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Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

According to my screen time log, I’ve worked overtime on my phone in the past week. My total screen time has been 50 hours for the entirety of Paris Fashion Week, with an average time of 7 hours and 42 minutes per day on my phone.

Granted, it’s 2019 and I work for a multimedia platform, so it’s expected my numbers would be egregiously high. The first draft of this very article exists as a note on my iPhone, no doubt adding time to my “Productivity” app average—which Apple also tracks.

For the record (this goes to my boss) I spent 10 hours and 59 minutes in productivity apps last week…but that pales in comparison to social media, where I pretty much spent an entire day dividing my time between Instagram and Twitter—mostly for work, I swear!

Technology and smartphones have forever changed how we work and how we live. Highsnobiety is a global publication spanning multiple cities, and for many of our staffers our phones are the most consistent office we have. Emails, iMessages, WhatsApp chats, and Slack messages largely comprise the 2,295 notifications I received last week (averaging 330 a day). The voices in my head are Google Meet conference calls and the ringing in my ears is Slack’s strangely ASMR “Knock Brush” sound on my AirPods.

When the lines between personal and professional use of technology are so blurred, a top-of-line smartphone goes from luxury to necessity—it also becomes a nightmare come tax time, when you don’t have a dedicated work phone. But to a deeper extent, the type of smartphone one possesses and how one accessorizes it have become a signifier of taste, income, and the insidious way technology has turned cultural influencers and an increasingly global workforce into a singularity of peripatetic cyborgs.

But the question is no longer if androids dream of electric sheep, rather if cyborgs aspire to luxurious augmentations. Take, for example, Kim Jones’ latest Dior Men’s collection. Among the accessories exists a line dubbed “Hyper-Modern,” dubbed as a “series of cases designed for the electronic essentials of life today” in the show notes.

It includes iPhone cases in the house’s signature Oblique canvas (as seen on its men’s saddle bags and sneakers like the B23 and B24), muted purple leather, as well durable plexiglass adorned with prints pulled from the work of seminal punk artist Raymond Pettibon. What makes these cases novel is they’re designed to hold two iPhones, a nod to everyone on that dual-phone life. Whether your second phone is for work or a high-end burner, Kim Jones has met your need here, addressing what the house terms “new necessities.”

Berluti, the storied LVMH-owned leather house currently helmed by Kris Van Assche, recently announced a collaboration with NATIVE UNION, purveyor of design-minded charging cables and other tech accessories. It includes an alligator skin iPhone XS case that retails for $1,650.

“This collaboration is all about paying respect to traditions while linking them with the contemporary lifestyle,” says Igor Duc, CEO at NATIVE UNION in a press release. “NATIVE UNION accessories’ intelligent and user-centric design combines beautifully with Berluti’s savoir-faire and age-old heritage in leather application. This is the collection for anyone looking for a truly bespoke, one-of-a-kind phone case or charger.”

Indeed, the rich patinas in the collaboration are designed by Berluti’s dedicated team of colorists. And there does exist a bespoke program for clients wishing to create the patina of their dreams.

Of course, designer phone cases are nothing new. My phone is currently covered with a BAPE x Gizmobies case commemorating the label’s 25th anniversary. Prada has a rather ingenious iPhone case combining its Saffiano leather with a metal ring that doubles as a stand. And you have multiple offerings from the likes of Louis Vuitton, OFF-WHITE, Gucci, VETEMENTS, Saint Laurent, and UNDERCOVER.

Now it seems simply having the latest iPhone isn’t enough for the full flex. Sure, you’re not the Android in electric sheep’s clothing who turns the group chat bubbles from blue to green (a rising faux pas in the digital age), but do you have the clout that comes with AirPods?

In the fast-paced world of memes, AirPod possession has become shorthand for culturally relevant people of memes. At times they go a bit far—photoshopping them inside the ears of Dr. Martin Luther King, with an expertly manipulated wave in his hairline—but the message is clear: AirPods are to headphones what the Juul is to e-cigarettes.

Kim Jones’ Dior seemingly predicted this sentiment, presenting an offering of AirPod cases in his “Hyper-Modern” accessories line. There’s the simple leather case with a bungee cord wire that can make it into a necklace or bracelet, and one with a belt clip that houses both an iPhone and AirPods—it pairs quite nicely with the season’s tactical nylon belts, featuring buckles designed by 1017 ALYX 9SM’s Matthew Williams.

But Jones apparently had robots on the mind in his Pre-Fall 2019 collection, which featured the work of artist Hajime Sorayama, known for his sleek, sexy automatons straight out of the uncanny valley.

Similarly, Dior’s LVMH bedfellow Louis Vuitton has designs on making smart technology look much smarter. In 2017 it launched the Tambour Horizon smartwatch, combining the house’s codes and craftsmanship with Google’s Wear OS system.

Louis Vuitton on the verge of launching a new iteration, a version of which was featured in Virgil Abloh’s debut Spring/Summer 2019 menswear collection. Abloh turns it into a digital pocketwatch, complete with a background of Dorothy in a field of poppies tying it to the collection’s Wizard of Oz theme.

Now Vuitton is coming for our ears. It recently announced a collaborative set of wireless earbuds with Master & Dynamic. Meant to pair with the house’s smartwatch, the earbuds come in a leather case, will be available in three variations, and will retail for an estimated $995—just shy of six pairs of $159 AirPods.

This season, sacai’s Chitose Abe also threw her hat into the battle of headphone flexes. Her Fall/Winter 2019 collection includes a collaboration with Beats By Dre, who in the past have teamed up with UNDERCOVER and Alexander Wang. sacai reimagines the BeatsX headphones into a colorful beaded necklace. Whereas the AirPods remain wire-free, the BeatsX features a connecting wire and magnetic backs that allow them to hang from the neck. The result is wearable tech with a touch of sacai’s playful, rustic appeal.

In acknowledging how much technology has seeped into our lives, designers are offering us cyborgs extremely fashionable ways to express ourselves through the objects we use to connect to the Matrix. Small leather goods and accessories still remain an important entry-level purchase for luxury brands, and these are ways to speak to customers where they are.

After all, smartphones and earbuds are items that today’s consumer is more likely have in their hands on a consistent basis than say, a keyring or wallet. The added brand placement of checking Instagram in a flex-worthy case or streaming a film means designer earbuds could very well be the image of modern upscale leisure.

But who will be the first person to buy a third iPhone solely to take photos of their two other iPhones in a Dior dual case?

Words by Jian DeLeon
Editorial Director

Jian DeLeon is the Editorial Director at Highsnobiety. He is based in New York.

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