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Who Is Angela Ahrendts? Meet Apple's New High-Fashion, Hi-Tech Exec

Oct 17 2013 - 10:19am

Angela Ahrendts is a small-town girl who grew up in the suburbs of Indiana. From her Midwestern hometown, she worked her way through various fashion establishments before becoming the chief executive of London haute couture's crème de la crème: Burberry. Next year, at age 53, she'll take on a new venture — technology — as Apple's first female executive.

Earlier this week, the tech company announced [1] that Angela will be joining Apple in a newly created position: senior vice president of retail, under which she'll oversee 415 stores worldwide and the Apple online store. It's a tall order for any executive, but this fifty-percent right-brained, fifty-percent left-brained fashion veteran is uniquely qualified to marry technology and retail.

In the gallery, learn how Angela built a social media empire at Burberry, why she puts mobile first, what technology can do for retail, and how she thinks positive human energy will change the world.

Source: Getty [2]

The Basics

Source: Burberry [3]

Quite the Résumé

Before a seven-year tenure at Burberry, Angela was the executive vice president of Liz Claiborne from 1998 to 2006, and executive vice president of Henri Bendel from 1996 to 1998. When she was just 29 years old, Angela served as the president of Donna Karan International from 1989 to 1996, which is where she met Burberry's chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey.

Christopher was working as a designer at Donna Karan at the time, and enjoyed working with her so much that he suggested to the previous Burberry CEO, Rose Marie Bravo, that Angela should be the woman who succeeds her [4].

A Social Empire

Not surprisingly, the former fashion executive is very tech savvy. During her time at Burberry, the company's Facebook page has grown to 15 million and Twitter followers have grown to two million, making it one of the top luxury brands in terms of social media.

In this video interview with Salesforce [5], Angela talks eloquently about blurring the line between digital and physical. She explains, "I grew up in a physical world, I speak English. The next generation is growing up in a digital world, and they speak social."

Mobile has also been a priority of hers at Burberry, and she expressed that importance in the interview, while holding up her own white iPhone: "When I travel around the world, all of the high-growth markets are mobile first. This enables everyone to be so much smarter about everything. We had a runway show in London, and it was a mobile-first show. Everyone could feel as if they had a front row seat and experience everything firsthand."

A Tall Order

Angela is, quite literally, very tall at six feet, three inches. But she's also the top paid CEO in the UK [6], having earned $26.3 million in 2012. The core of her success came from Asia, where Burberry has been expanding its presence. Apple hopes Angela can do the same for their devices in key Asian markets.

Human Energy

In this viral TED talk [7] from April 2013, Angela revealed that she is a believer of the positive and transformative power of human energy and inspiration. She discusses "emotional electricity" and "using people's collective spirit to do extraordinary things" — a surprising message from a leader of a corporate company. "I am what, in our industry, we call a 50/50. I am half right-brained, empathetic, and half-left brained, analytical," she explained.

Angela was brought up in a Methodist household and remains a committed Christian [8].


As a testament to her success, BBC [9] reports that Angela has not taken a sick day in 25 years.

She's also said, "I've never considered it work. It's a natural extension of my life."

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