The news that Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts is to leave next year to join Apple as senior vice president of retail and online stores was met with sharp intakes of breath for a variety of reasons.
The loss of one of only three women at the helm of a FTSE 100 firm and the suitability of a mere designer, chief creative officer Christopher Bailey, for the top job, were both raised as by-products of the announcement.
Another upshot of the Ahrendts and Apple coming together was the suggestion her appointment would somehow immediately give impetus to the development of wearable technology. Speaking to those operating in that area for our Innovation in Fashion report (available at www.drapersonline.com/innovation), I’d be very surprised if that’s even on her to-do list right now.
Charli Cohen, founder of the eponymous luxury sportswear brand, is not convinced it’s the future.
“On the whole, [smart fabrics are] always going to be superfluous to what the consumer actually wants every day. It’s too kitsch to be widely appealing,” she asserts. Mark Rober, ex-NASA scientist-turned-designer and founder of Digital Dudz, which uses smartphones to add an animated image to a shirt, agrees it’s currently a novelty but adds: “We will get to the point where it is a fashion statement and very customisable.
“Eventually, the electronics will become embedded in the textiles as availability increases and cost decreases. This bridges the gap between the available technology and the demand for innovation in apparel.” ‘Eventually’ is the operative word. Even those at the bleeding edge are sceptical of tech crossing over in such dramatic ways anytime soon, so I can’t see Ahrendts taking a bite out of electronic fabrics for Apple just yet.