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Is Apple a follower of fashion, or a trendsetter?

Lauren Dezenski | Nov. 5, 2013
We take a look at Apple's fashion credentials following Apple’s hiring of Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts


Picture shows: Apple's iPhone 5s being used to shoot Burberry's spring/summer 2014 collection during London Fashion Week.

Since the news broke in October, Apple's hiring of Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts has echoed throughout the fashion and technology worlds.

In light of this, and the ever-anticipated iWatch, Apple's relationship with the fashion industry has come under more scrutiny than ever before.

But really, how closely are the two connected?

Though Apple is a technology company, they don't much act like one, according to Liam Hamill, the Strategy Director for brand agency venturethree.

"Look at the way [Apple's late CEO and co-founder] Steve Jobs spoke about the way Apple is," Hamill said in a phone interview. "He never talked about code. He just talked about neat stuff and cool stuff."

Beyond that, though Apple has had its fair share of innovative products, the company itself didn't invent the MP3 playerit copied the concept and made it better, Hamill said.

"What's predicated their success is an incredible attention to detail, a timeless sense of cool," Hamill said. "More than that, their DNA is creativity and ideas and originality and entrepreneurialism."

All of which are traits of the fashion and creative industries, he points out.

Apple has been extremely successful in becoming a lifestyle brand of sortsbuyers think about what their iPhone says about them, much like the way a buyer would feel about his or her Louis Vuitton luggage or Gucci loafers.

Compared to the fashion world, which becomes more and more niche as you approach its higher end, Apple's had a coup of sorts in that it has made its signature luxury and premium available to the mass market.

"Millions of people globally own these products, and when you think about it, they're not cheap," Hamill said. Apple manages "to strike a balance of being aspirational and exclusive in a way of being accessible."

However, this could also be its downfall. The company is facing huge pressure from shareholders to continue growing and deliveringpotentially compromising its ability to stay true to its design and creative ideals, Hamill said.

In many ways, the challenges Apple faces going forward are the same faced by a number of luxury fashion brands: namely Burberry.

In the '90s, Burberry lost focus on its product portfolio and became simply too accessible, Hamill pointed out. By trying to do too much, the company stretched itself too thin and cheapened itself, falling from its perch as a high fashion brand in the eyes of many.

There's signs Apple is aware of this danger and is taking steps to prevent it. Case-in-point: acquiring Ahrendts, widely regarded as the person responsible for salvaging Burberry from its chav-tastic rep pre-Y2K.

 

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