Fashion Flips for a Phone and Everyone Else Follows

Feb 13 · 3 min read

Samsung cannily chose Thom Browne to make a version of its new Z Flip phone for the fashionable people who never truly let these nostalgic handsets go.

By Chandra Steele

Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event hadn’t even happened yet when its new Z Flip phone made a post-Oscars appearance, outfitted in a designer suit.

A 30-second spot for the Galaxy Z Flip aired during Sunday’s Oscars telecast, confirming rumors of a flip phone that would follow the Fold’s failure. Then, early the next morning, a video of a Thom Browne edition of the phone appeared online.

In it, a man in a very Thom Browne shrunken suit in a very gray world walks forward repeating, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready,” until he pulls a Z Flip with Browne’s signature stripes from a waterfall. “I’m ready,” he declares before walking through the waterfall into a different world.

This world is seemingly very ready for the return of flip phones. Following the launch of the nostalgia-inducing Motorola Razr and today’s introduction of the Galaxy Z Flip, the industry is one short of a trend. Samsung knows this, so it cannily chose Browne to make a flip phone for the fashionable people who never truly let them go.

Recall, for example, Christian Siriano’s 2008 partnership with LG for the Lotus. The designer featured it on the runway during his first two collections at New York Fashion Week and designed clothing and accessories around it. Having purchased it twice because I loved its looks so much, I can say with authority that it was a perfect little square of a phone that had a silky feeling when you slid it into pockets and bags. Even though the iPhone was introduced the year before, I stayed loyal to my compact feature phone that closed with a satisfying snap.

LG Lotus

I am not alone in this. The arbiter of style herself, Anna Wintour, owns an iPhone, but has been spotted front row at fashion shows speaking into a flip phone tucked into her famous bob. Rihanna has also walked into crowds of paparazzi caught up in conversation on a tiny T-Mobile number.

A flip phone says you have things to do; you can talk for one to two minutes tops or reply to a text before snapping the phone shut and moving on with your day. It’s the phone for living a beautiful life or temporarily severing your connection to the digital world.

Unfortunately, the Motorola Razr redux has been disappointing in many ways. The $1,500 smartphone has poor battery life, troubling Wi-Fi performance, and a creaky hinge. But at least its looks good, says PCMag’s Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan.

We have yet to see if the Z Flip will outdo the Razr. A limited quantity of Galaxy Z Flip Thom Browne Editions arrive in March, but Samsung has a spotty record when it comes to foldable phones. Design-conscious Apple has filed a patent for a flip phone that prevents the unsightly creasing that plagues some foldables but patents often do not result in actual product launches.

Maybe one day we can get a place where form factor meets function. If we do, we’ll have fashion to thank for leading the way.

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