So Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief design officer and consultant, and the man most responsible for the visual appeal of Apple products — the man who helped transform computers and phones into objects of desire, making them more. than mere vectors of functionality, but rather badges of identity — and his former employer has reportedly agreed to cut their last ties.
What does this mean for the “mixed reality” headset, that doorway to the over-the-eye metaverse that Apple is rumored to be releasing in the second quarter of next year? In other words, what does it mean for those of us whose willingness to engage with alternate reality could be transformed by such a device?
After all, if ever a company could solve the problem of designing a device that would make you want to put a device on your face that would give you access to another world while your body existed in this one, it would be Apple. to be.
If ever a company could overcome the precedent of Google Glass and even Oculus to create a portable computer that doesn’t look like a computer, it would be the company that had done it with laptops, music, earphones and most importantly the smartphone. . If a brand could ever solve the challenge of accessing the metaverse fashionably — a different problem than making fashion for the metaverse, but one just as crucial to making the metaverse meaningful (and accessible) — the chances are it would be Apple.
Except maybe not anymore.
Will get there without mr. Have Apple finally come to an end as the bridge between hard and soft wear? Are we at a tipping point between the old and the new Apple – between Apple as it was and another Apple as it could be – like Phoebe’s Céline versus Hedi’s Celine?
What is the metaverse and why is it important?
The origin. The word ‘metaverse’ describes a fully realized digital world that exists outside of the one we live in. It was conceived by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel ‘Snow Crash’ and the concept was further explored by Ernest Cline in his novel ‘Ready Player One’.
Either way, it heralds a paradigm shift of a different kind.
For most tech companies, a designer’s departure wouldn’t cause any embarrassment in the public eye, but part of Apple’s genius lay in the way the company borrowed from the fashion world to boost consumption.
Steve Jobs understood that fashion’s strategies could be co-opted and applied to previously dull and dull consumer electronics, making them tactile and visually seductive—thinner, sleeker, more chic—helping the company transcend its industry. It was Mr. Jobs who embraced the value of a new model for each season; who understood how planned obsolescence, an essential premise of fashion, could be applied to function; and how a value system could be embedded in the aerodynamic lines of a device so that it became more than the mechanical sum of its parts.
And it was Mr. Jobs who partnered up with a young designer named Jony Ive, a Brit from London who joined the company in 1992 and defined the look of Apple for decades, inspiring an entire fashion week of brands to create accessories. (iPad covers, iPhone covers) for the offer.
Not unimportantly, after Mr. Jobs’ death in 2011, Mr. Ive stepped out of the shadows along with Tim Cook, the chief executive, to become the face of the company. If mr. Cook was the humble technocrat, Mr. Ive the visionary: friend of Marc Newson (designer of the Lockheed lounge) and the designer Azzedine Alaïa, proponent of the fusion of technology and fashion that took place around the Apple Watch’s 2014 debut.
First came a recruiting frenzy – Paul Deneve, the former chief executive of YSL, to become the vice president for special projects in 2013; Patrick Pruniaux, formerly of Tag Heuer, as senior director, special projects, the following year; and, also in 2014, Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, as senior vice president for retail — then the rollout.
Just before New York Fashion Week there was a reveal; a dinner in Paris with Mr. Alaïa’s and a reveal at the Colette concept store; a starring role on the cover of China Vogue; and, eventually, a performance by Mr. Ive hosted the Met Gala with Anna Wintour in 2016.
But in the end (and despite a partnership with Hermès), the watch became less of a fashion disrupter than a health and wellness gadget. Mr Deneve left in 2016; Ms Ahrendts and Mr Pruniaux in 2019, the same year that Mr Ive became a consultant.
Since then, Apple has not had a Chief Design Officer, and there has been no design voice in the upper echelon chorus of Apple executives; no single leading visual point of view. Instead, Mr. Ive’s job was split between Evans Hankey, the vice president of industrial design, and Alan Dye, the vice president of user interface design.
Still, Ms. Hankey and Mr. Dye worked with Mr. Ive for years on products like the MacBook Air and the watch, and it seemed that Mr. Ive at least nominally kept his ties as a guardian of the flame and the aesthetic.
Until now. That’s why the upcoming headset and how it will look is so important. Perhaps, given the possible timing, this will be the last product with Mr. Ive on the draft. But maybe it could be a sign of something more.
Both Apple and Mr. Ive declined to comment on their relationship for this article. But if Apple wants to prove that this might be the beginning of a new era, not the beginning of the end of its commitment to style as a signifier — not the beginning of watered-down versions of what preceded it, with the almost clichéd rounded edges and a slim silver case – this will be the first real test. It’s an opportunity not only to redesign a product, but also to explore how we feel about the product and about Apple itself. And while Mr. Ive has reportedly been tinkering with the headset for the past few years of his contract, perhaps it’s better not to repeat as much as to redefine.
Indeed, the fact that the watch proved no game changer or industry mover means Mrs. Hankey (or anyone else, who knows?) brand.
Think of it this way: Gucci and Celine or MaxMara? To change everything we think we know and recreate it for a new reality or just reliable, albeit uninspired, over and over again? All signs point to the MaxMara model, but if there’s one thing fashion teaches us, it’s that brands can survive a change in designer, as long as the company really cares and empowers that designer.
Once upon a time, Apple learned some valuable lessons from fashion. We’ll see if it’s possible again.