. Apart from the silver logo, it’s not really clear how the handset differs from any other LG mobile; no ugly-chic design tweaks, no archival banana prints, and not even a nylon case.
Nevertheless, this was the ’00s and the “designer” pre-fix outweighed the merit of any substantial design efforts. The LG Prada sold over 1 million units, with a follow-up model featuring a pull-out QWERTY keyboard released the following year.
Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons x Motorola i833
Release date: 2004
In the pre-Kardashian era, Kimora Lee Simmons was the formidable OG multi-hyphenate; model, businesswoman, philanthropist, and fashion designer. Simmons’ Baby Phat brand — launched in 1999 — was one of the most successful celebrity-led womenswear labels around (it’s been reported that it will be relaunched as an athleisure brand, too).
So it made perfect sense, then, that Simmons would collaborate with Motorola for a bedazzled model of the already popular i833 handset — including real 0.4 carat diamonds. In a press release at the time, Simmons said: “I designed this phone for the woman who, like me, loves pink, loves diamonds, and wants to make a fashion statement.”
Well, the handset arrived with pink earphones, a dangle (a charm that hangs off your phone, if you recall), and a quilted pink pouch — a statement indeed!
Versace Nokia 8800
Release date: 2007
The Nokia 8800 was already considered something of a luxury phone; it had a premium ball bearing slide mechanism and ringtones composed by influential recording artist Brian Eno. All you could ever want in a cell phone.
Then there was a version made in collaboration with Versace, which saw the casing dipped in 18k gold and Versace’s Medusa head lasered into the front.
Samsung Giorgio Armani P520
Release date: 2007
Announced at the Armani show in 2007, the Samsung x Armani flip phone was a follow-up to Samsung’s line of “credit card-sized phones,” and came complete with a three-megapixel camera and haptic feedback.
A 2007 statement from Armani reads: “We make as much of a personal statement with the mobile phones that we carry or the televisions that we have in our living rooms as we do with the shoes and bags we wear or the furnishings we choose.”
Perhaps the “TV set as a personal statement” thing never caught on, but the idea of a mobile phone becoming an accessory and not just a device was more or less on the money.
Motorola x Dolce & Gabbana xRAZR V3i
Release date: 2005
Dolce & Gabbana have had their fair share of controversy, including the depiction of Asian culture in their advertisements and some ongoing beef with Miley Cyrus over social issues.
But the gold-plated Dolce & Gabbana Motorola Razr is laughably preposterous. Only 1,000 were made, available exclusively at D&G boutiques. Each handset arrived with a pre-installed video clip illustrating 20 years of D&G history — so, an ad, basically. Similar to the Versace Nokia, the gold colorway screams “designer.”