Ahrendts is the second luxury-industry chief to join Apple this year. Previously, Paul Deneve left his gig as CEO of Yves Saint Laurent to become Apple’s VP of special projects. He’s reportedly working on wearable devices like the rumored iWatch. Both of Apple’s hires represent a wake-up call to technologists who underestimate the importance of experience in fashion retail and branding to create an iconic brand.
The high-end lifestyle market has always been a fascinating space. In fact, fashion brand marketing has been one of the most profitable industries. So, in order to understand what makes Apple’s hiring news so remarkable, we need to understand the distinction between consumer technology and high-end fashion markets.
In the last decade, Apple has been positioned itself as a consumer technology company. Ahrendts’ predecessor at Apple, John Browett, came from Dixons, a British electronic goods chain similar to Best Buy. Before Browett was Ron Johnson, a former Target exec who led the roll-out of Apple’s original retail stores and its now famous Genius Bar concept. Johnson and Browett both had backgrounds that were more mass-market than high fashion.
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