PARIS : FRENCH luxury giants dive into Silicone Valley. Steve Jobs may have been a tech genius, but it clearly didn't care much for fashion,

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has followed in his footsteps, sporting a plain gray T-shirt every day for years only to swap it for a simple black suit to testify before Congress and the European Parliament.

But Silicon Valley, whose billionaires have long stuck to basic, functional apparel, may finally be starting to get a taste for something more extravagant.

Sensing an opportunity, French luxury titan Hermes has launched its 34th US store in Palo Alto, the  ultra-rich beating heart of the world's technological  behemoths.

'' We opened this new store after our San Francisco store reaped very strong results, '' Hermes CEO  Axel Dumas told shareholders in June.

'' It's also a bet on the future. Right now, you can see how residents often invest more in their cars than in their clothes. We hope to be able to change that a little, ''' Dumas added.

Guillaume de Seynes, a top executive at  Hermes, sees great potential in Silicon Valley.

Palo Alto ''isn't very far away from San Francisco, whose luxury is everywhere. However, the environment is very different. People are very focused on their professional success, working very long hours,''  he said.

For now, the potential has yet to blossom, with Silicon Valley's residents still mostly seen in jeans, T-shirts  and trainers.

''If you really think about it, Steve Jobs had a disastrous dress sense,'' Paris School of Luxury co-founder Eric Briones told AFP.

'' And even if it's starting to get a little better now, it's still very simplistic. But that doesn't stop [people] from earning billions!'' he added.

Startup business leaders have had such a huge cultural impact that firms around the world have become more casual about clothing, Briones said.

'' Nowadays, startup bosses are seen as the epitome of success. For them, clothing is utilitarian, functional an secondary, he added.

'' And if they wear a suit, they must be wrinkle-free because they don't have the time to preen themselves. They live in the moment, zipping from  one plane to the next,'' said  Briones.

Until recently, few luxury houses had thought to venture out to Palo Alto. Today, three French giants   -Hermes as well as  Louis Vuitton and Cartier have set up shop there.[ Agencies].


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