Angela Ahrendts: The SVP of Apple Retail and an Online Influencer

Until recently, it was relatively unclear what – exactly – Angela Ahrendts was up to since she left her role as CEO of Burberry to join Apple as its SVP of Retail and Online Stores. The only female executive at Apple, Ahrendts – who filled the spot vacated by former retail SVP John Browett in October 2012 – has been keeping a relatively low profile since joining the tech giant in 2014, prompting a handful of articles to the tune of “What is Angela Ahrendts doing at Apple?”

However, on Tuesday when she took the stage at Apple’s keynote event (the first time she was featured at an Apple keynote since taking on her job three years ago), Ahrendts made a bit of her work for Apple known. As the Verge noted, she “gave an update on the company’s stores and, memorably if controversially, said the company envisioned them as modern ‘town squares.’ She spoke for just over six minutes before [Tim] Cook returned.”

Aside from drawing attention to the “town square” concept, in her six minutes on stage, Ahrendts caused fury on social media … for her attire, namely her pink Burberry trench coat. While the event may have been meant to market Apple products, such as the new iPhone X, it was Ahrendts’ former employer, Burberry, that seemed to have derived some of the most immediately benefits. Ahrendts’ coat – which unlike the iPhone X is currently available for purchase for $2,900 – sparked a mass interested in Burberry and its offerings on Tuesday.

Yes, upon taking the stage in the Macramé Lace Trench Coat, Ahrendts seemingly occupied not only the role of the woman dictating Apple’s retail strategy; she was also an influencer. And there are hard numbers to support that. According to online fashion marketplace, Lyst, during and for two hours after the time that Ahrendts was on stage, users searched for and viewed the pale pink Burberry trench coat every 12 seconds. Additionally, searches on the Lyst platform combining the terms "lace," "pink," and "trench coat" grew by a whopping 830 percent. The platform did not reveal how many of those searches led to sales.

And interestingly, unlike its practice of sharing photos on social media when famous faces wear its garments, Burberry opted not to highlight Ahrendts’ choice of coat, likely to attempt to avoid any potential suggestions of undue influence as a result of the parties’ former employer-employee connection.  (Note: There is no indication that Ahrendts did not purchase the coat or that it was a gift of the brand, although the latter is certainly possible. As for how disclosure would need play out in such a situation - aka if the coast was, in fact, gifted to her by the brand - that is unclear).

Even if Burberry was not promoting the event, Ahrendts appearing on stage in the coat certainly was a nice press flurry to lead up to the brand’s Spring/Summer 2018 runway show, which is slated to take place in London on Saturday. But more importantly, it also served to prove that while personal style in the male-dominated Silicon Valley has largely been put to the wayside (likely in accordance with the notion that fashion is female-oriented and just not that important), Ahrendts can, in fact, be both fashion-forward and have a hand in running the most valuable publicly traded company in the world.