To much fanfare, Apple announced Tuesday that Angela Ahrendts is resigning as chief executive officer of Burberry and joining the inner circle in Cupertino, California. “Apple-polishing” has become the headline du jour. Picturing the soignée Ahrendts surrounded by geeks in jeans and hoodies, we might be forgiven for wondering why Apple feels in need of a fashionista buff-up. After all, there is hardly a product line more shiny-bright than Apple’s — or one with less affinity to the cold exclusivity of the world’s great fashion houses.
But the extraordinary affection that iPhones inspire is different from the anxious ostentation surrounding high fashion.
However sublime couture may be, it is neither lovable nor practical. Nor does using it feel like participating in a major human advance. There is something wondrous about Apple products in the ease and pleasure they afford their users, connecting us in unprecedented ways to other people, to our surroundings and to the world of ideas.
In contrast to beautiful, yet exclusive and often unaffordable fashion products, “Apple was the first company that took high design and made it mainstream,” Phil Libin, Evernote’s chief executive officer, explained. “It taught the world taste.”
A new influx of fashion executives, however, may be changing the taste of Apple. Ahrendts is only the latest fashion import. Paul Deneve recently jumped from chief executive officer of Yves Saint Laurent to manage “special projects” at Apple (which assumingly includes development of the much-anticipated iWatch). Jay Blahnik joined him from Nike’s design stratosphere, after spearheading the FuelBand initiative. Mickey Drexler of J. Crew serves on the board of Apple.