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Chapter 6

Apple and The Fashion & Luxury Industry

Tim Cook has said a lot about fashion and augmented reality. Fashion and design are part of Apple’s DNA going back to the days of Steve Jobs listening in on a calligraphy class in college. Since then, Apple products from its computers to its buildings have become principles of design. Norman Foster, Apple headquarters designer said, “The building is an echo of the ethos of Apple, which designs artifacts that, though they fulfill all sorts of functions, exist abstractly in their own right.” [38]

Apple released the Apple watch during New York Fashion Week in 2014. [39] And the Apple watch made its debut in China on the cover of Vogue and on the wrist of supermodel Liu Wen. [40] “I view Apple products as fashion accessories,” said fashion designer, Tom Ford. He even created silver and gold pocket chains for the Apple Watch. [41]

Apple is a company, “engaged in the project of dissolving the old tension between man and machine,” wrote Rob Haskell, in a 2016 Vogue article with Tim Cook and Jony Ive. “But it’s important to remember that what was seen at one time as the most sophisticated technology eventually becomes tradition,” said Ive to Haskell. “There was a time when even the metal needle would have been seen as shocking and profoundly new.” If the metal needle, what we use now to make all our clothes, was once seen as shocking and new, imagine what designing fashion pieces with Apple’s AR glasses will become. Today, it seems like sci-fi but tomorrow it could simply be reality.

“I don’t think there is any sector or industry that will be untouched by AR,” Tim Cook said in a 2018 interview. [42] Apple had just released ARKit, a toolkit for developers to build AR apps on iPhones and iPads. At the time, fashion brands were updating their apps in revolutionary new ways, like seeing how a piece of furniture would look in your home. Five years later, and “view in your room” features are available across the web. But it was Apple and Tim Cook who in the Vogue interview said, “Over time, I think [these features] will be as key as having a website.” Cook predicted the future we live in now. You can virtually try on lipstick, sunglasses, and sneakers - and you can do it all with a sleek iPhone. But what if you didn’t have to hold a phone over your feet while trying to view how a sneaker would look? What if with a fashionable pair of AR glasses, you could look down and be in your new outfit, although virtually?

Even back in 2018, bloggers and tech enthusiasts dreamed of Apple releasing AR glasses. Tim Cook said the technology wasn’t ready then (and it still might not be good enough for Apple now to go full-on AR) but Cook did say, “we want to be best in creating people’s experiences.” That’s a hint that even back then, Cook saw the power of augmented reality as a technology that could enhance our lives. What makes an Apple AR device so exciting (besides its look or capabilities) is its potential to help us focus on the things that truly matter.

Helen Papaginnis, an AR OG quoted Mark Weiser who said, “The scarce resource of the twenty-first century will not be technology; it will be attention.” [43] Perhaps Apple will use AR not to flush our senses with digital clutter, but to differentiate our “fashion sense” in the digital.

While The New York Times critiqued Tim Cook’s fashion in 2014 upon the release of the Apple watch, one commenter wrote,

“As our digital lives progress and expand, differentiation in the physical (e.g. image, clothes etc) will become less important. Our 'fashion' sense, if any, will mostly be represented by our home screen layout, app usage or curated feed rather than the device itself that hosts them.” [44]

The commentator, Basil, wrote that making physical wristbands served only older generations who felt the need to “physically show-off”. They predicted in 20-30 years it won’t matter what you physically wear. That comment is almost a decade old.

Today, we’re already seeing people buy virtual clothes to have themselves dressed for Instagram or other social media. But with Apple glasses, we won’t have to do it for the ‘gram. We can virtually buy into fashion for ourselves, with the device that enables creativity, making us one with the machine - aka AR. “In what we do,” observed Cook to Haskell in 2016, “design is crucial, as it is in fashion.”

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