15 Oct 2013

iMacintosh? What Angela Ahrendts can do for Apple

Shares in Burberry fell 6 per cent after news that CEO Angela Ahrendts is leaving for Apple. As the tech company’s second big fashion hire in months, is it a sign of where Apple is heading next?

Apple Burberry Angela Ahrendts Tim Cook

She was the woman who brought iPads into Burberry’s retail stores and pioneered live broadcasts of catwalk shows.

Now Angela Ahrendts is taking the leap into the heart of Silicon Valley, as senior vice-president for retail and online at Apple, starting next year.

In her seven years at Burberry, Ms Ahrendts, an American, transformed the British fashion label into a global luxury brand. The drop in the company’s share price on news of her departure is a sign of just how much she is thought of in the City.

She is also well regarded within the company too, no doubt helped by the fact that Burberry’s market value has risen from £2.1bn to £7.03bn, since she joined the company in 2006. And last year, Ms Ahrendts took home £16.9m – the highest paycheck last year out of any FTSE 100 chief executive – to little complaint. She now leaves just two female chief executives among the FTSE 100.

Ms Ahrendts said she was “profoundly honoured” to be joining Apple, where she will report to Chief Executive Tim Cook and be responsible for growing the group’s retail presence.

“I have always admired the innovation and impact Apple products and services have on people’s lives and hope in some small way I can help contribute to the company’s continued success and leadership in changing the world,” she said.

‘Wearable’ technology

So what does her appointment say about the direction Apple is heading in?

She is just the latest hire from the fashion industry in a matter of months. In July, the tech giant poached Paul Deneve from his position as CEO at Yves Saint Laurent, making him vice-president of “special projects”. They also hired the senior vice-president at Levi’s, Enrique Atienza, to take over Apple’s retail arm in the US, and Nike design director Ben Shaffer was also taken on board last month.

It all points towards the development of “wearable technology” – a trend that Apple has made no secret about. Google glass has already been launched, and an “iWatch” is rumoured to be in the pipeline.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said back in May that it was an area “ripe for exploration”.

“I see [wearables] as a very important branch of the tree,” said Mr Cook. But he added that to convince people to wear technology, “it has to be incredible”.

Something that Ms Ahrendts may know a thing or two about.