Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has hired the former CEO of French luxury company Yves Saint Laurent for the tech company's "special projects" adding to speculation that the company is ramping up plans for a rumored "smartwatch" device.
"We're thrilled to welcome Paul Deneve to Apple," spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement. "He'll be working on special projects as a vice president reporting directly to Tim Cook."
Deneve's previous jobs were most recently in French fashion brands Yves Saint Laurent, recently rebranded to Saint Laurent, which is owned by holding company Kering, apparel brand Courreges, fashion house Lanvin, and Spanish-owned Nina Ricci. But he also held sales and marketing positions at Apple in Europe between 1990 and 1997, before the iPhone was introduced, Reuters said.
The hiring of Deneve may indicate the direction in which Apple is heading in marketing as Yves Saint Laurent is among the most elite of high-end luxury brands with a knack for selling expensive clothing and shoes.
What both companies share is a strong brand and a loyal following to products that are priced with a premium.
On Thursday night, the notoriously long line to get into Yves Saint Laurent's sample sale in New York City started around 11 p.m. for a Friday 9 a.m. opening. Sale prices for their shoes started around $399, Racked NY reported.
Enrico Beltramini, former Gucci board member and managing director of Fashion Tech Accelerator, said as tech and fashion increasingly merge as a trend, Deneve will bring a special sensitivity to aesthetics and knowledge of the high-end consumer market to Apple.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif. filed a trademark in Japan for the name "iWatch," reported earlier this week.
Apple did not comment on the iWatch report, but Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed the wearable gadget category last month, saying the wrist was an "interesting" and "natural" spot for a wearable devices, at least in comparison to Google Glass.
Apple's entry into the emerging smartwatch category will have tech tongues wagging. Pebble, based in Palo Alto, announced that its watch, which can provide notifications with an iPhone or Android, will be available in Best Buy stores for $149.99 starting July 7. Pebble launched its product for $99 to backers on Kickstarter last year.
Whether or not the Apple is preparing for the next iPhone or a new iWatch, at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference last month, the company emphasized its new software features, as opposed to new hardware. The biggest news from that event, says Morningstar's Brian Colello, revolved around Apple's demos for iOS 7, the latest operating system for the iPhone and iPad. Colello said in a note after the event that the iOS 7 "has a cleaner, sleeker interface."
Colello said he was "intrigued" by Apple's new software features like multitasking, a control center menu and AirDrop.
"In short, we still think the smartphone battles will be played out in software and services, rather than hardware, as Apple strives to stay ahead of Samsung and others in the premium smartphone space," Colello wrote.
ABC News' Joanna Stern contributed to this report.